Alberta Innovates begins laying off senior executives in advance of restructuring

The government-funded Alberta Innovates will be reduced to a single corporation from the current four in a major restructuring expected to be announced by the government of Premier Rachel Notley when it releases its budget April 14.

Internal email shows four corporations will be reduced to one

Alberta Innovates, which is government-funded, promotes and conducts research through its four branches. It is expected to be reduced to a single corporation when the NDP government releases its budget on April 14. (Alberta Innovates)

The government-funded Alberta Innovates will be reduced to a single corporation from the current four in a major restructuring expected to be announced by the government of Premier Rachel Notley when it releases its budget April 14.

In an email obtained exclusively by CBC News, Alberta Innovates - Technology Futures (AITF), chief executive officer Stephen Lougheed confirms rumours that have been circulating for weeks.

"By now, AITF employees are aware of the impending consolidation of the four Alberta Innovates corporations," the email to employees states. "Executives and senior leaders will share as much information as they can with employees about this major organizational change without getting ahead of the Government of Alberta's plan.

"Based on discussions I have had with my counterparts at (Alberta Innovates - Bio Solutions, Alberta Innovates - Energy and Environment Solutions, and Alberta Innovates - Health Solutions) and senior government officials over the past six months, it seems very likely the provincial government will announce the consolidation sometime in April," Lougheed's email states.

Alberta Innovates promotes and conducts research through its four branches. The government's website says it is "designed to strengthen the province's role as a world leader in using science to seek solutions."

Lougheed, the son of former premier Peter Lougheed, also told employees that given signals from the government over the past few months about a massive deficit, "it is likely that provincial corporations like ours will face budget constraints in the year ahead."

The email also announced the immediate departure of senior AITF vice-presidents Caroline Conway and Don Back.

Economic Development and Trade Minister Deron Bilous was not available for comment on the consolidation because he is travelling to Asia on a trade mission, his spokeswoman said.

High salaries

In May 2015, CBC News reported on the high salaries and lavish expenses at Alberta Innovates. The story revealed:

The CEOs of Alberta Innovates' four branches received between $338,000 and $479,000 in total compensation;

Six executives at Alberta Innovates - Bio Solutions - received total compensation of between $154,000 and $242,000;

Seven executives at Alberta Innovates - Technology Futures were paid a total of between $272,000 and $364,000.

Through freedom of information, CBC News obtained expenses claimed by some Alberta Innovates executives.

One receipt from the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel details a lavish meal for former Alberta Innovates - Technology Futures CEO Gary Albach and Lougheed, who was then a board member, along with fellow board members Tom Corr, Amit Monga and Ken McKinnon, and unidentified board members of the Alberta Enterprise Corp., a venture-capital fund owned by the Alberta government.

The receipt shows the meal started with martinis and single-malt scotch. During the meal of bison, prime rib and halibut, the board members enjoyed nearly $450 worth of wine, including two cabernets at $140 a bottle.

On Thursday, finance minister Joe Ceci told the Canadian Press the government will save

$35 million over the next three years by axing or amalgamating at least 25 of its agencies, boards and commissions.

"It will make us more nimble as a government," Ceci said. "It will obviously save us money and it won't affect our long-term governance for the important things moving forward."

But the finance minister declined to say which boards may be eliminated or restructured, saying those details will be released in or around the budget on April 14.

The decision comes after a review of 136 boards, the first part of a three-stage review of the government's 301 agencies, boards and commissions.

About the Author

Charles Rusnell

Investigative reporter

Charles Rusnell is a reporter with CBC Investigates, the award-winning investigative unit of CBC Edmonton. His journalism in the public interest is widely credited with forcing accountability, transparency and democratic change in Alberta. Send tips in confidence to cbcinvestigates@cbc.ca. and follow him on Twitter@charlesrusnell


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.