Edmonton·CBC Investigates

More layoffs at Alberta Innovates due to massive ongoing budget cuts

The government-funded Alberta Innovates continues to hemorrhage jobs as it absorbs another $16 million in budget cuts this year after having its budget slashed $60 million over the previous two years.

At least 20 staff lose jobs in continuing restructuring, downsizing

Alberta Innovates is laying off more employees after drastic changes to their budget. (YouTube)

The government-funded Alberta Innovates continues to hemorrhage jobs as it absorbs another $16 million in budget cuts this year after having its budget slashed $60 million over the previous two years.

CBC News has learned 23 employees were abruptly laid off last week, including general counsel Delanie Coad and executive director Karine Morin. 

Nineteen of the 23 were from the InnoTech Alberta subsidiary and the remaining four were from the parent corporation Alberta Innovates.

Staff only learned of the cuts when some of them were walked out of their offices Wednesday, several sources have told CBC News.

In an internal Alberta Innovates video obtained exclusively by CBC News, a sombre CEO Laura Kilcrease told staff she could not tell them about the cuts any earlier because they had just finished the budget process and had been working to minimize the job losses.

"We have received a $16 million cut this year in addition to about $60 million in the past two years," Kilcrease said in the video. "We just don't have enough work for the teams we have in place."

The Alberta Innovates budget is now $286 million, down from $302 million in 2016. As of May 31, InnoTech has 379 employees and Alberta Innovates has 255 for a total of 634.

Kilcrease told the remaining staff they had to take the action to keep the government corporation strong and they needed to find ways to "diversify the economy so this doesn't happen in the future."

Alberta Innovates is part of the Ministry of Economic and Trade. Minister Deron Bilous did not respond to interview requests made through his press secretary on Sunday.

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

Major restructuring

In March 2016, CBC News first reported that the NDP government planned a major restructuring of Alberta Innovates, reducing it to a single corporation from four separate branches while jettisoning many of the highly paid senior managers.

The four now-defunct branches were Energy and Environment Solutions, Technology Futures, Bio Solutions and Health Solutions.

On April 12, interim transition CEO Pam Valentine was abruptly let go from Alberta Innovates. Valentine was preceded out the door by former Alberta Innovates CEO Stephen Lougheed and several other senior executives.

With much fanfare, Kilcrease was recruited from Austin, Texas in January to lead the newly consolidated corporation. The British-born venture capitalist and innovation leader helped Austin diversify its economy away from oil and gas. Austin is now recognized as one of the top technology centres in the United States.

In May 2015, CBC News reported on the high salaries and lavish expenses of executives 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 the Bio Solutions branch received total compensation of between $154,000 and $242,000.
  • Seven executives at the Technology Futures branch were paid a total of between $272,000 and $364,000.

Expense claims obtained through freedom of information also showed Alberta Innovates executives spent lavishly at the Banff Springs Hotel including a meal replete with martinis, single-malt scotch, $140 bottles of wine and main courses of bison, prime rib and halibut.

The NDP government undertook a major review of all agencies, boards and commissions and has so far cut tens of millions of dollars in salaries and other costs.

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