Alberta releases first 'Sunshine list' of government salaries

Compensation details for about 3,100 government employees who made over $100,000 a year in 2012 and 2013 were released for the very first time on Friday.
Alberta Transparency Minister Don Scott admits not everyone wanted their salaries made public. (Dean Bennett/The Canadian Press)

Dr. James Talbot, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, earned a base salary of $346,763 last year — making him the highest-paid provincial employee in 2013.

Compensation details for about 3,100 government employees who made over $100,000 a year in 2012 and 2013 were released for the very first time on Friday.

Other people in the top 10 include six assistant chief medical examiners, chief medical examiner Dr. Anny Sauvageau and medical examiner Dr. Tera Jones.

Peter Watson, the deputy minister of the executive council, earned $342,630 in 2013 — the seventh highest base salary in 2013. He also earned $107,455 in non-cash benefits.

Don Scott, associate minister of accountability, transparency and transformation, said not everyone is happy about the list.

“I do believe that some people will be uncomfortable with this,” he said.

“That doesn't surprise me. This is something brand new for Alberta and it obviously marks a big change in the way that this government has delivered and how we have shared information previously.”

Some of Premier Alison Redford's staff are on the list. In 2013, her chief of staff Farouk Adatia received a base salary of $316,275, cash benefits of $41,432 and non-cash benefits of $9,275.

Her former chief of staff, Stephen Carter, received $130,000 in severance in 2012 after holding the position for six months. Carter revealed the amount last fall after the government refused to release the information to Global News even though the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner ruled it was in the public interest. 

The government plans to post the list online in June and December each year. 

Severance amounts trouble taxpayers' federation

The list was released as planned on Friday, but not until 4 p.m. MT.

On Thursday, a Court of Queen’s Bench Justice issued a temporary injunction prohibiting the government from including salary information for Crown prosecutors so about 300 names had to be removed. 

NDP Leader Brian Mason says the list shows the gap between what the government pays senior bureaucrats compared to front-line workers, which may face zero per cent increases for two years  if a contract is imposed on them on March 31. 

"There's a very profound contradiction, a real ironic contradiction, between the salaries that are being paid to the senior management of the province, and what the front line workers of the province are expected to accept," he said. 

Derek Fildebrandt, the Alberta director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, pushed the government to release the list. 

He's troubled by severances paid to some bureaucrats that are in the six figures. 

"We're seeing here that when people want to leave government they get a pretty sweet golden handshake," he said.  "People making more than $400,000 in severance."

Fildebrandt is pleased that the government made the information. 

"At the end of the day, we're still very glad that at least we get a chance to see this, that we had a chance to hold government to account."

AHS wage changes

But the province also announced a new salary structure for the top executives at Alberta Health Services today.

It says senior leaders can now be paid between $168,000 and $515,000 a year.

The wages are lower than previous salaries, which saw the executive positions max out at more than $640,000.

The province says AHS will also cut 15 executive jobs.

“The new compensation structure is expected to result in approximately $4 million in savings,” said Health Minister Fred Horne.