Edmonton

Sunshine List launched for Alberta agencies, boards, commissions

Calling it a major step toward increased accountability and transparency, Finance Minister Joe Ceci today launched the first version of an electronic sunshine list that, by month’s end, will include the salaries of every employee of approximately 150 government agencies, boards and commissions paid more than $125,000 a year.

Finance Minister Joe Ceci promises all salary disclosure will be posted by end of month

Finance Minister Joe Ceci delivered a first quarter fiscal update for the province on Tuesday. (CBC)

Calling it a major step toward increased accountability and transparency, Finance Minister Joe Ceci today launched the first version of an electronic sunshine list that, by month's end, will include the salaries of every employee of approximately 150 government agencies, boards and commissions paid more than $125,000 a year.

"Until recently, Alberta has lagged behind other provinces when it comes to disclosure of public-sector compensation," Ceci told reporters in a news conference.

"Albertans deserve to know how and where tax dollars are being spent," Ceci said. "Salaries of public-sector workers are already disclosed and this disclosure has now been expanded to those who work for Alberta's ABCs (agencies, boards and commissions)."

Ceci said the next phase of the government's transparency plan will also make employment and severance contracts for executives of ABCs public by this time in 2017

In May, the legislature passed Bill 19, the Reform of Agencies, Boards and Commissions Act.

The government said the legislation will allow it to regulate the compensation of board members and executives, using salary ranges set with the assistance of an outside consulting firm.

The legislation will initially apply to agencies whose executives have base salaries of more than $200,000 a year, excluding post-secondary institutions.

That is expected to affect 27 executives but Ceci has said the legislation will eventually include other board members and executives.

Pay to be compared to private sector

The passage of the bill allowed the government to start collecting salary information that will be used to determine pay grades, which will be compared to salaries paid in the private sector.

Executives with salaries higher than the new pay grades will be subject to the changes once they renew their contracts.

Others with longer contracts will have their salaries reduced to the appropriate pay band in two years.

"What surprised me is that until now, we haven't known what those figures have been," Ceci told reporters Thursday.

"Those are public dollars and so it is in the best interests of everyone to know where public dollars get spent so they can make their own assessment of value for money."

The public may find the government's database difficult and time consuming to use because each of the dozens of ABCs must be searched individually, rather than in a single spreadsheet.

And there is no standardization for how the ABCs post their information. Ceci defended the format saying he found it easy to search.

CBC revealed high salaries

In May 2015, CBC News revealed the high salaries at Alberta Innovates.

The government merged its four branches into one and has let go several senior executives. The database details several high salaries paid to employees at two branches last year.

Ten executives at Alberta Innovates - Health Solutions were paid between $142,000 and nearly $285,000. Another 10 executives at Alberta Health - Bio Solutions were paid between about $156,000 and $274,000.

The Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency is governed by a board of directors. Its board chair in 2015, veterinarian David Chalack, was paid $133,000 for what is a part-time job. Chalack earned another $116,000 last year as a board member of the Alberta Energy Regulator.

Health Quality Council of Alberta chief executive director Andrew Neuner earned more than $405,000, while executive director Charlene McBrien-Morrison was paid nearly $220,000.

ATB Financial, the government-owned bank, as well the Alberta Investment Management Corp., which manages the province's investments, and the Alberta Teachers Retirement Fund, have been exempted from salary disclosure.

Ceci said the exemption is consistent with other public-sector financial agencies across Canada and allows them to compete with the private sector for the best executives in the "highly competitive financial-industry sector."

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