Nova Scotia

N.S. government still can't say how much it pays health authority administrator

Health Minister Michelle Thompson says she doesn't know the reason for the delay but the contract will be finalized in the coming days.

Janet Davidson has been in her new role since the beginning of September

The woman who makes up the provincial health authority's one-person board has been on the job for two months, yet the government still cannot say how much she's being paid.

Janet Davidson was the only member of the Nova Scotia Health board that Premier Tim Houston and Health Minister Michelle Thompson did not fire at the beginning of September as they established a streamlined leadership structure in an effort to usher in the newly minted government's plans for health care.

Janet Davidson is the interim administrator of Nova Scotia Health. (Canadian Institute for Health Information)

Davidson was chair of the board until it was dissolved, at which point she was named interim administrator. Her appointment was announced at the same time that Karen Oldfield, the former Halifax Port Authority CEO and a member of Houston's transition team, was named interim CEO of Nova Scotia Health.

The government released Oldfield's contract at the end of September. She's on an indefinite secondment from her post as deputy minister of priorities and planning and makes $224,000 a year. But despite repeated requests, Davidson's contract has still not been released.

In an interview Thursday at Province House, Thompson said details of the contract are still being finalized.

"I'm not sure exactly what the hold up was, but I do know that we expect it to be finalized in the next day or so."

Although the fall sitting at Province House is expected to wrap on Friday, Thompson said there was not a conscious decision to hold back the release of Davidson's contract until after MLAs leave Province House.

The minister could not provide details Thursday about Davidson's salary or even say if she's been getting paid during the last two months prior to the contract being completed.

Michelle Thompson is Nova Scotia's minister of health and wellness. (Robert Short/CBC)

NDP health critic Susan Leblanc said it doesn't make sense that it would take so long to get a contract signed and released to the public.

"This government was all about transparency when they were in opposition," she said in an interview at Province House.

"All the time they were asking for contracts, they were asking to see deals, they were asking to know why the decisions being made were being made. And so it doesn't make any sense that we wouldn't know about Ms. Davidson's contract yet."

Government's 'ambitious mandate'

Liberal health critic Zach Churchill, who served as health minister until the Tories were sworn into government, said it's "curious" that the contract still hasn't been completed.

"Usually you have a contract in place pretty quickly with someone that's hired by you," he said in an interview.

Thompson said the smaller leadership team has allowed for a "nimble connection" between Nova Scotia Health and her department. At the time of the leadership change, the government was criticized for firing the board, in part because its composition was the most diverse in its short history and included the first Black and Mi'kmaw members.

The board did "wonderful work" and the decision to fire them wasn't a reflection of their performance, said Thompson.

"This was around an ambitious mandate and trying to get things in place quickly so that we can effect change in the health-care system."

Churchill said it will take time for the government to try and make improvements, but he worries the firing of the board and, in particular, former CEO Dr. Brendan Carr, could contribute to operational challenges within the system.