Alberta expands sunshine list to include high public sector earners

Employees who earn more than $125,000 a year working for approximately 150 agencies, boards and commissions are now part of Alberta’s sunshine list.

Finance Minister Joe Ceci said those salaries would be posted online starting Thursday.

“Albertans deserve to know how their tax dollars are being spent,” he said. “That’s why our government is developing a new executive compensation framework to apply to agencies, boards and commissions in the future.”

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    The Public Sector Compensation Transparency Act also requires disclosure of all compensation paid to board members of agencies, boards and commissions, regardless of the amount.

    Similar public sector compensation disclosure already exists in Ontario and B.C.

    On Thursday, the president of the Alberta Federation of Labour offered his thoughts on the compensation disclosure.

    “If there is a utility for the sunshine list, it is for that top sector – the political appointees, the senior bureaucrats, the heads of agencies, boards and commissions – who because they’re outside of the collective bargaining process, their pay packages would not have been otherwise public,” Gil McGowan said.

    READ MORE: Alberta government moves to expand sunshine list 

    The groups that now must disclose salaries of $125,000 or higher include the University of Alberta, the University of Calgary and the University of Lethbridge. Because of the Fort McMurray wildfire, Keyano College and Alberta Health Services in Fort McMurray will be given an extension until Sept. 30.

    Public sector pay information will be posted on either the group’s website or on the website of the government department responsible for overseeing it.

    All disclosure work will be completed by June 30, the province said, the legislated deadline for disclosure.

    READ MORE: Alberta’s sunshine list will not include salary information of Crown prosecutors

    Early numbers show that four senior members in just one branch of the Alberta Innovates research and development corporation have been earning a combined income of more than $1 million a year.

    The four branches of Alberta Innovates are being amalgamated into one organization.

    Compensation information will remain online for a minimum of five years.

    The Public Sector Compensation Transparency Act  – introduced Nov. 5, 2015 – and Public Sector Compensation Transparency General Regulation allow the minister to conduct an audit if an agency, board or commission does not disclose pay information publicly.

    Bill 5 also requires disclosure of payments to doctors and other health service providers. However, the government says due to the complex way that physicians are paid, including fee-for-service, the framework to disclose these types of payments will not be ready by June 30.

    Here’s how the new legislation affects each group:

    Employees of Public Sector Bodies

    Who: Everyone who works for an agency, board or commission governed by the Alberta Public Agencies Act. This includes, but is not limited to, Alberta Health Services, post-secondary institutions, the Alberta Energy Regulator, the Alberta Utilities Commission, the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission, and Alberta Treasury Branches. Covenant Health will also be included, as well as independent offices of the Legislature, like the Ombudsman and Auditor General.

    Threshold: Anyone who makes more than $125,000 per year. That includes base salary, overtime pay, and any other remuneration, with the exception of pension contributions.

    What: If the threshold is met, the employee’s full compensation will be released, including pay, employer pension contributions, and any severance paid.

    Board members

    Who: Members of governing boards of agencies, boards and commissions, as well as board members of Alberta Health Services, Convenant Health, and post-secondary institutions.

    Threshold: None. All names and compensation will be disclosed, regardless of the amount.

    What: All compensation, including employer pension contributions and any severance paid.

    Physicians and other health service providers

    Who: Anyone who is paid by the province on a fee-for-service basis, including doctors, optometrists, and dentists.

    Threshold: Undecided. If a threshold is set, it will be done as a regulation and not included in the Act itself.

    What: Fee-for-service payments, and any other payments made to health service providers by the provincial government, Alberta Health Services, Covenant Health, and the Alberta Medical Association.

    Government of Alberta employees

    Who: All employees of the provincial government, who are currently covered by disclosure rules introduced by the previous PC government in 2013.

    What’s new: Disclosure for government employees is currently required by a Treasury Board Directive. The same employees, and the same rules, will now be part of the new Public Sector Compensation Transparency Act.

    Threshold: Originally introduced at $100,000 base salary or severance, the amount increases each year based on inflation. The current threshold is $104,754.

    What: All compensation, including employer pension contributions and any severance paid.

    The number of people affected is difficult to determine. More than 150,000 people work for government sector agencies, and the government expects several thousand of them will see their salaries disclosed. Figures obtained by the Wildrose party last December showed 9,786 employees of Alberta Health Services alone made more than $100,000 a year in 2013.

    Wildrose MLA Jason Nixon says his party is still studying the bill, but he suggests all publicly-paid workers should meet the same standard.

    “To us, $104,000 is already a pretty high salary, period. And I think anybody making above $100,000 in the public sector, it’s reasonable for Albertans to know where those salaries are happening.”

    The full list can be found on the Alberta Government website here.

    With files from Deb Zinck, Global News and

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