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Alberta slashing pay of highest-earning board, agency executives

Alberta Finance Minister Joe Ceci says the changes will lead to an estimated savings of $16-million a year.

JASON FRANSON/THE CANADIAN PRESS

The Alberta government is cutting the pay of the highest-earning executives at 23 agencies, boards and commissions.

Finance Minister Joe Ceci says the province is also eliminating bonus payments and market modifiers as well as capping severance pay to one year, for an estimated savings of $16 million a year.

Perks such as signing bonuses, golf club memberships and housing allowances are also being dropped.

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A new salary band will be in place to keep pay in line in years to come.

Ceci said the government is acting in an area where the previous Progressive Conservative government failed.

"They failed to act when bonuses, perks and benefits got way out of line," Ceci said Friday. "Those days of standing by are over.

"Our government is committed to ensuring that the compensation of public servants working in agencies are held to the same standard as the civil service."

Ceci said he is not focused on whether the reduced salaries will affect Alberta's ability to draw top talent to the executive suite.

"The benchmarks show that they're being fairly compensated," he said.

Ceci promised to rein in salaries after public disclosures last year revealed high payouts, including almost $900,000 a year to Guy Kerr, the head of the Workers' Compensation Board.

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The new base salaries range from $154,000 to just under $397,000 and will be phased in over the next two years.

The new rules affect 270 executives and management employees in the 23 agencies and begin on March 16. About half will see their pay reduced.

The changes will apply to new hires and when current contracts come up for renewal.

For those with contracts not coming up for renewal within two years, such as Kerr, it will automatically kick in on March 16, 2019.

Kerr will then make $396,720.

Kerr could not be immediately reached for comment, but Ben Dille, a spokesman for the WCB said, "I know he (Kerr) is incredibly committed to the organization, and that's the most important thing for him, and that won't change as a result of this."

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Friday's announcement is part of a broader three-part review and restructuring of 301 agencies boards and commissions that began in 2015.

The first phase examined more than 130 agencies directly reporting to the province. As a result of that review, 26 agencies were consolidated or dissolved last year, saving an estimated $33 million over three years.

The second phase is now looking at boards that have representation from the government

Salaries in post-secondary institutions are expected to start in the fall, and those also have big numbers.

Financial statements from last year indicated that University of Calgary president Elizabeth Cannon received $895,000 in the fiscal year ending March 2015, while former University of Alberta president Indira Samarasekera received $980,000.

Ceci wouldn't say if he expects significant savings from the upcoming reviews.

"I don't want to presuppose what we're going to see in the future," he said.

A salary freeze has been in place for almost a year for all management and non-union employees on agencies, boards and commissions.

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