B.C.'s advanced-education critic says executives at three postsecondary institutions were compensated in excess of provincial caps and the overpayments could extend to many more schools – though the minister involved says the allegations are simply not true.
David Eby, of the opposition NDP, held a news conference Monday to release documents on executive compensation at Capilano University, Vancouver Island University, and the University of the Fraser Valley. Mr. Eby said the documents show 14 of 18 executives received payment in excess of the caps, totalling approximately $1.1-million over three years.
"What is the point of having caps in the first place if you're not going to enforce them, if they're basically meaningless?" he asked.
Last month, the province announced that a report into Kwantlen Polytechnic University had found the school had failed to meet government disclosure requirements by topping up executive salaries. Liberal Advanced Education Minister Amrik Virk – who was on the Kwantlen board at the time of the violations – was not sanctioned, though the NDP called on him to resign his cabinet post.
The issue of executive compensation has stretched into other sectors, with the province recently flagging overpayments at the Royal B.C. Museum and the B.C. Cancer Agency.
Mr. Eby said Mr. Virk had promised to release the compensation caps for all 22 postsecondary schools in the province, but then changed his mind. He said the NDP was able to obtain only the compensation data for three schools through the Public Sector Employers' Council.
Mr. Eby said the data showed a notable difference between what executives were supposed to get paid, and what they were actually paid.
"The government issued a bunch of press releases and they celebrated the fact that they'd frozen executive compensation at schools, that they have executive compensation under control, and yet our experience and our analysis is that is not the case," he said.
A government spokeswoman wrote in an e-mail that Mr. Virk was unavailable for an interview. She instead included a statement attributed to the minister.
Mr. Virk, in the statement, said Mr. Eby was confused. He accused Mr. Eby of misstating the facts.
"A number of measures are in place to ensure executive compensation guidelines are met and that compensation is fully disclosed," Mr. Virk said.
"Public postsecondary board chairs have provided signed attestations verifying that compensation has been paid within an approved plan and disclosed according to the guidelines."
Mr. Virk said the total compensation for postsecondary presidents is capped, and includes base salary, benefits and pension. He said amounts can fluctuate year to year due to increases in benefit and pension costs beyond the employer's control, and one-time payments such as unused vacation payouts.
Mr. Virk added that vice-presidents and all other non-union employees have a salary range approved by the Public Sector Employers' Council. Again, he said, the amounts can vary year to year due to increases beyond the employer's control.