The man brought in to lead eHealth Ontario following a scandal that rocked the Liberal government will get a bonus of about 25 per cent on top of his $329,000 salary this year, while staff at the agency have turned to the courts to get back the bonuses they were promised but denied.
EHealth president and CEO Greg Reed will be paid a bonus of $81,250 this year, agency spokesman Robert Mitchell confirmed Sunday.
The government wants all public sector workers, including doctors, nurses and teachers, to take a two-year wage freeze to help eliminate a $15 billion deficit, and told managers and executives at its agencies to lead by example.
The bonus was "part of a standard employment contract" negotiated between Reed and the eHealth board of directors, said Mr. Mitchell.
"Comparatively, his salary is significantly lower than peers at other agencies," he said.
Mr. Reed was not available to comment Sunday, nor was the chair of the eHealth board, Raymond Hession.
The opposition parties called on Health Minister Deb Matthews to cancel Mr. Reed's bonus as she did the bonuses for over 600 eHealth staff.
"This latest eHealth fiasco is a slap in the face to Ontarians who are being asked to tighten their belts," NDP health critic France Gelinas said in a release.
"Minister Matthews should be taking immediate, concrete action to stop this inappropriate and untimely bonus for the CEO of eHealth."
The Progressive Conservatives said the bonus "defies logic" at a time when the government is threatening to recall the legislature in an emergency session to impose a new wage contract on the province's teachers.
People "will see an $81,250 bonus for Mr. Reed as a freebie nobody outside the McGuinty government could remotely expect," said Tory finance critic Peter Shurman.
"How can the health minister and the premier allow this?"
Ms. Matthews was unavailable to comment on the bonus, but her office issued a statement late Sunday evening saying the eHealth board set the amount based on Mr. Reed's ability to meet specific goals.
"Under the terms of the CEO's contract, the board has no choice but to provide performance pay for important targets and milestones achieved," said Matthews' press secretary Zita Astravas.
EHealth declined to comment Sunday on a class action suit filed by eHealth employees after Ms. Matthews told the agency to cancel raises of up to 1.9 per cent and promised bonuses of up to 7.8 per cent in 2011.
"I cannot comment because the matter is before the courts," said Mr. Mitchell.
When eHealth reversed itself on the 2011 staff bonuses, Mr. Reed — who refused his bonus that year — said the controversy generated by the extra payments for staff threatened to obscure the genuine progress being made at the agency.
Mr. Reed was brought in by the Liberals in 2010 when they cleaned house at eHealth after the auditor general found there was little to show for the $1 billion that had been spent to that point to develop electronic health records.
David Caplan was forced to resign as health minister because of the scandal, which also saw outside consultants awarded untendered contracts worth millions of dollars who charged eHealth thousands of dollars a day and then abused their taxpayer-funded expense accounts.
Last month the minister faced a grilling by the opposition parties at a committee looking into eHealth, with the Progressive Conservatives saying the agency still had now spent more than $2 billion and still had little to show for it.
EHealth missed deadlines to create electronic medical records, a drug information system, an immunization tracking system and a diabetes registry, and is ready to give a contract worth tens of millions of dollars to a company that employs some of the consultants involved in the original eHealth scandal, said the Tories.
"Cronyism and scandalous overspending are still commonplace at eHealth," Conservative Rick Nicholls told the committee.