Alberta cuts pay, benefits for presidents of colleges and universities

Salaries too varied, bonus money too out of step: Minister
By Dean Bennett
||Last Updated: 04/17/2018
University of Alberta
The president of the University of Alberta in Edmonton will earn a base salary of no more than $447,000 a year. Google Street View

EDMONTON (CP) — Presidents at Alberta's colleges and universities are getting a pay cut.

Advanced Education Minister Marlin Schmidt announced Tuesday that Alberta is bringing in a pay grid for the 20 leaders of its post-secondary institutions, to be fully in effect two years from now.

Schmidt said the salaries vary widely and the pay, particularly the bonus money, was out of step with other schools and equivalent public service jobs.

“The base salary levels ensure that presidents are fairly compensated for the scope and complexity of the work that they do on behalf of Albertans,” Schmidt told a news conference at the legislature.

“By eliminating executive bonuses, we are bringing presidential pay more in line with that of the broader public sector and with that of (post-secondary) presidents in comparable jurisdictions across the country.”

Schmidt said he didn't expect much pushback from the presidents.

“All of our college presidents and university presidents are deeply committed to public service, and they recognize that their roles are ultimately about public service and compensation is a secondary consideration,” said Schmidt.

The two largest institutions — the University of Alberta and the University of Calgary — will be allowed to pay their presidents a base salary of no more than $447,000 a year.

Along with the ban on bonuses and other rollbacks, those presidents can't earn more than 20 per cent of their base pay in benefits, bringing the maximum total compensation package to about $536,000.

University of Alberta president David Turpin makes about $824,000 a year in pay and benefits and outgoing University of Calgary head Elizabeth Cannon makes about $897,000.

The changes will be put into effect as of Sunday and all contracts must meet the new pay guidelines by April 14, 2020. Any existing contracts already in effect and extending past the 2020 deadline will be honoured.

The changes will rank the presidents in five pay bands with minimums and maximums. The higher salaries go to the larger institutions with greater responsibilities. The minimum pay for presidents at the University of Alberta and the University of Calgary will be almost $350,000.

Among the other changes, presidents will not be reimbursed for their gym and club memberships.

Schmidt said the changes will save about $5 million a year that will be kept with the post-secondary institutions to reinvest.

The changes are part of an ongoing review and reining in of salaries for Alberta boards, agencies, commissions and arm's-length organizations.

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