Editorial – Over-Compensating?

This week, I came across an interesting bit of news on Facebook, about how the Alberta government is passing legislation that will require provincial agencies, boards, and commissions (ABCs) to not only be forthcoming to the government about how much they pay their executives, but will also give the government the ability to require that those positions be paid according to a government pay scale. Any contracts in place will fall under the new legislation and compensation framework as they are renewed, or within two years, whichever is sooner.

The first phase of the review already eliminated fifteen ABCs, and merged another eleven into just three agencies, which the government says will save it over 33 million dollars over three years.

The final phase of the review will have the legislation and compensation scale made to apply to post-secondary institutions. As AU is in the middle of its presidential search, this could not come at a worse time. Without knowing the compensation framework that the government will set up, the search committee is left in a precarious position when attempting to negotiate salaries with promising candidates.

Not that this type of review isn’t needed, both at AU and other institutions. Former U of A president, Indira Samarasekera is widely reported as having received a 1.1-million-dollar compensation package in her last year as president of the University of Alberta. And as reported here in The Voice Magazine, at a time when the net assets of AU have declined so precipitously, one has to wonder whether the corresponding rise in executive salaries may have played a factor.

The counter-argument, of course, is that to get serious talent, you have to pay serious money, and the government stepping in in this fashion could cause AU (and other institutions) to be unable to get top quality talent to help it navigate the troubled waters that it still has to deal with.

How this all plays out is yet to be seen of course, but I expect this is leading to some significant headaches for those on AU’s Presidential Search committee. What do you think, though? Will this move by the government help or hinder AU? Does AU need to be able to pay whatever it takes to get the top talent, or are these restrictions what AU needs to get its house in order? Email me at karl@voicemagazine.org with your opinion, I’m interested.

And while You’re here, be sure to read our Course Exam article on English 384, Creative Non-Fiction Writing, as well as other news, reviews, and insights, including an article from an unrepentant book hoarder (represent!) and her thoughts on how AU’s e-text model is losing something important. Enjoy the read!

P.S. If you didn’t already know, The Voice Magazine has a Facebook page and a twitter feed if You’re into that kind of thing!