Salary of new Ornge executive released
An Ornge air ambulance is shown in a file photo. (The Canadian Press)
The Canadian Press
Published Thursday, December 13, 2012 2:34PM EST
Last Updated Thursday, December 13, 2012 7:07PM EST
TORONTO -- Ontario's air ambulance service revealed the $214,000 salary of its newest executive Thursday after opposition critics slammed Ornge for refusing to disclose it for days.
It appeared that taxpayers would have had to wait more than year to know how much Ornge's new chief operating officer was earning, until Ornge posted his salary on their website after a report by The Canadian Press.
The webpage also includes salary ranges for other top executives, with the chief executive officer's capped at $418,000. A chief financial officer could make between $200,000 to $225,000. But that doesn't include bonuses.
The disclosure came three days after former Air Canada executive Rob Giguere took over the position at the publicly funded air ambulance service.
The former Air Canada and Skyservice executive, who ended up near the top end of the COO pay scale, could receive a bonus of up to 25 per cent of his salary if he meets his targets.
Ornge is obliged by law to reveal the salaries of any employee who makes $100,000 or more. But Giguere's salary likely wouldn't have appeared on the annual Sunshine List until 2014, because he was hired on as COO on Dec. 10.
Health Minister Deb Matthews praised Ornge for disclosing Giguere's salary, even though it took a few days.
"The fact that they've now listed everyone up on their website -- so everyone at the organization knows what the salary range is for every position -- demonstrates their commitment to transparency," she said in an interview.
Matthews said Ornge can be trusted to be transparent, even though it took some prodding by critics to get the information.
"They've gone above and beyond the request," she said.
"They've put more information up on their website than any other organization I know of. And I think that that demonstrates their commitment to be completely transparent with the public."
The issue of executive salaries has been a sensitive one for Ornge, which is trying to rebuild the public's trust after a year of scandals that included ex-CEO Chris Mazza's $1.4-million compensation package.
Ornge, which is operating with a new board and a new CEO, is still under the cloud of a criminal probe over financial irregularities.
Progressive Conservative Frank Klees said Ornge's interim CEO, Ron McKerlie, refused to tell him how much Giguere would be paid when he called him earlier this week, saying he'd have to wait until the Sunshine List was released.
He said McKerlie also told him that no job search was done for the COO position because a job search had been done before Giguere was hired as an adviser months ago.
The root of the problems at Ornge was a lack of transparency and accountability, Klees said, and it doesn't appear that things have changed.
"What I conclude from that is that very little has been learned at Ornge," he said.
"If they should have learned anything -- the new board, the interim CEO -- is that the people of this province expect, especially at that agency, to have full disclosure about what's going on."
NDP health critic France Gelinas said Ornge should have revealed Giguere's salary immediately after he was hired.
"They may not want to open up all their books all the time, but the least they could do is to share salaries to show us -- to prove to us -- that what was going on before was unacceptable and they have learned their lesson," she said.
The lack of disclosure surprised even auditor general Jim McCarter, who released a scathing report on Ornge last March.
"I'd have to say I'm a little bit surprised to hear that," McCarter said Wednesday after releasing his annual report at the legislature.
When he started investigation Ornge more than a year ago, their refusal to disclose the salaries of some of their executives set off an alarm, the auditor said.
"When we started saying we'd like to see the payroll records, it was like, 'Oh auditor, you're not seeing the payroll records.' But that's like waving a red flag in front of a bull," McCarter said.
His report and subsequent legislative committee hearings have revealed that Mazza's salary -- which disappeared from the Sunshine List -- increased exponentially during his time at Ornge.
Ornge managers decided that they didn't have to disclose their salaries because they worked for the organization's for-profit spinoffs.
McCarter said he is willing to go back to Ornge and see if they've fixed their problems before his term ends in April. However, he'd need a motion from the legislative committee that was looking into the scandal.
But the committee, which was disbanded in August, can't meet again because Premier Dalton McGuinty prorogued the legislature in October, which also killed a Liberal bill that would have made changes at Ornge.
As a result of prorogation, the committee's draft report on Ornge may never see the light of day, said Gelinas.
Nothing can move forward until the legislature comes back, said Klees.
"Look, the government's trying to hide, to cover up," he said.
"They still haven't learned that the best way to deal with these things is to fess up, and to start over and to say let's get it right."