Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Back to B.C. for CEO's family

Hydro boss plans to keep job, commute

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Manitoba Hydro boss Scott Thomson and his wife, Silvia Vidas, who accepted a job in Vancouver. He will foot the bill when he flies there on weekends.

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES Enlarge Image

Manitoba Hydro boss Scott Thomson and his wife, Silvia Vidas, who accepted a job in Vancouver. He will foot the bill when he flies there on weekends. Photo Store

The president and CEO of Manitoba Hydro has moved his family back to B.C. but he's adamant it won't affect his ability to do his job or alter his commitment to the Crown corporation.

Scott Thomson moved to Linden Woods with his wife, Silvia Vidas, and their two children when he took over from Bob Brennan in early 2012.

But when she received a job opportunity in Vancouver recently -- she's a doctor of Chinese medicine -- that was too good to pass up, the family had a big decision to make.

"After a long deliberation, she decided to take it. We then had to make a decision in terms of one of us commuting. Given the age of my kids (16 and 14) and my travel schedule, it wasn't practical for it to be her. I can't hang my kids on a hook if she's working and I have to go out of town. We have family support in Vancouver," he said.

"I have a vision for Manitoba Hydro. We've permitted a couple of major projects. I'm here to see that through. When our kids are a bit older, we'll be in a position to re-evaluate."

Thomson was quick to add he'll be footing the bill for the flights home on weekends.

"It won't affect my job," he said.

A government spokesman admitted the situation isn't "ideal."

"Sometimes, family considerations can mean working away from family. Mr. Thomson remains committed to leading Manitoba Hydro's next phase of development that will keep rates affordable, increase reliability, grow our economy and create jobs," the spokesman said.

The Conservatives declined to comment because it concerns a family matter.

But Paul Thomas, professor emeritus in political studies at the University of Manitoba, isn't too concerned to hear about Thomson's living arrangements.

"They have a dual-income family. She's a professional and she has to work where she can practise her profession. Lots of families make those situations work," he said.

But there's no doubt such a move will lead to questions -- by both politicians and the public -- about Thomson's ability to handle everything on his plate.

"He'll be in the air a lot and presumably working on corporate business. He'll be at the end of a telephone line and (smartphone) on a long weekend," Thomas said.

The fact remains the talent pool for such positions isn't terribly deep, and when people with Thomson's credentials are hired, they are often given some autonomy and freedom.

"You can't say 'you can be held on a short leash like a deputy minister,' " he said. "He's entitled to a balance between his public role and his private life, and we should respect that," he said.

Thomson said they decided to move in the summer so his children would be set in time for the school year.

"They'll be coming back and forth (to Winnipeg) as well. They've integrated into the community and they have friends here. It wasn't an easy call to make but it was something we decided was the right decision for the family for the time being," he said.

'Sometimes, family considerations can mean working away from family. Mr. Thomson remains committed to leading Manitoba Hydro's next phase of development'

-- Manitoba government spokesman

Winnipeggers like their corporate leaders to be invested in the community. Pierre Blouin, outgoing CEO of MTS, was criticized for keeping a condo in Winnipeg and spending much of his time in Eastern Canada, where his family lives.

Leonard Asper felt some of the wrath, too, when he moved to Toronto to be closer to advertisers in an effort to save Canwest Global Communications. His efforts ultimately failed.

Before coming to Manitoba Hydro, Thomson served as the executive vice-president and chief financial officer of Fortis BC, the largest distributor of natural gas in B.C.

Mayor Sam Katz has drawn fire for the amount of time he spends in Scottsdale, Ariz. He has refused to say how much time he spends in the Phoenix suburb, where he owns a home.

geoff.kirbyson@freepress.mb.ca

How important is it for a CEO of a Crown corporation to live in the community? Join the conversation in the comments below.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 21, 2014 B1

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Updated on Thursday, August 21, 2014 at 6:55 AM CDT: Replaces photo, adds question for discussion

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