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PCs call payouts 'concerning,' plan to meet with Crown corporations

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES</p><p>Manitoba Crown Services Minister Cliff Cullen said in a statement the Progressive Conservative government will raise the matter of executive compensation and severance with the province's crown corporations.</p>

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Manitoba Crown Services Minister Cliff Cullen said in a statement the Progressive Conservative government will raise the matter of executive compensation and severance with the province's crown corporations.

THE provincial government says it will speak to the boards of Manitoba’s major Crown corporations about executive compensation, in light of public disclosure reports revealing high payments to departing managers.

Earlier this week, the Free Press reported a former Manitoba Hydro executive received $805,015 — nearly four times his former annual salary — last year, when he left the corporation. Other departing managers also received buyouts and other unspecified payments totalling hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The Free Press has since obtained the Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries Corporation’s 2017 compensation report. It reveals two former executives earned more than the corporation’s president and chief executive officer last year — even though they left MBLL in December 2016.

Wayne Perfumo, former vice-president, hospitality and entertainment services, received compensation totalling $348,603, while Susan Olynik, vice-president, corporate communications and social responsibility, received $339,694.

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THE provincial government says it will speak to the boards of Manitoba’s major Crown corporations about executive compensation, in light of public disclosure reports revealing high payments to departing managers.

Earlier this week, the Free Press reported a former Manitoba Hydro executive received $805,015 — nearly four times his former annual salary — last year, when he left the corporation. Other departing managers also received buyouts and other unspecified payments totalling hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The Free Press has since obtained the Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries Corporation’s 2017 compensation report. It reveals two former executives earned more than the corporation’s president and chief executive officer last year — even though they left MBLL in December 2016.

Wayne Perfumo, former vice-president, hospitality and entertainment services, received compensation totalling $348,603, while Susan Olynik, vice-president, corporate communications and social responsibility, received $339,694.

Crown Services Minister Cliff Cullen said in a statement Wednesday the Progressive Conservative government will raise the matter of executive compensation and severance with the corporations.

"These numbers are, of course, concerning to government, and shocking to the general public, and further discussions related to executive compensation and severance will take place with all respective Crown corporation boards," Cullen said.

In her last year of work in 2016, Olynik earned $185,566. She was with the corporation for 25 years, according to a media report in early 2017, in which she was quoted as saying she had retired. Perfumo made $200,786 in 2016.

According to the new MBLL salary disclosure report, which lists total compensation to all employees earning at least $50,000 a year, Peter Hak, the corporation’s president and CEO, made $260,015 last year.

The controversial payments to departing executives came as Crown corporations followed a government directive to reduce senior management positions by 15 per cent. Government departments and regional health authorities were under the same edict.

Todd MacKay, Prairie director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, said some of the payments were excessive.

He said while it is a positive development Hydro and MBLL are reducing overall management costs, they must still be held accountable for "inappropriate" payments to individuals.

"Just because you did something good overall doesn’t give you a free pass on the day-to-day decisions, as well," MacKay said.

Sean MacDonald, who teaches compensation at the Asper School of Business at the University of Manitoba, said he finds it frustrating the compensation reports don’t provide breakdowns for salary, severance and other significant categories. All that is recorded is the total remuneration figure.

"It is possible that there are legitimate explanations for what seems to be obscenely excessive (compensation). We just don’t know," he said. "The government needs to provide greater clarity in their Public Sector Disclosure Act."

MacDonald said he wasn’t about to "jump on the bandwagon" and declare all Crown corporation executives are overpaid. He said many make less than they would in the private sector, given the size of budgets and number of employees they oversee.

Others have pointed out high severance payments to senior managers are fair since it can take a few years for an executive to find a new job — a process that can involve moving one’s family.

Andrea Kowal, director of communications and corporate affairs with Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries, would only confirm Wednesday that Perfumo and Olynik had received severance payments. She would not provide breakdowns on their compensation.

She said the corporation also would not comment on the circumstances surrounding the departures.

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

Larry Kusch

Larry Kusch
Legislature Reporter

Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.

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