Ontario premier ‘deeply concerned’ over auditor’s report on generous pay at OPG
ABOVE: Liberals promise legislation to reign in compensation. Alan Carter reports.
TORONTO – The Opposition demanded even more heads roll at Ontario Power Generation Wednesday following a damning auditor general’s report that found salaries, bonuses and pensions at the government-owned utility are overly generous.
“We are today calling for the firing of the OPG chair, the CEO and the Minister of Energy,” said Progressive Conservative energy critic Lisa MacLeod. “The auditor’s report showed a culture of entitlement that has misused ratepayer’s money for handsome bonuses, very generous pension plans and almost 8,000 people making over $100,000 when people are having a tough time paying their energy bills.”
OPG fired its chief financial officer and two vice-presidents Tuesday after the auditor reported the utility more than doubled the size of “its highly paid executive and senior management group” since 2005, with some of them eligible for bonuses of up to $1.3 million and pensions ranging from $180,000 to $760,000 a year.
OPG has 94 executives that it lists as being “vice-presidents and above,” an increase of 40 in seven years.
PC Leader Tim Hudak called the compensation figures “jaw dropping,” and wanted to know why Premier Kathleen Wynne had not fired Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli because of this “scandalous mess.”
“What’s going to happen to your energy minister when you see this kind of debacle on his watch,” Hudak asked in the legislature. “Where is the bar?”
Wynne ducked Hudak’s question, but told reporters she was worried about the culture of entitlement at OPG, and promised the government would introduce legislation next year to give it more control over public sector salaries.
WATCH: Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk delivers her report at Queen’s Park on Dec. 10, 2013.
“I’m deeply concerned about what seems to be the culture in that organization, which is why changes are being made and we’re going to bring in legislation to actually allow us to have more ability to control those compensation packages,” she said.
“No government has had the authority that we are going to put in place in terms of controlling the compensation packages.”
The New Democrats also used the auditor’s report to attack the Liberals for soaring electricity rates and the big salaries and bonuses at OPG.
“For 10 years, there has been a Liberal in the premier’s office and a Liberal at the Ministry of Energy. The OPG has one shareholder; it’s the province,” said NDP Leader Andrea Horwath. “Is (the premier) telling the people paying the bills that she didn’t place a single call to find out what the heck was going on?”
Wynne said she wasn’t prepared to “deconstruct” the past decade, but spoke about a culture at OPG that was resistant to change and suggested a similar culture prevented governments of all stripes from dealing with big salaries in the energy sector.
“I believe that it is very important that we have the political will to put those controls in place,” she said. “The fact that hasn’t happened is a problem, and it speaks to the culture issue that I was raising.”
Outside the legislature, reporters managed to get Chiarelli to offer an apology for the auditor’s findings about the compensation packages at OPG.
“We’re sorry for the information that is in the report,” he said after being pressed repeatedly for an apology.
Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk’s report suggested the Liberals may have trouble imposing hard salary caps on the public service.
The auditor found a number of cases where OPG exceeded so-called maximum base salaries by up to $100,000, and in once case by $200,000. The utility said it treated the maximum “as a guideline rather than a limit” and approved the pay hikes.