NDP ‘wrong’ on university pay cap claims: Virk

Top salaries at Capilano, UFV, VIU exceed government limit, Opposition says

Advanced Education Minister Amrik Virk is under fire again over pay cap violations at B.C. universities.

Advanced Education Minister Amrik Virk is under fire again over pay cap violations at B.C. universities.

Advanced Education Minister Amrik Virk says the NDP is wrong in its claims that more B.C. universities have paid senior executives more than permitted under salary caps set by the provincial government.

The NDP obtained salary cap details for three universities – Capilano University, the University of the Fraser Valley and Vancouver Island University – and said reported compensation paid to 14 executives at the schools exceeded their caps by a total of more than $1.1 million over three years.

Financial disclosures show the three universities paid their presidents between $230,000 and $245,000 in the last year – more in each case than their $225,000 caps, according to the NDP.

“What is the point in having caps in the first place if they’re basically meaningless and you’re not going to enforce them?” asked NDP advanced education critic David Eby.

The Public Sector Employers Council, which enforces the policy, has since refused to disclose pay caps for other B.C. post-secondary institutions, prompting the Opposition to accuse Virk of covering up further violations in the wake of a recent probe of overpayments at Kwantlen Polytechnic University.

But in a statement emailed by his office, Virk said the caps on presidents’ total compensation do not apply to other senior post-secondary executives, who are instead subject to a salary range approved by PSEC.

Those ranges don’t include additional benefits and pension, which he said the NDP mistakenly counted in its calculations, adding about 20 per cent.

Virk also said total compensation for presidents can fluctuate year to year due to higher benefit and pension costs beyond the employer’s control, and due to one-time payments such as unused vacation payouts.

“The critic’s misinterpretation is intended to make it appear that these individuals are being paid outside the compensation they should be paid,” he said.

Virk said institution board chairs have given signed confirmations that that executive compensation was paid out in line with approved plans.

Virk previously faced calls to resign for his role before being elected MLA as a director on the board of Kwantlen, where an investigation found extra $50,000 signing bonuses under the guise of consulting fees were made to the president and vice-president to circumvent their pay caps.

Virk has admitted he erred in agreeing to the payments in 2010-12, saying he wasn’t properly informed of the rules.

Virk told Eby in a May 27 letter that the precise caps on public sector pay aren’t made public so they don’t become a negotiating floor on salary when governing boards are in talks to hire new executives.

Eby said continued secrecy around pay caps gives the appearance of a minister unwilling to properly enforce rules that he himself has broken.

He said the situation is a mess because some schools have observed the caps, Kwantlen sought to hide extra payments and others “blatantly” spent more.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

West Shore RCMP is asking for the public’s help in locating Mackenzie Courchene, a Langford teenager.
MISSING: Mackenzie Courchene last seen in Langford on March 2

West Shore RCMP is asking for the public’s help in locating the Langford teenager

Rendering of the proposed Esquimalt public safety building. (Courtesy Township of Esquimalt)
Esquimalt blazes new trail toward modern public safety building

Township using alternative approval process for first time to gauge public support for proposal

Landmarks such as Howard the giant gnome at Galey's Farm in Saanich make a stunning backdrop for celebratory dance in the Greater Victoria Festival Society trailer for its coming Dance Victoria campaign. (Screeshot/Greater Victoria Festival Society)
Residents’ videos help campaign Dance Across Victoria

Celebratory dance clips to be compiled into Greater Victoria Festival Society video

Reynolds Secondary School’s spring musical Freaky Friday features Grace Fouracre as teen Ellie Blake (left) who swaps bodies with her overworked mother, Katherine, played by Nadia Lurie. (Photo courtesy Reynolds Secondary School)
Saanich high school goes virtual with Freaky Friday musical

Reynolds Secondary theatre program to livestream performances March 9-12

Saanich Fire Department. Black Press Media File Photo
Fire displaces three Saanich families from two homes

Saanich firefighters found the fire had spread to a neighbouring home upon arriving

Elvira D’Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
‘It’s been a good week’: Tam hopeful on vaccines as pandemic anniversary nears

Tam says the addition of two new vaccines will help Canadians get immunized faster

Const. Allan Young. Photo: Abbotsford Police Department
Manslaughter charge laid in Nelson death of Abbotsford police officer

Allan Young died after an incident in downtown Nelson last summer

(The Canadian Press)
‘Worse than Sept. 11, SARS and financial crisis combined’: Tourism industry in crisis

Travel services saw the biggest drop in active businesses with 31 per cent fewer firms operating

The Port Alice pulp mill has been dormant since 2015. (North Island Gazette file photo)
Parts recycled, life returning to inlet as as old Port Alice mill decommissioned

Bankruptcy company oversees de-risking the site, water treatment and environmental monitoring

The Conservation Officers Service is warning aquarium users after invasive and potentially destructive mussels were found in moss balls from a pet store. (BC Conservation Officers Service/Facebook)
Aquarium users in B.C. warned after invasive mussels found at pet store

Conservation officers were told the mussels were found in a moss ball from a Terrace pet store.

Hockey hall-of-fame legend Wayne Gretzky, right, watches the casket of his father, Walter Gretzky, as it is carried from the church during a funeral service in Brantford, Ont., Saturday, March 6, 2021. HE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky remembered as a man with a ‘heart of gold’ at funeral

The famous hockey father died Thursday at age 82 after battling Parkinson’s disease

Donald Alan Sweet was once an all star CFL kicker who played for the Montreal Alouettes and Montreal Concordes over a 13-year career. Photo courtesy of Mission RCMP.
Ex-B.C. teacher who was CFL kicker charged with assault, sexual crimes against former students

Donald Sweet taught in Mission School District for 10 years, investigators seek further witnesses

(Black Press Media files)
Medicine gardens help Victoria’s Indigenous kids in care stay culturally connected

Traditional plants brought to the homes of Indigenous kids amid the COVID-19 pandemic

Most Read