Lending light on Laurier’s top earners

Feature - Lena Yang
Graphic by Lena Yang

Do you ever wonder how much money your professors make?

Well, they could be making over $100,000, qualifying them for the Sunshine List, a registry of all public sector employees in a province of Canada over that echelon.

As per the Public Sector Salary Disclosure Act of 1996, the Sunshine List was created to make Ontario’s public sector more “open and accountable” to taxpayers. The act requires organizations that receive public funding from the province of Ontario to disclose annually the names, positions, salaries and total taxable benefits of employees paid $100,000 or more in a calendar year.

“It was about transparency,” said Kevin Crowley, director of communications and public affairs at Wilfrid Laurier University. “There was a concern over public sector wages and Mike Harris government in the 90s decided on a salary disclosure.”

The salaries and benefits, compiled for the previous calendar year, allows the public to know how much publicly-funded institutions devote to wages. No one’s name is left off the list if they are a public sector employee.

The list’s cutoff of $100,000 was set 20 years ago and, despite inflation, stays there. Premier Kathleen Wynne said she has no intention of moving it up because “a lot of people, many, many thousands of people in this province” still say $100,000 is a lot of money to earn.

But often it can be buried. The list was released just before the long weekend and Premier Kathleen Wynne and her government were criticized for trying to hide the list from the public.

On the list are 556 Laurier employees ranging from the president, to members of administration, staff, professors and faculty. Out of the 556 employees, 426 were considered “faculty” on the list, which is approximately 77 per cent.

“The number of faculty or percentage of faculty has stayed about the same [since the 2014 list]. The number of managers has stayed roughly the same at about 11 per cent,” Crowley said. “The rest are a variety of things: deans, librarians and a variety of staff members who for one reason or another make over $100,000.”

The salaries for Laurier employees range from $100,099.20 to $371,417.90. The total for Laurier salaries on the Sunshine List equalled $80,139,563.27.

The average salary was $144,056.85.

According to Crowley, the university’s operating budget for 2015-16 — the current fiscal year — is $265 million. Seventy-seven per cent of that is salaries and benefits.

Max Blouw, president and vice-chancellor of Laurier, was the highest paid individual in 2015, earning $371,417.90. His salary remained the same as 2014 because, according to Crowley, the 2010 Ontario government imposed a salary freeze on the top administrators of all public sector bodies.

Graphic by Lena Yang
Graphic by Lena Yang

The second highest paid individual was James Orbinski, who is a faculty member with the Balsillie School of International Affairs. His salary was disclosed as $357,998.84. He accepted a nobel prize with Médecins Sans Frontières in 1999, adding to the prestige of Laurier having him.

The highest paid woman was Deborah Maclatchy, provost and vice-president: academic, whose salary was disclosed at $308,575.78. This was a dramatic increase from 2014, when she made $237,628.79.

According to Crowley, this is because of a number of reasons. Maclatchy’s position went under a gender equity review, which found men in the same position or role were making more at universities. Additionally, under the new responsibility-centred budget model, Maclatchy’s position will require her to take on more responsibility. She was also acting vice-president of research for the majority of 2015 and received a stipend.

“A provost at a lot of universities is almost like a general manager,” Crowley explained. “They’re responsible for the day-to-day operations of the university … we’re moving toward that model and we wanted to reflect that.”

Six Laurier employees had no taxable benefits disclosed, while Blouw’s taxable benefits were $28,355.68, the highest of any employee on the list. Crowley said the taxable benefits on Laurier’s salary disclosure list typically relate to the basic life insurance provided by the university as a benefit to full-time employees under the age of 70. The zero taxable benefits could be because they have reached the age of 70 or because they are not full-time employees.

Leanne Holland Brown, the Waterloo dean of students, made $116,287.92 in 2015. Her counterpart on the Brantford campus, Adam Lawrence, made $110,840.38.

The Sunshine List is meant to promote transparency of institutions that declare themselves to be publicly funded. It allows people to hold the institution accountable when they are paying taxes and observing the budget. For students, it’s important to understand what portion of the university’s budget is used on salaries and benefits in comparison to academics and student experience.

But what’s more important: imagine how many boxes of Kraft Dinner you could buy with an average salary of $144,000?

Graphic by Lena Yang, Content by Shelby Blackley
Graphic by Lena Yang, Content by Shelby Blackley

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