The Alberta government is tightening rules on employee bonuses in light of the six-figure payout to the Chief Medical Officer of Health during COVID-19.
Treasury Secretary Jason Nixon said the civil service has been tasked with reviewing the rules and making changes to ensure future bonus payments during emergencies go to cabinet for approval.
“Public service should not have the ability to unilaterally approve significant overtime of this magnitude,” Nixon said in a statement Thursday.
“The Public Service Commission has been tasked with a full review of the policy to ensure that future emergency overtime payments will go through the Cabinet.
Until the review is complete and a new policy is confirmed, all future requests will be made to the Treasury Board [headed up by Nixon] judge.”
The TSWT, which gathered information from the government’s solar payroll, reported Monday that Dr. Alberta’s health director Deena Hinshaw received a bonus of nearly $228,000 for COVID-19 work in 2021 — the highest payout of such benefits to a county official since the list went public six years ago.
That figure, on top of her regular salary, brought Hinshaw’s salary to more than $591,000.
The opposition NDP and public sector unions have called the payout a grave insult to frontline health workers forced to work through the COVID-19 pandemic as the government tried to cut their pay or cut their jobs altogether.
The payout has also angered some in the ruling United Conservative Party, who have long criticized Hinshaw for her role in what they viewed as intrusive and unnecessary health restrictions and vaccine rules during the pandemic.
The then Treasury Secretary, Travis Toews, is now one of seven candidates running to replace Prime Minister Jason Kenney in a party vote on Oct. 6.
Toews has said he was not aware of the payout and said he would also make changes to ensure the cabinet has the final say on such bonuses.
The NDP says Toews must have been aware of the payout and claims he is either lying or didn’t have a firm grip on the department he was supposed to lead.
“The Treasury Secretary must be aware of the county’s finances,” NDP critic Sarah Hoffman told reporters in Edmonton on Thursday.
“I’m not surprised Jason Nixon is trying to come up with rules to come back and get away from blame [of] Travis Toews and others sit around that cabinet table.”
The payout was one of the COVID-19 bonuses paid to 107 executives for a total of $2.4 million.
In a statement, Alberta Health said Hinshaw was paid under a long-standing policy and financial calculation linked to emergencies based on hours worked.
“Given the magnitude of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, an extraordinary amount of additional work was required by Dr. Hinshaw,” the statement said.