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Ward, Thompson among lowest paid post-secondary executives

The pay of post-secondary senior executives came under fire after the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees issued a list showing some earned more than $600,000 in 2010-11.

But those in charge of two Central Alberta colleges were nowhere near top earner Indira Samarasekra of the University of Alberta, who made $1.005 million.

The list of top earners also included NAIT president Sam Shaw, at $950,000 in 2010-11; Elizabeth Cannon of the University of Calgary, at $640,000 the same year; and Paul Byrne of Grand McEwan University, at $636,000. Four others made more than $500,000 that year.

AUPE defined the salaries it released as total compensation, including base salary, cash and non-cash benefits.

According to the release, Red Deer College president Joel Ward’s salary actually decreased from $249,000 in 2009-10 to $242,000.

However, Ward’s salary increased in 2011-12, when he made $262,456, after the board of governors approved the increase in January 2012. This figure was not included in the AUPE release.

Olds College president Tom Thompson’s pay for 2010-11, according to AUPE, was $328,000, up from $284,000.

Jordan Cleland, Olds College vice-president of Advancement, said the audited base salary for Thompson in 2011-12 was $202,000, which does not include cash and non-cash benefits.

Thompson has been president of the college for 12 years and his salary is based on the board of governors’ annual review, which typically includes an incremental increase, or not, based on performance.

“We think, and our board of governors thinks, that as the president and chief executive officer of the college that a salary of $202,000 is not unreasonable,” said Cleland. “We know that it’s in the low quarter to a third of the salaries in the system.”

Thompson was in the middle of the pack in terms of salary, according to the AUPE release, when compared to other Alberta post-secondary institution presidents, while Ward was second last.

Rachel Notley, Alberta NDP advanced education critic, said the elite executive pay increases hurt both the taxpayer and the post-secondary students.

“Ultimate responsibility for this rests with the Conservatives in terms of these are their friends and insiders who are being appointed to these boards,” said Notley. “Who are then allowed to come up with their own, ridiculous salary structures.

“We’re on the eve of a budget where we’re probably going to see cuts in Advanced Education. When we have stupid decisions like this it means students are the ones who are ultimately hurt.”

AUPE president Guy Smith said this exorbitant compensation for senior post-secondary officials is an issue across Alberta.

“At a time when the government is mulling cuts to public services, including education, it needs to examine the mixed messages it’s sending to the public,” said Smith.

AUPE represents more than 9,000 support staff at Alberta colleges and universities.

“At the same time these presidents plead poverty to their front-line staff during collective bargaining,” said Smith. “Meanwhile, students face ever-increasing costs, with many taking on crushing debt loads. When these groups see the excessive compensation that senior executives receive, they feel disrespected.”

The complete list of post-secondary leadership salaries can be found at



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