Alberta Politics
David Suzuki

University top brass salaries capped; David Suzuki to get honorary degree from U of A! Stand by for fireworks!

Posted on April 11, 2018, 1:32 am
9 mins

PHOTOS: High-profile B.C. environmentalist, scientist, author and broadcaster David Suzuki. Below: Alberta Advanced Education Minister Marlin Schmidt, University of Alberta President David Turpin (Photo: The Gauntlet), and United Conservative Party Opposition Leader Jason Kenney.

The Alberta government has put a much-needed cap on the salaries of top university administrators, providing a nice break in the news columns from the continuing frenzy over the Trans Canada Pipeline Expansion Project.

At the same time the salary cap decision hit the news, the University of Alberta announced that high profile B.C. environmentalist, scientist, author and broadcaster David Suzuki will be granted an honorary degree this June.

Marlin Schmidt

Readers will be relieved to know there can be no way the two situations are connected.

The new salary regulations introduced by Advanced Education Minster Marlin Schmidt for senior university officials are years overdue, but certainly won’t please top administrators like University of Alberta President David Turpin, who has already had a very public spat with Mr. Schmidt over his pay.

Dr. Turpin, late of the University of Victoria and other well-known institutions, joined the U of A administration in July 2015. Back in mid-March, the NDP’s Mr. Schmidt said publicly that Dr. Turpin should cut his own salary before allowing students to be charged more for tuition, residence fees and the like.

Apparently wounded, Dr. Turpin fired back, complaining that “I’ve worked at three of the country’s finest universities in three different provinces and this is the first time I have been personally and publicly attacked by a minister of the Crown.” Subsequently, Dr. Turpin was yelled at by a crowd of students upset by the fee increases.

Bonuses, incentives, allowances and some other perks are going over the side by provincial decree at Alberta’s public colleges, universities and technical institutions, according to Mr. Schmidt’s announcement yesterday. A five-level pay scale will take effect next week, limiting the amount a university president can receive, although it will be phased in over two years for top brass already on the job.

Right now, Dr. Turpin has a base salary of $500,000 a year but is paid more than $800,000. Under the new rules, a president will only be able to get about 20 per cent more than base salary in perks and benefits.

David Turpin

The government says the cap will save around $5 million a year, but it packs a more powerful symbolic punch.

As has been observed in this space many times, there is no evidence huge corporate-style salaries result in more inspiring leadership or better administration of Canadian post-secondary institutions. Indeed, if one considers the huge contribution made by the postwar generation of university administrators for a small premium over what a senior professor was paid in those days, the contrary would appear to be true.

Meanwhile, a U of A news release published Monday said that Dr. Suzuki – widely considered an infuriating villain in United Conservative Party circles and the oilpatch – will receive an honourary doctor of science degree from the university on June 7 at 10 a.m.

Dr. Suzuki is described in the release as “an award-winning scientist, broadcaster, author and activist” with a “devotion to promoting scientific literacy,” both statements that cannot be disputed.

Alert readers will recall that when Dr. Suzuki was invited recently to address the Alberta Teachers Association, United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney and his online outrage machine went right over the top, condemning “teacher union bosses,” as a friendly Postmedia columnist put it, for “flying in a millionaire jet-setter to tell us we should destroy the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of Albertans.”

One can only imagine that the same kind of stuff is about to hit the fan again, this time directed at the U of A for having the temerity to award this honour to Dr. Suzuki.

Meanwhile, one also imagines that Victoria is starting to look pretty good to Dr. Turpin, now that he has experienced a couple of Alberta springs … and whatnot.

As noted, the timing of the two announcements is a coincidence. So is the fact Dr. Suzuki and Dr. Turpin are both biologists.

You couldn’t make this stuff up: Entire United Conservative Party Caucus goes missing!

You have to give Alberta’s Conservatives their full due – they don’t do things by half measures.

Jason Kenney

Parliamentarians cross the floor of the House now and again, for example. But politically alert Albertans will recall how the Legislative caucus of the Wildrose Party, precursor to the United Conservative Party, tied to defect en masse to the Progressive Conservatives in 2014. Unfortunately for them, that didn’t end well.

Now the entire UCP has gone missing!

Politicians step out of the kitchen from time to time when it gets too hot for them. But for an entire 25-member caucus to disappear is unusual. Nevertheless, yesterday while the Legislature debated Bill 9, the Protecting Choice for Women Accessing Health Care Act, reliable reports indicated not a single UCP MLA was in the House.

Where did they go? Hard to say. A search party will be checking the bars in the neighbourhood of the Alberta Legislature in Edmonton. If need be, the search can be expanded to neighbouring provinces, although Saskatchewan seems more likely than B.C.

Bill 9, of course, sets 50-metre safe zones around abortion clinics to keep the ever-present protesters from harassing people entering and leaving the facilities.

So this disappearance is really no mystery. It’s like those flocks of American politicians who cross state lines now and again to prevent a vote on this or that in their state legislatures. Only the UCP MLAs aren’t trying to prevent a vote, they’re just trying to make damn sure they’re not caught taking part in one.

UCP leader Jason Kenney is well known to be a social conservative who strongly opposes women’s reproductive rights. In the unlikely event he voted for the bill, he’d be in deep doo-doo with his base. If he voted against it, he’d be in trouble with a large number of voters. He must have reckoned that sometimes discretion really is the better part of valour!

I imagine some of the UCP Caucus members – you know, the ones who have principles – are none too happy about this development. It says something for Mr. Kenney’s iron fist that they’ve gone silent too.

That broody sound you keep hearing in the shed out back? Sounds like … Nobody here but us chickens!

14 Comments to: University top brass salaries capped; David Suzuki to get honorary degree from U of A! Stand by for fireworks!

  1. Bill Malcolm

    April 11th, 2018

    There is only one correct spelling of “honorary”, even in the UK. And the spelling of it is as in the previous sentence. Check the OED.

    https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/honorary

    The other common Canadian over-correction is to spell pronunciation as “pronounciation”, and worse, to pronounce it as such.

    From a spelling/grammar fiend.

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      April 11th, 2018

      I recently had this very discussion with my colleagues. I’m afraid I have bent to the winds of fashion and popular ignorance. It happens, now and again. DJC

      Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      April 11th, 2018

      There, I’ve fixed it. I feel better already! DJC

      Reply
    • anon

      April 11th, 2018

      Ah fiend: I found something else: “parks and benefits.” I think Mr. C meant “perks.” However on sober second thought, I think I like his version better.

      Reply
      • David Climenhaga

        April 11th, 2018

        Thanks. It’s fixed just the same. I’m knot going to get my nickers in a twist about a mere typo like this (little spelling joke there), especially of a variety that won’t show up in Spell Check. It’s an occupational hazard. Bill’s point griped me, though, because I knew he was right, and went ahead and did it anyway, stampeded by the herd. It won’t happen again. DJC

        Reply
        • pogo

          April 11th, 2018

          I wouldn’t feel too smug if I were you! I might remind one and all that there was time in our fair land when a misplaced stroke could get one killed! https://youtu.be/N4vf8N6GpdM Apologies to Gordon Lightfoot!

          Reply
  2. J.E. Molnar

    April 11th, 2018

    It’s no secret. Jason Kenney has to repay his anti-abortion surrogates and supporters that funded his leadership campaign, while appearing as a social moderate to mainstream voters.

    Collecting a large salary for sitting on your collective hands and dodging legislative responsibility is nice work if you can get it. The UCP fooled no one with this dunderheaded move or their gutless position not to support the GSA after-school friendship groups created under Bill 24.

    NEW UCP CAMPAIGN SLOGAN:
    “It is better to remain silent at the risk of being thought a fool, than to talk and remove all doubt of it.” (Maurice Switzer)

    Reply
  3. GregH

    April 11th, 2018

    “… reliable reports indicated not a single UCP MLA was in the House.” And last time I checked there was zero mention of this in the news. Very disappointing.

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      April 11th, 2018

      In fairness, as you can see from the link, this was noted via Tweet by Postmedia’s legislative reporter. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it was in the submitted draft of her story. DJC

      Reply
      • Bob Raynard

        April 12th, 2018

        Thanks for the link, DJC. I loved one person’s tweet: UPC = Uterus Control Party

        Reply
  4. zalm

    April 12th, 2018

    The twit feed is amusing.

    #UterusControlParty

    Reply
  5. David

    April 12th, 2018

    It is interesting that Kenney has little to say on Bill 9. One of the downfalls of being an elected MLA is that people notice what you say or don’t say, and also notice when you are MIA.

    At a time not that long ago, when Kenney was more candid, he said he would repeal everything the NDP did. I wonder if that extends to Bill 9. I suppose that would be a good question for some reporter with a bit temerity to ask him, sometime over the next year. I wonder if any will, or if Kenney has managed to silence the mainstream Alberta media, as well as he has managed to silence his caucus and himself on this issue.

    Interestingly the anti abortion groups haven’t been very vocal either. I assume they either have faith Kenney will quietly repeal Bill 9 if elected, or perhaps he has recently privately given them some assurance of that, in return for their silence. I suppose among other things, Kenney is well on his way to becoming a closet social conservative.

    Reply
  6. Bedoich

    April 12th, 2018

    Imagine (If you can) 1 of the UCP members had the temerity to sit in on the debate. Wouldn’t it be nice if politicians stopped playing politics once and a while?

    Reply
  7. Bedoich

    April 12th, 2018

    In a while

    Reply

Leave a Reply

  • (not be published)