Universities should stop paying ex-presidents big salaries: Nova Scotia minister

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HALIFAX — Nova Scotia’s minister of advanced education says deals with university presidents that pay out hundreds of thousands of dollars after retirement are no longer acceptable in an era when student fees are rising.

Kelly Regan says she’ll make that point at the next meeting of the provincial ministers of education, asking her peers to call a halt to the contract provisions.

She said she also delivered that message to a meeting Tuesday with the chairpersons of university boards of governors from around the province.

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“I indicated to them I don’t like seeing benefits being paid after people are through their compensation. So having a salary after someone has finished their term of work is not OK,” she told reporters after the weekly cabinet meeting Thursday.

“At a time when universities are asking government and students for more money it’s simply not acceptable for these kinds of things to go on,” she said.

The minister said shutting down the practice in Nova Scotia will be ineffective if other universities across the country don’t follow suit.

She said she’s asked to have the topic on the agenda of the Council of Ministers of Education meeting next July.

The Liberal cabinet minister said her concern was prompted by the contract of former Dalhousie University president Tom Traves.

It says Traves would receive his annual pay for three years after he stepped down, provided he worked a “normal maximum” of two days per month.

His annual pay started at $441,082 in 2010 and was scheduled to increase by four per cent annually, including the years after he left the job. 

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The minister noted Traves’ is not an isolated case, which is why she brought the issue up at a meeting with the chairs who oversee the universities in the province.

Dalhousie University’s website says current president Richard Florizone makes $390,052 and will have a one-year administrative leave at the end of his term, continuing his regular pay in return for a “normal maximum” of two days per month of work. 

The website for St. Francis Xavier says the employment contract for Kent MacDonald allows him to continue to receive his salary for a year after he leaves, if he works for the five years in the deal and if he’s “available on a reasonable basis to advise the board of governors.”

The minister said she can’t reverse contracts that are already signed, but she will expect an end to such deals from now on.

Lawrence Stordy, the chairman of the board of governors at Dalhousie, said in an interview that he will bring the minister’s comment’s back to the board and he expects they will be taken seriously.

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“I think it’s something that perhaps is going to have to change going forward,” he said. “Certainly the government has said they’re not happy with it, and we listen to the government. We’re partners with them.”

“The board will consider (it), and get all the information from other universities and we’ll deal with it.”

Michaela Sam, the chairperson of the Nova Scotia division of the Canadian Federation of Students, said in an interview she hopes that universities will shift the money they’re spending for post-retirement pay to help offset student fees.

She noted that Statistics Canada reports say that at $6,440 a year, Nova Scotia already charges the third-highest average tuition fees in the country, after Ontario and Saskatchewan.

“Any reduction… to administrators’ salaries, students will be calling on institutions to redirect that to reduce tuition fees,” she said.

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Follow @mtuttoncporg on Twitter

Michael Tutton, The Canadian Press

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