THE only statement Advanced Education Minister Amrik Virk should be making is announcing his resignation, New Democrat Advanced Education Critic David Eby said on Tuesday.
“When we first raised the issue of underhanded executive compensation practices at Kwantlen Polytechnic University Amrik Virk called our concerns ‘outlandish’. Then, an investigation confirmed he was involved in breaking the rules,” said Eby.
“Now we have evidence that executive compensation rules are being broken at other B.C. universities and instead of taking action Mr. Virk has released a statement filled with excuses, evasion and denials.
“Mr. Virk has proven he can’t be trusted to enforce the same rules he broke himself. It’s clear he cannot do his job and he needs to step down.”
Eby noted that a New Democrat investigation into three universities uncovered $1.1 million in payments exceeding the executive compensation caps they were able to obtain from the government. Virk is denying that anything is wrong, and is refusing to release information to the public about what the compensation caps are, how they are calculated, and what they include.
Eby said: “Whether compensation is paid as salary, a vehicle or housing allowance, or lucrative side-contracts, taxpayers are on the hook, and the caps are being broken. Every President at all three schools we have caps for were paid more than the maximum in each of the last three years. In one case, the overpayments amount to almost $50,000 in just three years. Meanwhile, Mr. Virk continues to hide all information about caps at the other 19 B.C. post-secondary schools.
“It’s clear Amrik Virk, as a Liberal minster, just as he did when a Liberal appointee, is trying to hide the truth about what’s really going on by hiding these caps. The public cannot rely on the attestation letters from Liberal appointees, we know that from what happened when Mr. Virk was on the board of Kwantlen Polytechnic University, and from what was just revealed about compensation practices at the Royal B.C. Museum.”
Eby said that if Virk isn’t willing to do the right thing and step down, the premier needs to take action to maintain confidence in our advanced education system.
“If the minister will not be open with the public, and make universities and colleges follow the rules – he cannot do his job. Everyone seems to understand this but the Premier – it is time for him to go,” said Eby.
HOWEVER, Virk responded on Wednesday, stating “The critic is wrong as he is confusing salary ranges for executives with total compensation caps for presidents of public post-secondary institutions.
“The critic’s misinterpretation is intended to make it appear that these individuals are being paid outside the compensation they should be paid.
“Total compensation for presidents is capped, and includes base salary, benefits and pension. Amounts can fluctuate year to year due to increases in benefit and pension costs beyond the employer’s control, and one-time payments such as unused vacation payouts.
“Vice-presidents, and all other excluded employees, have a salary range approved by Public Sector Employers’ Council that does not include additional benefits and pension, which can account for approximately 20%. As with presidents, these amounts can vary year to year due to increases in items beyond the employer’s control.
“A number of measures are in place to ensure executive compensation guidelines are met and that compensation is fully disclosed.
“Public post-secondary board chairs have provided signed attestations verifying that compensation has been paid within an approved plan and disclosed according to the guidelines.”