Alberta tightens bonus payment rules after hefty COVID-19 payout to health chief – Canada News

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.

“The 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 future emergency overtime payments go through the Cabinet.

“Until the review is complete and a new policy is confirmed, all future requests will be submitted to the Treasury Board (led by Nixon) for review.”

The CBC, which gathered information from the government’s solar payroll, reported Monday that Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the chief health officer, 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 deep insult to frontline health workers who had to work under COVID-19 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, claiming he was either lying or didn’t have a firm grasp on the department he was supposed to lead.

“The Treasury Secretary should be aware of the county’s finances,” NDP critic Sarah Hoffman told reporters in Edmonton on Thursday.

“It doesn’t surprise me that Jason Nixon is trying to figure out lines to come back and distance themselves from the blame (of) Travis Toews and others sitting around that cabinet table.”

The payout was one of the COVID-19 bonuses paid to 107 executives for a total of $2.4 million.

Alberta Health said in a statement that 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.

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