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HomeBusinessCOVID Exclusive: $405,000 and counting for B.C. vaccine boss Ballem 

COVID Exclusive: $405,000 and counting for B.C. vaccine boss Ballem 


Bob Mackin

The NDP-appointed head of British Columbia’s mass-vaccination program was paid almost $405,000 through the end of October. 

Penny Ballem (left), Bonnie Henry and Adrian Dix in July 2021 (BC Gov)

Penny Ballem was originally hired Jan. 13, 2021 on a 10-month, no-bid contract worth a maximum $220,000.

Documents obtained under the freedom of information law show that Ballem invoiced $77,175 (including $3,675 GST) for the period of Aug. 1-Sept. 30. The Oct. 28 payment pushed her year-to-date total to $404,913.75 and a likely spot in 2021’s top 10 highest-paid public officials in B.C.

Ballem is contracted for $250-an-hour through her company, Pendru Consulting 354948 BC Ltd., for “analysis and planning” of the COVID vaccine project. During August and September, Ballem billed taxpayers every day, except Aug. 28, Sept. 4-5, 11 and 18.

She also chairs Vancouver Coastal Health, the regional health board where people waited up to five hours in line before Christmas to be tested for coronavirus, while more than a million rapid test kits gathered dust on warehouse shelves. Additionally, the Ballem-chaired VCH closed vaccine clinics for eight days over the holiday period, while shopping malls and bars remained open. 

Penny Ballem (left) and Premier John Horgan (BC Gov)

In November, Minister of Health Adrian Dix rewarded Ballem by extending her term as VCH chair through the end of 2024.

The Ministry of Health communications department did not respond to questions from about Ballem’s contract or the overall cost of the mass-vaccination program to-date. 

Ballem’s contract is more lucrative than what a retired general got from the Ontario government in late November 2020. Rick Hillier was paid $20,000-a-month, plus expenses, through the end of 2021’s first quarter, to begin the rollout in Canada’s most-populous province.

The contract is also her most-lucrative government gig in B.C. since 2014 when she was paid $334,617 in her last full year as Vancouver city manager.

The former deputy minister of health from 2001 to 2006 was B.C.’s most-powerful municipal official from 2009 to 2015 during the Vision Vancouver administration at 12th and Cambie. One of the Vision Vancouver councillors, Geoff Meggs, is now Premier John Horgan’s chief of staff.

After her 2015 firing, then-Mayor Gregor Robertson described Ballem as “a force of nature.”

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