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HomeBusinessNDP cabinet members still get bonuses, despite racking up a $321 million deficit

NDP cabinet members still get bonuses, despite racking up a $321 million deficit

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Bob Mackin

B.C. NDP cabinet ministers are getting a bonus, but it won’t be as big as it could’ve been.

Under provincial law, 20% of ministerial salaries is held back until the fiscal year’s Public Accounts are released. Half the holdback is for balancing the government’s overall budget target, the other half for balancing ministerial budgets. Because the pandemic turned the government’s finances upside down, NDP cabinet members qualify only for the latter 10%.

Finance Minister Carole James (BC Gov)

Cabinet ministers will receive $5,551 each and Premier John Horgan $9,992.

The NDP government had eliminated the bonus system for Crown corporation executives, but not for politicians. It decided not to amend the law during an emergency March 23 sitting of the Legislature, just eight days before the books closed for the fiscal year.

“We hadn’t made changes to the ministers holdbacks, that we felt that was just additional time and energy that we wanted to spend on providing supports to the public,” Finance Minister Carole James told reporters on Aug. 31. “Minister budgets were balanced, but in fact the revenue did not come in, so ministers will receive half of their holdbacks.”

In late-March, the Legislative Assembly Management Committee unanimously voted to free MLAs’ base $111,024.19 annual pay. The Premier is paid $99,921.77 extra and cabinet ministers $55,512.10.

James revealed on Aug. 31 that the sudden impact of the pandemic meant a $321 million deficit for the fiscal year that ended March 31.

In July, James said B.C.’s 2020-2021 deficit was projected to hit $13.5 billion. 

Meanwhile, public sector salaries remain relatively high and unchanged by the pandemic.

The biggest pay packets for 2019-2020 in the B.C. public service include BC Hydro Powerex CEO Thomas Bechard ($937,845), UBC president Santa Ono ($605,225), BC Hydro president Chris O’Riley ($566,084), Vancouver Island University CFO Shelley Legin ($521,556), B.C. Securities Commission CEO Brenda Leong ($515,203) and ICBC CEO Nicolas Jimenez ($474,680).

The NDP government held onto the public accounts until the last day allowed under the law. But the Crown corporations and agencies financial reports include disclaimers about the uncertainty due to COVID-19. The pandemic was declared March 11 by the World Health Organization and followed the next week by the B.C. government’s public health emergency and state of emergency declarations.

BC Hydro COO Chris O’Riley (BC Hydro)

“Although the economic influence from the virus is expected to be temporary, the impact to PavCo’s event operations and related financial results is expected to be significant, but cannot be reasonably estimated at this time,” said the year-end report for B.C. Pavilion Corporation.

PavCo has not hosted a public event since March’s Canada Sevens rugby tournament at B.C. Place Stadium and the Pacific Dental Conference at the Vancouver Convention Centre. The latter was the scene of a virus outbreak that sickened more than 80 people and led to at least one death.

BC Hydro blamed the pandemic for late filing of Site C quarterly reports with the B.C. Utilities Commission and the July revelation that the $10.7 billion budget and 2024 completion date are no longer. Both are officially listed as TBD.

B.C. Lottery Corporation relies on casinos for three quarters of its revenue, but casinos have been closed since mid-March. It is unlikely to match this year’s $1.35 billion net income next year.

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