The chair of the Yukon Hospital Corporation’s board was careless in giving himself and his colleagues a steep raise against government orders, according to a nationally renowned scholar on governance.
“What is lacking here is judgement,” said Donald Savoie, the Canada Research Chair in Public Administration and Governance at the Universite de Moncton.
“It was incumbent upon (the chair) to sit down with the relevant minister to make sure they were doing something that the government was in agreement with,” he said.
“It gives the appearance that maybe they were trying to sneak one through.”
The board gave its chair a tenfold increase in pay and doubled members’ pay late last year. That’s in contravention of an order from cabinet dated November 2009 that set board members’ pay rates far lower.
The lower pay was supposed to be in effect until June 11, when cabinet authorized a pay increase for the board.
However, for the last seven months, board chair Craig Tuton has continued to receive 10 times more than government allowed. Board members received more than twice as much.
Tuton has not returned repeated phone messages since it was revealed the government breach took place. Phone calls to corporation CEO Joe MacGillivray and Health Minister Glenn Hart have not been returned either.
Tuton’s raise amounts to $38,400 a year for chairing 12 meetings, sparking calls by the opposition that he was getting preferential treatment.
“There seems to be two standards: one for all the boards that don’t have Mr. Tuton sitting on them and one for boards that do,” said Arthur Mitchell, Liberal party leader.
“The role of the board is an oversight role and a policymaking role, and I’m not convinced these are supposed to be full-time jobs,” he said.
The breach of government orders showed recklessness within an organization with an increasingly heavy agenda, namely the $67-million construction of hospitals in Watson Lake and Dawson City, said New Democrat Leader Elizabeth Hanson.
“We’ve got an organization that seems to be going rogue,” said Hanson.
“It raises huge questions about the competence and the planning with respect to health care,” she said.
Savoie, who has authored several influential tomes on power in the Canadian government, said the government did well in correcting the raise with a new government order.
“From a legal perspective, I don’t see much that transpired here that’s not in accordance with the statutes,” he said.
But for seven months, the board was being paid far more than it was supposed to. That allowed the pay raise to go unnoticed, since a cabinet order that would have approved the change is public, but board decisions are not.
“The chair should have recognized that in this era of transparency, and a premium of transparency, the chair should have realized without being prompted that he should have run this by the minister,” said Savoie.
“It’s simply a question of judgement.”
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