On Campus

Who is Canada's most highly paid academic?

Surprise: Ontario's salary leader isn't a university president.

Update: U of T releases further details on president’s compensation. See: “Maybe David Naylor is a (relative) bargain.”

Who is Ontario’s highest paid university administrator? Surprise: New figures released by the government of Ontario, under the province’s decade-old “sunshine law,” suggest that the province’s most well-compensated university officer isn’t a president, the traditional top university job. That’s just one of the discoveries revealed in the Ontario’s salary disclosures, which were supposed to be released tomorrow morning, but were posted late this afternoon on a provincial government website.

RELATED CONTENT Academics compared to CEOs, politicians AND Update: Maybe David Naylor is a (relative) bargain AND Professor pay varies greatly by discipline AND McMaster goes to court to block release of president’s pay package

We gave the list a quick eyeball, and the highest paid individual we could find was not the president of Canada’s largest university, the University of Toronto—but rather Felix Chee, the President and CEO of University of Toronto Asset Management Corporation, the body that oversees the university’s endowment and pensions. Chee was paid a total of $562,000 in 2007, comprised of $549,000 in salary and $13,000 in other taxable benefits. David Naylor, the university president, received $430,000 in salary and taxable benefits.

The highest paid Ontario president appears to be McMaster’s Peter George. In 2007, he was paid just shy of $505,000 in salary in benefits. David Johnston of Waterloo earned nearly $482,000. York’s Lorna Marsden was paid $487,000 in 2007, though she retired in the middle of the year. Her successor, Mamdouh Shoukri, earned $179,000 for the approximately half-year that he was York’s president. Alastair Summerlee, president of Guelph, received nearly $447,000

The fact that Naylor is paid less than the presidents of other, smaller universities is surprising. He runs the country’s biggest university, located in what is by far the province’s most expensive city. But we don’t yet know if the disclosed “taxable benefits” portion of Naylor’s compensation—listed as $380,000 in salary and nearly $50,000 in taxable benefits—fully accounts for one important perk of the office: the presidential residence, a large Rosedale ravine mansion owned by the U of T. We can’t see how that $50,000 (which would likely also cover such things as the university’s contribution to the president’s pension) can fully account for more than a small fraction of the value of the house, which would rent for a significant five-figures-per-month sum on the open market.

The University of Toronto declined to provide us with information about the breakdown of the disclosed taxable benefits, or to explain to what degree they account for the notional rent on the presidential residence. “The University of Toronto does not discuss or disclose confidential employment matters regarding any member of faculty or staff,” said U of T spokesman Robert Steiner.

Update: U of T releases further details on president’s compensation. See: “Maybe David Naylor is a (relative) bargain.”

Ontario universities have been sensitive about disclosing the details of pay packages, as the Hamilton Spectator discovered when it filed this access to information request against McMaster.

The highest paid university administrators would appear to be not in Ontario, but in Alberta. According to the University of Alberta’s fiscal statements for year ended March 31, 2007, U of A president Indira Samarasekera was paid $591,000 in salary and benefits. Her Number Two, provost Carl Amrhein, earned even more: $599,000.

Included in the above total were “non-cash benefits” for Amrhein ($209,000) and Samarasekera ($177,000) that are both far larger than anything awarded to Ontario senior administrators. That may reflect higher compensation—but it may also reflect the fact that Alberta has very stringent and highly transparent disclosure laws. It may be that the Alberta figures are higher in part because Alberta law is simply more stringent in its definition of what universities have to measure and disclose under the grab-bag of “other compensation.”
For example, the U of A report defines non-cash benefits as:

…the University’s share of all employee benefits and contributions or payments made on behalf of employees including pension, group life insurance, supplementary health care, short and long-term disability plans, dental plan, supplemental pension plans… accidental disability and dismemberment. Benefits for some of the executive also include professional leave, car allowance and memberships. In recognition that the University uses the President’s home for various University functions, the University pays for certain costs for the general operation of her home determined in accordance with a contractual arrangement entered into by the President and the University. Included in non-cash benefits is the President’s taxable benefit portion (46%) of these costs. (emphasis mine).

In other words, some portion of the expenses associated with Dr. Samarasekera’s house are paid by the university, and the taxable benefit she thereby derives would seem be fully accounted for in the U of A’s statements.

I don’t mean to pick on Naylor. If his house really is fully accounted for in his disclosed U of T compensation, then he’s the greatest presidential bargain in the country. And even if it isn’t, his pay relative to the size of the institution would still appear to be less than that of many of his fellow presidents.

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.