Update: Maybe David Naylor is a (relative) bargain

U of T says president’s house is included in compensation. That means the head of the largest university in Canada is paid less than several of his colleagues

As we reported yesterday, U of T president David Naylor appears to be underpaid relative to his colleagues at other Ontario (and Alberta) universities. (Or, depending on how you look at it, his colleagues are overpaid). Despite heading the largest university in Canada, and coming to the position a few years ago from the already traditionally high-paying (by academic standards, at least) job of dean of medicine, Naylor makes less than the heads of such smaller institutions as McMaster, Waterloo and Guelph. He even makes less than the man who manages the U of T’s money.

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But, we asked yesterday, does Naylor’s compensation disclosure include the taxable benefit of living in the president’s residence, a large Rosedale mansion owned by the U of T? We asked, and the U of T responded that… it wouldn’t respond. Said the U of T spokesman, “The University of Toronto does not discuss or disclose confidential employment matters regarding any member of faculty or staff.”

Which left me speculating in yesterday’s post that Naylor’s $50,000 in other “taxable benefits”might not be comprehensive number, and might not include the value of the benefit of living in the residence. As I wrote, “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.”

But apparently it does.

U of T spokesman Rob Steiner told me in an email this morning that, “The current number under benefits/allowances DOES include the house benefit and a fixed car allowance.” He also told me that “the sunshine disclosure does NOT include pension benefits.”

How can $50,000 (or less, since the amount includes the aforementioned car allowance, and we know not what else) cover the rental value of a large, ravine-edge house, in the most expensive neighbourhood in the city? According to Steiner, you have to keep in mind that while the residence is a place where the president and his family live, it’s also a building used for a lot of university business. Steiner told me that “the ground floor (a good half of the house) of the President’s house and the main gardens operate as institutional space for meeting, receptions, and other events. The President and his family enjoy some great space in the off hours, obviously, but there’s regular traffic.” And Revenue Canada would no more consider that portion of the property to be a taxable benefit than would it consider an employee’s company-provided office space and desk to be taxable benefit.

Steiner notes that Naylor’s compensation for 2007 barely differs from him 2006 compensation, and that Naylor said that he “could not justify accepting any increase to an already high salary with generous housing perquisites given the intense financial
pressure on the institution.”

One final interesting sidebar to all of this: Naylor is married to Ilse Treurnicht, the CEO of the MaRS Discovery District, a research and commercialization centre. And according to the sunshine disclosure, in 2007 she was paid $437,500 —or just slightly more than the president of U of T.