According to a Freedom of Information request obtained by the Globe and Mail, Premier Kathleen Wynne’s top aides, Andrew Bevan and Mary Rowe, obtained over $450,000 in enhanced severance packages in 2018. This was approved by the Ontario Liberal cabinet only days after they lost the 2018 Ontario provincial elections.
“The documents show that Mr. Bevan and Ms. Rowe signed memorandums of agreement with the premier’s office for “enhanced termination payments” less than two weeks before their employment was set to end on June 29, 2018,” reports the Globe and Mail.
In total, Bevan received $247,756 and Rowe received $204,497, before deductions, or the equivalent of eight months of their previous salaries in lump-sum payments.
However, despite this substantial payday, the two Liberal aides continued to be on the government payroll for an additional 16 weeks, meaning that their total ‘earnings’ for losing an election would have been well over half a million combined in less than four months.
“Reasonable people will think this is an excessive package and want an explanation,” said Interim Liberal leader John Fraser, who tried to distance himself from the costly payouts, knowing full well taxpayers may be enraged.
Wynne seemed to take a different approach when asked about these payouts. Rather than doing damage control, she chose to defend her office’s decision, believing it was in-line with previous parties’ payouts. However, she claims that the decision to enhance each aides’ severance package was ultimately a decision of the Liberal Cabinet, which met up one last time to discuss their taxpayer-funded condolence money after they lost the election.
“Of course there were proposals brought forward and cabinet made the decision,” Wynne explains.
“But the parameters around the packages were what was important. This didn’t come out of the blue, they were consistent with other governments and consistent with other jurisdictions.”
Other political figures have also stepped in to defend the sizable severance packages, pointing out that many aides have been quite successful in the private sector and gave their positions up to serve in government.
“I recognize that the numbers are big. I mean, that is true,” Wynne told the Toronto Star in March when questioned. “But, you know, these were people who were earning salaries that were consistent with what other people in their roles had earned, and they were very important to the government in terms of being responsible for files that affected people all over the province.”
Overall, these massive lump-sum payments also reveal an important problem in government between the outgoing office and what they do with their last days in power. Obviously, they’re aptly positioned to give themselves a final payday and defenders of Wynne’s office aren’t wrong to note similar payments in former premier’s offices.
As Aaron Wudrick, federal director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, notes, “If you leave it at the discretion of an outgoing government, they have zero incentive to keep the costs down.
“I think the [current] government should reform that. At least that way we can debate what the right formula is and if something is appropriate.”