Canadian Hearing Society CEO's salary 'offensive,' says PC leader

Canadian Hearing Society workers ratify new agreement, end 2 month-long strike

Both opposition parties are raising concerns about executive salaries at a taxpayer-funded charity serving the deaf and hard of hearing community across Ontario.

Documents obtained by CBC News show that Canadian Hearing Society president and CEO Julia Dumanian was paid $268,749 in 2016, an increase of more than $115,000 over what her predecessor in the position earned in 2013.

In the same time period, the number of full-time staff at the agency was cut by 28 per cent.  

Provincial taxpayers put more than $20 million annually into the charity to provide such services as sign-language interpretation in hospitals, counselling and audiology.

PC leader Patrick Brown called the salary hike "offensive" in an interview with CBC News. 

"You'd expect there would be some assurances that you wouldn't see frontline staff being cut while you see a CEO getting a 75 per cent increase," said Brown. "It's offensive, it's wrong, but it's consistent with the pattern of what this government has allowed to happen." 

Health Minister Eric Hoskins said Thursday he expects that all agencies providing services "will do the absolute maximum to ensure that the maximum funds they receive go towards frontline care. So I hope and anticipate that that is what's taking place at the Canadian Hearing Society." 

CBC News also learned that the agency did not disclose the pay of its vice-president of finance and corporate services, Stephanus Greeff, on the 2016 Sunshine List because he switched to billing the agency as a consultant for his work.  

A copy of an invoice obtained by CBC News shows Greeff billed the agency $12,100 for a month of consulting services in August 2016, a rate of $145,200 per year. He continues to be listed on the charity's website as part of its executive leadership team.

Taxpayer-funded charities must disclose top salaries 

All not-for-profit organizations receiving more than $1 million in annual funding from the provincial government are required by law to report the salaries of all employees who earned more than $100,000. Consulting fees are exempt from the disclosure rules.

"Generally it is not in the spirit of the Sunshine List to have people who should be salaried not being salaried," said Treasury Board President Liz Sandals, the government's cabinet minister in charge of the pay disclosure rules. 

"I have no knowledge of the circumstances in this case as to whether or not this is some sort of anomaly," Sandals said Thursday in an interview with CBC News.  

A senior official at the charity said the board hired Dumanian to transform and restructure the agency and set her salary based on her expertise and experience. The official also said Greeff switched from employee to consultant as part of the management restructuring. 

The agency's unionized workers, many of whom are themselves deaf or partly deaf, are on picket lines across the province in a strike that began in early March. 

NDP finance critic John Vanthof calls the CEO's salary hike "shameful" and the vice-president of finance's absence from the Sunshine List "even worse."

The agency's executives "received massive raises at the same time their employees are walking the picket line because they haven't had a pay increase in four years," Vanthof said in Question Period on Wednesday.

"Even worse is the fact that the organization's vice-president was able to avoid having his massive pay raise out on the Sunshine List because he chose to be paid as a consultant," said Vanthof.