The government has re-introduced the Public Sector and MPP Accountability and Transparency Act (formerly Bill 179 covered in our March 2014 Client Alert), now Bill 8.  Comprised of 11 Schedules, Bill 8 addresses various issues relating to public accountability, and of particular note are the publication of expense claims and an increase in the jurisdiction of the Ombudsman to include school boards. 

The new omnibus statute also includes a schedule which expands the reach of the province’s wage restraint measures. As with its predecessors Bill 179, and Part II.I of the Broader Public Sector Accountability Actcurrently in effect, Schedule 1 of the new Act (the Broader Public Sector Compensation Act, 2014) prohibits “designated employers”, including school boards, from increasing the compensation paid to their designated executives. 

“Designated executives” is defined to include the director of education or supervisory officer of a school board who is entitled to receive or could potentially receive annual cash compensation of $100,000.00 or more in a calendar year.

The new Act allows for an exception where the designated executive is represented by an organization of two or more employees for the purposes of collectively bargaining the terms and conditions of their compensation.

The Management Board of Cabinet will be authorized to issue directives requiring that designated employers provide information with respect to their compensation plans, and may by regulation establish “compensation frameworks” providing limits to some or all components of compensation to designated executives, including salary, benefits, perquisites, bonuses and incentives. The specific content of the compensation framework is not included in the Act, but the government may henceforth issue regulations and directives as the means of giving effect to restraints.

Bill 8 also introduces increased enforcement mechanisms.  Designated employers which fail to comply with a directive to produce information, pay its executives in accordance with a compensation framework, or produce a report verifying compliance, may be subject to an audit.

Moreover, any payment to a designated executive which does not comply with the Act may be treated as an overpayment, which if not repaid can be deducted from the employer and/or the executive from future payments owing, or treated as a  debt which may recovered by any remedy or procedure available at law.

As noted above, Bill 8 also extends the reach of the Ombudsman to include school boards.  The role of the Ombudsman is set out in the Ombudsman Act, which upon amendment will provide that the Ombudsman may investigate any decision or recommendation made or any act done or omitted in the course of the administration of a school board.

A complaint triggering an investigation by the Ombudsman can be made by an affected party, constituent or on the Ombudsman’s own initiative.  But, the Ombudsman has discretion to refuse to investigate a complaint.  Following an investigation the Ombudsman may make a report and recommendations for changes to be made.  If the Ombudsman is not satisfied with a school board’s response to the recommendations, his report may be provided to the Premier.