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City councillor says EPCOR executives shouldn't be making Oilers-like salaries

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An Edmonton city councillor says the top executives at EPCOR, a city-owned utility company, are taking home too much money.

Michael Janz, ward papastew councillor, believes more of EPCOR's profits should go toward city services and projects.

From 2018 to 2020, Stuart Lee, EPCOR president and CEO, earned between $2.2 and $2.9 million a year. In that same period, other high-level decision-makers made between $700,000 to $1 million.

According to Janz, the corporation's board chair makes $237,000 a year — almost as much as the mayor.

"I thought that the EPCOR salaries might be high," Janz told CTV News Edmonton. "I had no idea that they were going to be this high."

"That's $5 or $10 million that could go towards paying for public services, alleviating the tax burden, and making a better city for everyone," he added.

Now Janz is asking council to pressure EPCOR to lower its executive compensation and give the difference to the city.

Since the utility provider was formed in 1996, EPCOR has paid the city an annual dividend, totalling more than $2.5 billion. Last year, that payment was around $171 million.

"As the sole shareholder of EPCOR, every single dollar that EPCOR makes is a potential dollar that could be paid to the City of Edmonton in dividend," Janz said. "They should be capped not to exceed the City of Edmonton salaries, which I believe are already generous."

Janice Rennie, EPCOR board chair, said executive compensation at the organization is set by the board and is subject to annual independent review.

"Considering the unique nature of EPCOR's business model and strategy, the review process ensures that the company is comparing against organizations that EPCOR competes with for talent, capital, and opportunities," Rennie said.

"The board's objective is to compensate EPCOR's leaders in the middle of the pack, when compared to executives in similar roles," she added.

Janz says that review process is not producing accurate comparisons since it uses private power companies, not Canadian crown corporations.

"I'm all for paying people fair wages for fair work, but this dramatically outpaces the Alberta Treasury Branch, Servus Credit Union, and many other entities," Janz said.

"We could be paying out $20 million in compensation over five years to somebody," he added. "I mean, are we looking at EPCOR, or looking at the Oilers?"

Council is expected to debate Janz's motion to review EPCOR compensation Tuesday.

"We know that we're going to have a very rough budget over the next few years," Janz said. "So we need to look under every rock and stone to find out what we can do." 

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