Are local bureaucrats overpaid? A comparison | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Are local bureaucrats overpaid? A comparison

Interior Health Authority president and CEO Susan Brown is the highest paid person on the public payroll in the Thompson-Okanagan.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED / Interior Health Authority

The average B.C. resident earned $51,900 in 2020 but people working for government agencies in Kamloops and the Okanagan earned as much as six times more, especially those at the top of the pay scale.

Every year local governments have to post the earnings of all employees who were paid more than $75,000 a year. dutifully reports on how many are on that list (almost 1,350 in the region’s five largest city) and who is at the top (Kelowna City Manager Doug Gilchrist at more than $300,000). Other provincially-funded agencies in health and education also have to report.

But how do they compare? And how do they compare to those in the private sector.

There is no true apples-to-apples comparison, but here's a look at a few of them.


The highest paid public servant in the Thompson-Okanagan region is Susan Brown, president and CEO of the Interior Health region.

She was paid $336,056 in 2021.

Mike Ertel, vice-president for medicine and quality for Interior Health, came in at $293,100. Donna Lommer, vice-president for clinical and corporate services pulled in $269,327 and Shallen Letwin, vice-president for clinical operations in the southern region, was paid $263,500.

Interior Health is the fourth largest of the province’s five health regions but Brown is the lowest paid of the presidents/CEOs, earning less than the $342,077 paid to Cathy Ulrich in Northern Health, which serves about one-quarter as many residents.

Still, Brown is not far behind Victoria Lee, who was paid $350,359 for heading up the Fraser Health region, which is the province’s largest with more than twice the population of Interior Health.


Education is another lucrative occupation although, as with health, the size of the school district, based on number of students, is not necessarily determinate of how much leaders are paid.

Kevin Kaardal, superintendent of the Central Okanagan school district, was paid $193,946 in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2021.

Schools District 23 Superintendent Kevin Kaardal
Schools District 23 Superintendent Kevin Kaardal
Image Credit: Submitted/School District 23

The Central Okanagan is the largest school district in the region, by far, with 24,000 students.

By comparison, Vernon school district superintendent Joseph Rogers was paid more at $205,342, last year. His district only has 8,700 students, about one-third of the Central Okanagan.

Beverly Young, superintendent of the Okanagan/Similkameen school district that has one-tenth as many as students as the Central Okanagan was paid $189,710, just $3,200 less than Kaardal.

Even further askew is the fact that Stephen McNiven, superintendent of the Nicola Similkameen school district, is paid $172,879 despite the fact that his district only has 12 schools, in Princeton and Merritt, with a total of 600 students.

Being the head of a college or university is a little more lucrative.

Thompson Rivers University president and vice-chancellor Brian Fairbairn earned $285,872 in fiscal 2020-21. That university has 14,000 students at its various campuses and many more taking distance learning courses from all over the world.

 Brain Fairbairn, president and vice-chancellor of Thompson Rivers University.
Brain Fairbairn, president and vice-chancellor of Thompson Rivers University.
Image Credit: Submitted/Thompson Rivers University

James Hamilton, president of Okanagan College with its 16,000 students was paid $251,450.

Lesley Cormack, deputy vice-chancellor and principal of UBCO with its 12,000 students was paid $225,000.

Further down the publicly funded pay scale are municipal bureaucrats.


Topping the list of Chief Administrative Officers (although he’s called the City Manager) is Kelowna’s Doug Gilchrist. He was paid $306,371 in 2021.

Kelowna City Manager Doug Gilchrist.
Kelowna City Manager Doug Gilchrist.

Kamloops CAO David Trawin was paid $291,109. At the other end of the pay scale in terms of communities with more than 10,000 residents was Trevor Seibel, Coldstream’s CAO who was paid $196,164. 


It’s hard to compare public sector wages with private sector CEOs in the Thompson-Okanagan since most of the companies operating here are privately held and don’t have to declare what they pay their chief executives.

Most publicly traded companies based in the Thompson-Okanagan are mining operations with worldwide operations.

One exception is The Valens Company with extensive cannabis holdings. Tyler Robson, its CEO, co-founder and chair was paid a base salary of $480,000 in 2019. More recent company documents show he’s now getting paid $131,000 per quarter, or $524,000 per year.

Last week, SNDL Inc. announced it was buying Valens Company Inc. for stock valued at $138 million.

READ MORE: Pot company SNDL to acquire the Valens Company in all-stock transaction

Jose Cil was ranked as the highest paid CEO in Canada in 2019.
Jose Cil was ranked as the highest paid CEO in Canada in 2019.
Image Credit: Submitted/Restaurant Brands International

When it comes to getting really rich, however, it pays to head up some of Canada’s major corporations.

In 2019, Jose Cil was ranked as the highest paid CEO in Canada with a total income of $27.5 million, according to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

Cil was head of Restaurant Brands Intl. Inc. He had a base salary just over $1 million and most of his pay came in “share based awards.”

The company bills itself as “one of the world's largest quick service restaurant companies” with 29,000 restaurants in 100 countries. Its brands include Tim Hortons and Burger King.

At the bottom of the top 100 list was Marianne Harrison, president and CEO of Manulife Financial Corp. who was paid a mere $6.4 million.

Even so, she made more money before noon on her first working day of 2020 than the average Canadian worker made all year, according to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives report.

Even her base salary of just under $1 million was almost triple the $336,000 earned by Brown as the highest paid public sector employee in the Thompson-Okanagan.


  • $306,371 – Kelowna
  • $291,109 – Kamloops
  • $260,594 – West Kelowna
  • $242,063 – Vernon
  • $236,595 – Penticton
  • $198,625 – Lake Country
  • $196,164 – Coldstream
  • $168,983 – Summerland


  • $265,467 – Central Okanagan
  • $223,686 – North Okanagan
  • $211,463 – Thompson Nicola
  • $184,156 – Okanagan Similkameen


  • $205,342 – Vernon
  • $193,946 – Central Okanagan
  • $190,166 – North Okanagan/Shuswap
  • $180,710 – Okanagan Similkameen
  • $172,879 – Nicola Similkameen
  • $112,614 – Kamloops/Thompson
  • $98,067 – Okanagan Skaha

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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