Following Arthur Porter’s resignation from his position as CEO of the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) last December, the hospital hosted two benefits in his honor. The combined budget for these events was between $15,000 and $20,000.
Porter has been the subject of controversy since early November, when the National Post reported that he wired $200,000 from a personal account to a Montreal-based international lobbyist and alleged arms dealer for an infrastructure project in his native Sierra Leone. He resigned from his position as Chairman of Canada’s Security Intelligence Review Committee – the country’s “spy watchdog” – shortly thereafter, and from his position at MUHC on December 5.
The first farewell party, which took place last Tuesday at the Mount Royal Club, was an invitation-only reception, whose guest list included government officials, McGill representatives, and donors. Wendy Thomson, director of McGill’s School of Social Work and one of two McGill-designated members of the MUHC Board of Directors also attended the reception.
The second event, which took place the next afternoon at the Montreal General Hospital, was a staff reception. It included a live acoustic band, speeches from Porter’s co-workers, and a slide show. None of the guests or speakers commented on the controversy that led to Porter’s resignation.
According to Ian Popple, communications coordinator at MUHC, these types of receptions are not uncommon, and provide the opportunity for staff to meet and talk. “They help with team building,” he said.
Judy Pasiolan, vice-president of the 5,000-member Confédération des syndicates nationaux local at the MUHC, told the Montreal Gazette she didn’t recall the Centre holding such parties when Porter’s predecessor, Hugh Scott, retired.
Popple stated that the events’ large budget was “not an unreasonable amount of money” given the number of guests and MUHC staff who were present. He estimated that at least 400 people were in attendance, but that this number “could be double that because the events were several hours long, and guests came and went over time.”
Popple also emphasized that the funds for these events did not come from the hospital’s own budget or donations, but rather from guests who wanted to ensure that Porter was properly seen off after his nearly ten years of service.
Popple declined to comment on the controversy, saying only that Porter’s decision to resign was his own and that “he will be missed.”