News | McGill unveils Principal Suzanne Fortier’s contract

Lacks ‘perks’ and allowances afforded to previous Principal

On Thursday, the McGill administration released Principal Suzanne Fortier’s contract with the University in full. Fortier’s contract, as it currently stands, outlines a base salary close to that of previous principal Heather Munroe-Blum, and does not contain many of the ‘perks’ or benefits present in the previous contract.

Fortier’s salary stands at $390,000, which, when adjusted for inflation, remains close to Munroe-Blum’s 2009 salary of $369,250. The new contract also includes a discretionary bonus of up to 20 per cent, based on performance.

Kevin Whittaker, president of the McGill University Non-Academic Certified Association (MUNACA) – an organization that took a strong stance against Munroe-Blum’s large allowances – said that the discretionary bonus remained the only component of the contract that seemed open-ended.

“It is the nature of the position that such a clause is needed to some degree – maybe not to 20 per cent,” Whittaker said. “I’m not crazy about the 20 per cent, I think it could have been less […] I mean, at 10 per cent, we’re still talking $30,000 plus.”

“I think that a follow-up to this would be: what percentage did [Fortier] earn?” he added.

Earlier this month, Fortier told The Daily that her contract would be less complex than that of the previous principal. “We wanted to make it a more simplified document,” she said at the time.

Some of the simplified clauses include the removal of the allowances Munroe-Blum was given for automobile and housing costs, which made up part of approximately $120,000 in total benefits, according to the Montreal Gazette.

Instead, Fortier’s contract notes that she will be reimbursed for all “reasonable costs” of the use of her vehicle for University business, as well as “reasonable expenses” in the use of her personal residence for University business.

Stuart “Kip” Cobbett, Chair of the University’s Board of Governors, disputed the notion that the language of such clauses might take away from accountability. He noted that such costs are typically impossible to predict, and that while there is not a cap on such expenses, they would have to be approved prior to reimbursement.

When asked why a cap on “reasonable” expenses would not exist, especially seeing that Munroe-Blum spent $132,000 on travel expenses between January 2008 and September 2009, Cobbett said that Munroe-Blum’s travel expenses should be viewed in the context of a massive fundraising campaign, Campaign McGill, that the University was running at the time.

Like Munroe-Blum’s contract, Fortier’s contract stipulates that she may be reimbursed by the University for financial planning services. While Munroe-Blum’s first-term contract allocated $3,000 per year for such services, Fortier’s contract allows for reimbursement up to $2,000.

Fortier’s contract also includes the stipulation that she must receive the approval of the Chair before engaging in outside commitments, including directorships, commissions, or consulting. Unlike Munroe-Blum, who was a member of various corporate boards including the Royal Bank of Canada, Fortier is not currently a corporate board member.

The direct publication of the contract on McGill’s website is an initiative that, according to Cobbett, came from multiple sources, including Fortier herself. Munroe-Blum never published her contract on the McGill website. In 2011, The Daily accessed her first-term contract through an access to information request.

“Dr. Fortier believes very strongly that her contract should be transparent and made available,” Cobbett said, noting that it was likely the first time ever that the principal’s contract has been posted on the McGill website.

Overall, Whittaker was optimistic about both Fortier’s contract and tenure.

“She is far more receptive to comments and concerns than in the past,” he said. “The issue of transparency seems to be addressed [in the contract], so we’ll see how that translates into her other duties.”