The Alberta government has appointed one of its key financial advisers to the University of Alberta board of governors.
University professor Janice MacKinnon will join the U of A board on Saturday for a three-year term. MacKinnon led an Alberta government-appointed blue ribbon panel that scrutinized the province’s spending.
The MacKinnon panel concluded in a September 2019 report that Alberta spends more per capita on public services than Ontario, Quebec and B.C. and should rein in expenses.
Advanced Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides said in an interview Wednesday MacKinnon’s experience as a professor at the universities of Calgary and Saskatchewan and her past post as Saskatchewan finance minister give MacKinnon “strong depth of financial acumen that would position her well on any board.”
He said he’s unconcerned about the public perception of the board appointment as a reward for her panel work.
“We’ve been very clear that we’re moving forward on implementing the recommendations that are laid out in the MacKinnon panel report, especially as they relate to advanced education,” he said.
To balance Alberta’s budget by 2022-23, the panel recommended the government pare back capital spending, legislate salaries for public sector workers, review the value of all government programs and tie post-secondary education spending to schools’ performance.
The government points to the panel’s findings as justification for many of its recent decisions, such as introducing performance indicators to determine some post-secondary funding, outsourcing surgeries to private surgical centres, changing how doctors are paid and reducing the size of the province’s public service.
Nicolaides said he appointed MacKinnon to the University of Alberta board because there may have been limits on her serving with the University of Calgary board while an executive fellow at the institution’s School of Public Policy.