Star investigation OSPCA keeps staff salaries secret while seeking cash infusion from
The OSPCA wants a big cash injection from the province to hire more investigators and equip them with “investigation software,” BlackBerrys and housing so they can help more animals.
“We are buckling under the pressure,” OSPCA chief executive Kate MacDonald told the Star. “We are having trouble providing services.”
An internal email sent to her on Aug. 7 by Tom Stephenson, chief financial officer for the Ontario Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, sets out a plan to ask government and private donors for an increase to the agency’s $20-million annual budget.
But in a move that one provincial critic says goes against the spirit of transparency, the OSPCA does not want to share its salaries with the province or future donors.
“Please note the file, as it now stands, has some salary numbers in it we would not want to get out. If you would like me to redo it with the salary numbers combined or hidden I can do that,” Stephenson wrote in the email. The Star obtained the email but not the attachment.
MacDonald downplayed the email, saying the OSPCA is just protecting staff privacy. What’s important, she said, is that chronic underfunding is preventing the agency from enforcing animal cruelty laws throughout the province.
She said she asked her financial officer to pull together estimates of the money needed by the OSPCA to do the job properly. That number is not mentioned in the email, headed “Provincial Investigation Cost.” MacDonald said they are still preparing “an ask,” which will go to government as early as this fall.
“(Animal protection) can’t be free anymore. It has been free for too long,” she said.
Tory MPP Frank Klees, who has pushed for more disclosure from agencies like ORNGE, said the animal protection agency should not be hiding any of its plans related to public dollars.
“What’s there to hide? It is a registered charity and the books should be open,” Klees said.
He said a government agency receiving the OSPCA’s funding request would be fully aware of the sensitivity of salaries. “The suggestion that they would ‘hide’ salaries is offensive.”
The OSPCA is a registered charity. According to its charitable tax return filed with Ottawa it receives funding from both government and private donors. In 2010, the most recent year filed, the records show it received $3.6 million from municipal, provincial and federal governments. The bulk of its funding comes from private donors and some fees.
The OSPCA will not disclose the identity of private donors.
On the expenditure side, the OSPCA spends almost half its annual budget on salaries, according to its report to Canada’s charity watchdog. That report does not list individual salaries.
The only individual salaries disclosed in the provincial Sunshine List are CEO MacDonald ($215,604 in salary and taxable benefits), CGO Stephenson ($139,151 in salary and taxable benefits) and chief operating officer Donald J. Sykes ($126,709 in salary and taxable benefits). The OSPCA has 80 “inspectors and agents” and a number of shelter workers and administrative staff.
In addition to salaries, the OSPCA reports — but does not detail — that it paid $4.6 million in “professional and consulting fees” in 2010.
MacDonald hopes new funding will help boost the number of agents and investigators from 80 to 100. The internal memo also asks for money to cover more administrators, legal fees and housing for investigators on the road. It hints that the agency wants to set up a “provincial call centre” to take reports from the public who fear an animal is in distress.
“We provide a great service but there are a number of communities in Ontario that we do not service,” she said.
In the meantime, the OSPCA continues to investigate allegations raised in articles by the Star’s Linda Diebel involving the care of animals at Marineland in Niagara Falls.
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A recent internal email the OSPCA prepared sets out a menu of budget boosts: more investigators, blackberries, internet sticks, housing and “investigation software” are among the items they will seek cash for.
But the “Provincial Investigation Cost” document prepared by chief financial officer Tom Stephenson may give too much information away.
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