Friday, May 24, 2013

Canada's best paid part-time job? Become a Senator!

Senior Tory Senator earned over $290,000 in corporate fees in 2012

By Glen McGregor, Ottawa Citizen
Friday, May 24, 2013
Tory Senator Irving Gerstein is the Chair of the Senate Banking Committee and he also sits on the Finance Committee. (Photograph by: Jean Levac, The Ottawa Citizen)

OTTAWA — A wealthy Conservative party fundraiser named to the Senate by Stephen Harper collected more than $290,000 in directors fees on top of his Senate salary while attending dozens of corporate board meetings in 2012.

Corporate filings show that Irving Gerstein, the former official agent of the Conservative Party, was listed as in attendance for at least 48 board meetings last year.

Gerstein, 72, chairs the board of Atlantic Power Corp., a Boston-based energy company. He is also a director on the boards of Medical Facilities Corp., owner of surgical centres in the U.S., and Student Transportation Inc., which operates school buses in Canada and the U.S.

His annual director’s fees and other compensation from the publicly-traded companies totaled $290,250 USD.

As a senator, he earns $135,200 annually plus an additional $11,200 as chair of the Senate banking committee.

Senate rules allow senators to moonlight with private businesses and sit on boards of directors, provided they declare the involvement to the ethics officer, as Gerstein did.

Few, however, have such a busy schedule of corporate obligations on top of their Senate work.

Senate attendance records show that Gerstein, who was diagnosed with bladder cancer in 2011, missed 14 sitting days in 2012 due to illness. He also missed three other days for unspecified reasons. Gerstein rarely spoke in the Senate chamber this year, with Hansard recording five brief statements on the tabling of reports and other procedural matters related to the Senate banking committee he chairs.

Over the same period, Gerstein attended 13 board meetings of Medical Facilities Corp., and chaired 26 meetings of the Atlantic Power board. He was also was listed in attendance at nine additional meetings of the company’s audit, compensation and corporate governance committees. In the year ending June 2012, he attend four meetings of the Student Transportation Inc. board.

Gerstein did not respond to calls and email requesting comment.

The corporate records do not list the exact dates of the meetings so it is not possible to compare these to Gerstein’s Senate attendance record. Also, they do not indicate whether Gerstein attended the board meetings in person or by teleconference.

Attendance records show that Gerstein was absent from the Senate chamber on November 8, 2012, the day Student Transportation Inc. held a meeting of shareholders in Toronto to vote on the board of directors, Gerstein among them.

Gerstein, the former president of the Peoples Jewelers retail chain, was a key figure behind the Conservative Party’s fundraising efforts that paved the way for electoral victories in 2006 and 2008.

He was appointed to the Senate by Harper in 2009. In addition to chairing the Senate banking committee Gerstein sits on the finance committee.

Along with late Conservative Senator Doug Finley and two other party officials, Gerstein was charged by Elections Canada for elections law violations over the in-and-out financing of advertising purchases in the 2006 campaign. The charges against them were dropped in November 2011 when the party agreed to plead guilty and pay the maximum fines.

The corporate filings show Gerstein holds common shares in the three companies that are today worth about $1.1 million, likely a small part of his personal fortune amassed in the jewelry business.

Over the twelve months ended in March, Gerstein claimed from the Senate $10,685 in living expenses for his time in Ottawa and another $25,653 in travel costs.

In addition to his corporate work and Conservative Party and Senate duties, Gerstein also chairs the board of the management committee of the Toronto Club, a private social club.

Original source article: Senior Tory senator earned over $290,000 in corporate fees in 2012

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