TORONTO - The man put in charge of eHealth Ontario following a spending scandal is returning a hefty bonus after coming under fire from opposition parties.
The chairman of the agency's board of directors said Monday he accepted Greg Reed's "offer to decline" his $81,250 performance bonus for 2011-12, which was part of his contract.
Reed's bonus was awarded with "my full support and approval in recognition of the outstanding leadership he has provided to the agency over the course of the past year," chairman Ray Hession said in a statement.
Reed, who turned down a bonus last year, still has the "full trust and confidence" of the eHealth board, he added.
The bonus was approved by the eHealth board on June 1 and the payment was made June 15, said eHealth spokesman Robert Mitchell.
Both the Progressive Conservatives and New Democrats demanded that Health Minister Deb Matthews cancel Reed's bonus — about 25 per cent of his $329,000 annual salary — after The Canadian Press reported it Sunday.
The government wants all public sector workers, including doctors, nurses and teachers, to take a two-year wage freeze to help eliminate a $15-billion deficit, and told managers and executives at its agencies to lead by example.
Clearly they're not getting the message, said NDP health critic France Gelinas.
Reed bowed to political pressure and did the right thing, she said, but Matthews could have avoided the embarrassment if she'd used her powerful position and made it clear to all health-care executives that bonuses are unacceptable.
"The Liberal government spends a ton of time, effort and energy sending this message of austerity, that everybody has to contribute toward the deficit fighting, that everybody has to face a two-year wage freeze," Gelinas said.
"How come this message has not been shared with the executives in the health-care system?"
Matthews thanked Reed for returning his bonus, saying eHealth has made "significant progress" under his leadership.
"He continues to recognize the need to go above and beyond in recognition of our fiscal constraints," Matthews said in a statement. "He is leading by example."
Employees of eHealth have launched a class-action suit to recover bonuses of about 7.8 per cent they were promised in 2011, but denied by the Liberal government.
When eHealth reversed itself on the 2011 staff bonuses, Reed said the controversy generated by the extra payments for staff threatened to obscure the genuine progress being made at the agency.
Reed was brought in by the Liberals in 2010 when they cleaned house at eHealth, after the auditor general found there was little to show for the $1 billion that had been spent to that point to develop electronic health records.
David Caplan was forced to resign as health minister because of the scandal, which also saw outside consultants awarded untendered contracts worth millions of dollars.
Last month, Matthews faced a grilling by the opposition parties at a committee looking into eHealth, with the Conservatives saying the agency had now spent more than $2 billion and still had little to show for it.