The substantial travel expenses for the University of British Columbia’s outgoing president reflect an exhaustive year of fundraising, outreach and lobbying, a spokesman for the school said after UBC published detailed expenses for the first time.
Stephen Toope chalked up $168,265 in his last year of travel (map) before stepping down in June. The amount vastly out-stripped the travel of colleagues at the University of Toronto and McGill University. A spokesman for UBC and an opposition NDP critic say the figure reflects the work involved in building a world-class institution.
Mr. Toope’s records, publicly available on UBC’s website, show the former law professor took at least one major trip monthly as he assumed the role of elder statesman among Canada’s universities. With new presidents at U of T and McGill, Mr. Toope became the “senior spokesperson” for Canada’s largest research universities with the federal government, said Pascal Spothelfer, UBC’s vice-president of communications.
Mr. Toope took multiple trips to Asia and Europe, as well as 15 hops across Canada to Ottawa, Toronto and Montreal in his last year. Two of his trips, $6,000 single-day excursions to Ottawa, were last-minute openings to lobby senior government officials for research funding, Mr. Spothelfer said.
Most of Mr. Toope’s airfare was business class, with a 14-day tour of Asia and Europe last December costing $28,988.
Due to the length of his many flights and the amount of travelling he did during his term, business class travel is seen as cost-effective by the university, noted Mr. Spothelfer, saying it ensured Mr. Toope could work in-flight and arrive rested. Financial documents from UBC show Mr. Toope’s international trips during his final year helped collect $33-million from alumni and donors.
“Making a significant donation to the university is a very personal decision. Sometimes it takes the president, face-to-face, to close the deal,” Mr. Spothelfer said.
UBC is one of Canada’s largest universities, with a $2.2-billion operating budget, more than 50,000 students, a global network of partners and a large campus to the west of Vancouver that is fully independent of the city. Mr. Toope received more than $530,000 in salary and benefits in his final year.
The university’s new president, Arvind Gupta, is expected to keep up the busy travel schedule of his predecessor. But he will do so in an environment of increased scrutiny.
Except for his final year in office, detailed records of Mr. Toope’s travels over his eight years leading UBC are not available. The release of the outgoing president’s financial records on July 25 was a first for the university, which says it will publish detailed annual reports on expenses in the future.
While he has been critical of the lack of disclosure over executive compensation in the past, the former advanced education critic for the provincial New Democrats said Mr. Toope’s expenses during his last year in office contain nothing to criticize.
“We asked Mr. Toope to build a world-class university here in British Columbia. This is the reality of what that costs,” said David Eby, who was recently promoted in a shadow cabinet shuffle.
In the first half of 2014, McGill principal Suzanne Fortier charged $21,497.26 in travel expenses. While she made no trips outside North America, nearly half of her expenses were for fundraising in the United States.
Ms. Fortier has been principal since September, 2013. Her predecessor, Heather Munroe-Blum, did not release her travel expenses while she was in office. When she left after a decade, the university reported that Ms. Munroe-Blum expensed $1.2-million in travel over her mandate.
When asked for the records of Ms. Munroe-Blum’s final year in office, university officials told The Globe and Mail that they would take a “considerable time” to prepare.
The University of Toronto’s David Naylor claimed $61,348.94 for travelling during his last 12 months as president, with overseas travel limited to three trips to Asia and one to Brazil.