In one day, Canada’s top CEOs have earned as much as the average worker’s full, 1-year salary

By Lucas Casaletto

Canada’s top 100 highest-paid CEOs will already have been paid more than $53,000 by the noon hour on Monday – the equivalent of the average full-year salary of Canadian workers.

According to the Canadian centre for policy alternatives, the report’s report author, David Macdonald, says a rough proportion of Canada’s top-100 CEOs will likely see a raise in 2020 or retain their full compensation due to the stock market boom during the pandemic.

“For a great many lower-income workers, however, the hardships of the COVID-19 pandemic – beginning with massive layoffs and cuts to working hours in April and May, followed by persistently weak rehiring ever since – will continue to plague them in the New Year,” Macdonald reports.

“Most higher-income workers, on the other hand, have seen a complete recovery from whatever modest losses they experienced up to July 2020, and many may be enjoying the new comforts of working from home.”

The report finds that the top 100 paid CEOs made a minimum of $6.3 million in 2019, led by restaurant brands international head Jose Cil, who made north of $27 million in 2019.

Despite the struggles of low-paid workers, roughly half of Canada’s highest-paid CEOs will get similar or even better pay in 2020 compared to 2019.

Macdonald says he expects 14 of the top paid CEOs in 2019 will likely see their pay increase, 36 will likely see similar pay in 2020, and 50 will likely see their pay fall as the change in their company’s stock price in 2020 was at least 15 percent smaller than the change in 2019.

He adds that some of the biggest earners can see one-year bonus payments to skew the numbers but only to a slight extent.

“I calculated that Canada’s highest-paid 100 CEOs made, on average, a record 227 times the average Canadian income in 2018,” he said.

“While this ratio dropped somewhat in 2019, as I explore below, the trend continues to be toward ever-greater levels of income inequality – vast disparities that seem to have no positive effect on company performance, yet quite a few measurable negative effects on society.”

The report indicates that more than one-third of the top 100 earners ran companies in 2020 that received federal wage subsidy for employees including Air Canada, restaurant brands, Telus, and Aphria.

Only the CEOs of Air Canada, Gildan, and BRP agreed to waive their salaries over the past year.

Macdonald says the federal government should follow Spain, the Netherlands, and other countries by tweaking the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) to restrict it to those companies that are not paying out executive bonuses.

“The government should also take action to exclude companies that substantially increase executive salaries as well,” he noted.

“…Ultimately, CEOs were doing well going into the pandemic and many will still be doing well coming out of it. Some will be even better off, largely as a result of massive government support.”

With files from 680 NEWS business editor Mike Eppel

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