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January 03, 2022

Shocking report: Canadian CEOs get paid too much

The dominating headline today, the first working day of 2011, might make you a little blue.

According to a new study from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA), chances are good that Canada’s top CEOs will have earned what you will all year by the time Monday ends.

That’s as much as a $12,000/hour wage at the highest end and, wouldn’t you know it, this excessive pay gap between Canada’s Haves and Have Nots has got people pissed.

“It’s just breathtaking,” Hugh Mackenzie, a CCPA economist, told the Star. “The skyrocketing level of executive pay in Canada and the U.S. is the primary factor that lies behind growing income inequality.”

Certainly, complaining about rising CEO pay is nothing new. But take a look at some of these figures:

By the CCPA’s numbers, the average Canadian annual income is a respectable $42,988. Some of Canada’s top executives, though – like Barrick Gold Corp. boss Aaron Regent, our nation’s highest-paid CEO – have more than cleared that figure by the time you’ll read this.

Regent’s $24.2 million total compensation in 2009, researchers say, epitomizes a CEO/average Canuck pay gap that continues to widen. In 2009, Canada’s top CEOs earned 155 times what the average Canadian did. In 1998, that figure stood at just 104, growth that’s outpaced inflation over those 11 years by more than 50 per cent.

Defenders of gaudy executive compensation usually point to one key excuse when confronted with these numbers – in order to attract the best, most motivated CEO, you have to pay accordingly, they say – but even this time-honoured rationale may be falling short.

“You could ask how motivating it is for the average employee, who is actually the person who generates the income for the corporation, to see that their CEO is making 300 times what they are,” Mackenzie said.

“I would think that would be kind of demotivating.”

By Jason Buckland, MSN Money



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

James HaversJames Havers

James is the senior editor of MSN Money living in Toronto. He has worked for the Nikkei Shimbun (Tokyo),,, Canadian Business and other publications. Havers turned to journalism after teaching overseas.

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...