Boundless Bonuses

Skyrocketing Canadian executive pay during the 2020 pandemic
August 18, 2021
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Despite a devastating pandemic and ensuing financial crisis, Canadian CEOs enjoyed ever-healthier paycheques in 2020—thanks, in part, to alterations of bonus pay rules.

Using filings from 209 publicly traded companies on the S&P/TSX Composite Index, we’ve combed through the numbers to see how executive pay shifted between 2019 and 2020. We tracked the compensation of 1,096 of the Named Executive Officers (NEOs) at these companies. This includes the CEO (which we’ve tracked elsewhere) but also the other top paid execs at each company, like the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and others. 

Executives across these companies are paid through multifaceted compensation programs where “salary” is typically the smallest component of overall pay. Beyond salaries and pensions, the rest of their pay is generally made up of “pay for performance” bonuses, which is hypothetically based on how the company is doing. The performance measures differ by company but can include revenue, profit or stock price goals and they can also include things like low workplace deaths and how much employees like working for a company.

We found many executive officers in Canada actively benefited from the pandemic—either because their companies were on the right side of COVID-19 and made a profit from it or because their bonus formulas were changed.