Canada's top earning CEOs make average of $9 million a year

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A new study was released by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives tracking the yearly salaries of the country’s top earning CEOs from 2008 to 2014, and the numbers are staggering.

The top 100 CEOs earned an average of $8.96 million in 2014; that’s 184 times the salary of the average Canadian worker. Author of “Staying Power: CEO Pay in Canada” Hugh Mackenzie said this demonstrates CEO salaries are extraordinarily resilient, even in times of economic decline.

“The average pay of the 100 best-paid CEOs in Canada barely budged between 2013 and 2014, dropping from $9.2 million to $8.96 million, or by two per cent,” Mackenzie wrote in the report.

In spite of the slight decline, CEO pay in 2014 was still 22 per cent higher than it was in 2008, and the top 100 CEOs earned 32 per cent more in that same time period. Even the lowest paid of the top 100 earned $4.28 million in 2014.

By comparison, the average weekly wage for Canadians only increased 11 per cent from 2008 to 2014, according to Statistics Canada. Minimum wage increased 17 per cent.

Beyond that, yearly bonuses for CEOs increased 5 per cent from 2008 to 2014 and share grants increased 13 per cent, while stock options granted to CEOs dropped 8 per cent.

The use of stock options and shares in the total compensation of CEOs has been criticized in business media over the last several years. Still, Canada’s top earning CEO, Blackberry’s John Chen, earned a base salary of $341,452 in 2014, but his company shares were valued at more than $88.6 million, for a total salary of $89,715,019.

Keeping their salaries in stock options might be a smart move for CEOs, as it’s only taxed at half the normal rate as capital gain rather than ordinary income. Out of the top 100 Canadian CEOs, 63 of them received stock options as part of their pay.

Top 10 highest paid CEOs in Canada

  1. John Chen, Blackberry – $89,715,019
  2. Donald Walker, Manga International Inc – $23,417,274
  3. Gerald Schwartz, Onex Corporation – $21,135,946
  4. Hunter Harrison, Canadian Pacific Railway – $17,632,169
  5. Mark Thierer, Catamarn Corp – $16,330,467
  6. Donald Guloien, Manulife Financial Corp – $14,484,208
  7. John Thornton, Barrick Gold Corp – $14,261,463
  8. Paul Wright, Eldorado Gold Corp – $13,788,702
  9. Bradley Shaw, Shaw Communications Inc – $13,344,105
  10. Steven Williams, Suncor Energy Inc – $12,422,176

The analysis of CEO salaries is based on the 249 publicly listed Canadian corporations in the TSX index. To read the full report, click here.

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Lauren Sundstrom Lauren is a Staff Writer and Projects Assistant at Vancity Buzz. She is a graduate of BCIT's Broadcast and Online Journalism program. She loves reporting on breaking news and lifestyle content. If you feel like you have a story that needs to be told, fire her a tweet.
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