Canada’s 100 highest paid CEOs were paid $1.1B in 2020

Alberta saw 9 CEOs cut from the top 100 list, compared to 2019.

Last week, David Macdonald published his Another year in paradise: CEO pay in 2020 with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. In it, he lists the 100 top executives in Canada, based on the compensation they received in 2020.

Compensation includes salary, shares and stocks, option-based awards, non-equity incentive plan, pensions, and others.

Combined, the 100 executives finished 2020 with $1.088 billion in total compensation.

The highest compensated CEO was David Klein of Canopy Growth, based out of Smith Falls, Ontario. He received over $45 million in total compensation, despite having a salary barely over $280,000. The bulk of his compensation ($33.3 million) came in the form of stock options.

The lowest compensated executive on Macdonald’s list was Alain Bouchard, founder and executive chair with Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc out of Laval, Québec. His total compensation was about $6.1 million, with $1.4 million coming from salary.

Both of these executives are new to the list, not having made the 2019 list.

Nearly half of the executives (47) were with Ontario-based companies. Québec came in second at 21, and Alberta’s 11 helped it secure 3rd place. In 2019, Ontario had 41 executives, and Alberta had 20.

Despite there being 11 executives from Alberta, there were only 10 companies on the top 100 list from Alberta.

Canadian Natural Resources2
Canadian Pacific Railway1
Cenovus Energy1
Pembina Pipeline Corp1
Shaw Communications1
Suncor Energy1
TC Energy Corporation1
Transalta Corp1

In 2019, Shaw had 3 executives on the list, and Enbridge and Suncor each had 2.

Missing from the list in 2020 was EnCana, which renamed itself Onitiv and relocated to Denver shortly after the UCP were elected. They had 2 executives on the list in 2019.

Also absent are Husky Energy, Imperial Oil, and Precision Drilling, all of which had 1 executive make this list in 2019.

Here’s how the 10 Alberta companies paid out in total compensation to their executives who made the list:

Canadian Natural Resources$21,344,470
Canadian Pacific Railway$16,816,196
TC Energy Corporation$14,551,993
Suncor Energy$10,140,505
Cenovus Energy$9,511,999
Pembina Pipeline Corp$7,972,829
Shaw Communications$6,867,658
Transalta Corp$6,715,214

Total compensation for all Alberta companies was $120.2 million in 2020, which is about an $80 million drop from the total $202.7 million paid out in 2019.

However, even though fewer Alberta executives that made the list in 2020, those that did make it were paid better. In 2019, the 20 Alberta executives that made the list received an average of $10.13 million in total compensation. That increased to an average of $10.92 million in 2020.

And here’s how it breaks down by industry:


Finally, here’s total compensation for each CEO:

Al MonacoPresident & CEOEnbridge$17,054,836
Keith E. CreelPresident & CEOCanadian Pacific Railway$16,816,196
Russell GirlingPresident & CEOTC Energy Corporation$14,551,993
N. Murray EdwardsExecutive chairCanadian Natural Resources$13,566,251
Mark S. LittlePresident & CEOSuncor Energy$10,140,505
Alexander J. PourbaixPresident & CEOCenovus Energy$9,511,999
Randall CrawfordPresident & CEOAltagas$9,189,392
Michael DilgerPresident & CEOPembina Pipeline Corp$7,972,829
Tim S. McKayPresident & CEOCanadian Natural Resources$7,778,219
Bradley S.ShawCEOShaw Communications$6,867,658
Dawn L. FarrellPresident & CEOTransalta Corp$6,715,214

A few interesting things from the Alberta data.

The executive with the lowest salary was N. Murray Edwards, executive chair of the Calgary-based Canadian Natural Resources, who received only $1 in salary during 2020. But his total compensation still came to $13.6 million, bringing him into the top 20.

N. Murray Edwards, the executive chair of Canadian Natural Resources, received a salary of only $1 in 2020, same as in 2019. However, when you factor in over $4.6 million in stock options and over $8.9 million in cash bonuses, he received nearly $13.6 million, making him the 4th highest paid executive in Alberta. His cash bonus was the highest of any of the Alberta executives from the list.

Likewise, 3 other executives—Mark S. Little, president and CEO of Suncor; Alexander J. Pourbaix, president and CEO of Cenovus; and Tim S. McKay, Canadian Natural Resources’ president and CEO—all received less than $1 million in salaries. However, they ended up with much more than that once you factor in stocks, cash bonuses, and pensions. Little topped $10 million, Pourbaix $9.5 million, and McKay $7.8 million.

Bradley Shaw, the CEO of Shaw Communications, was the only one on the list who received a 2020 salary of $2 million or higher.

Al Monaco, the president CEO of Enbridge, received the highest compensation in stocks, at $8.5 million. N. Murray Edwards received over $4.6 million in stock options, the most of anyone on the list.

The highest pension value that year was awarded to Dawn Farrell, President & CEO of Transalta, who received almost $1.5 million. The highest “other compensation” amount was paid out to Shaw, who received a little over $450,000.

Every Alberta executive who made the list in 2020 was also on the list in 2019. Here is how their total compensation changed between the two years.

Al Monaco$17,993,384$17,054,836-$938,548
Keith E. Creel$15,150,402$16,816,196$1,665,794
Russell Girling$13,440,747$14,551,993$1,111,246
N. Murray Edwards$12,819,901$13,566,251$746,350
Mark S. Little$11,718,684$10,140,505-$1,578,179
Alexander J. Pourbaix$9,046,317$9,511,999$465,682
Randall Crawford$7,841,594$9,189,392$1,347,798
Michael Dilger$7,998,233$7,972,829-$25,404
Tim S. McKay$8,174,967$7,778,219-$396,748
Bradley S.Shaw$11,986,921$6,867,658-$5,119,263
Dawn L. Farrell$6,760,014$6,715,214-$44,800

In his article, Macdonald proposed 5 measures to deal with pay inequity between executives and median worker pay:

  1. Cap corporate deductibility at $1 million per employee
    “At present corporations can deduct all executive compensation from their corporate taxes.”
  2. Eliminate capital gains inclusion rate loophole
    “The largest means of compensation for Canada’s highest-paid CEOs is awards in stock. As shares increase in value, they disproportionately benefit from stock prices gains being taxed at half the rate as regular income.”
  3. Eliminate stock option deduction for large companies
    The stock option deduction was capped at $200,000 in 2021. The Liberal government justified a cap, instead of full elimination, in part, to provide incentives to tech startups. None of Canada’s highest-paid 100 CEOs are in tech startups, yet they still receive this tax break.
  4. Implement higher top marginal tax brackets
    The highest-paid CEOs receive substantial compensation in cash bonuses in addition to their average salary of $1.2 million. This places them at the very top of Canada’s income distribution. Several thousand dollars to someone already making on average almost $11 million means much less than that same amount to someone making $50,000.
  5. Introduce a wealth tax
    The stock options and stock awards in this report are valued when they are given out, not when they are eventually sold. In most cases, executives make far more upon sale than what is being reported. Large holdings of company stock make the net worth gap between CEOs and workers much larger than the 191 times income gap. A wealth tax could help constrain this growing wealth inequality.

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By Kim Siever

Kim Siever is an independent journalist based in Lethbridge, Alberta. He writes daily news stories, focusing on municipal, provincial, and federal politics, specializing in investigative journalism and critical analysis from a leftist political lens. He also writes regular editorials on general politics and social issues.

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