Deputy ministers got lucrative bonuses ahead of last federal election
Canada’s deputy ministers got some of the highest average bonuses in more than a decade in the months leading up to the last federal election, according to government data published online.
The average bonus handed out to deputy ministers for 2014-15 by then prime minister Stephen Harper’s government was $21,211 — the highest average amount since 2003-04.
The bonuses come on top of an average cheque for so-called “at risk” pay of $47,942.
An analysis of Treasury Board and Privy Council Office data shows that, overall, bonuses for deputy ministers have risen 109 per cent since 2003-04, while “at risk” pay is up 164 per cent.
Traditionally, the government has argued it needs to offer performance pay to attract the best and the brightest into public service.
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Those who perform to the level expected get “at risk” pay — a term that reflects the fact that they risk not receiving it if their performance is unsatisfactory. Bonuses then go to those who perform above and beyond expectations.
Base salaries for deputy ministers in 2015 ranged from $192,600 to $326,500.
When it comes to doling out performance pay, deputy ministers and executives are evaluated on how successful they have been in running their own departments and in implementing the objective set by the government.
In 2014-15, the objective was successfully implementing the Harper government’s cost-cutting plan.
The corporate priority for 2015-16 centred on recruiting people with skills needed in the future and improving mental health in the workplace. This year’s priority, for 2016-17, is mental health.
Performance pay figures for 2015-16, which will begin to reflect the choices of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government, are not yet available.
Some have criticized the system in the past, suggesting it makes top public servants more reluctant to carry out their jobs of speaking the truth to those in power if it risks costing them thousands in performance pay.
Others, like Robyn Benson, president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, point out that deputy ministers and executives got lucrative cheques at the same time as the government was tightening its belt.
“It is disappointing to see that the Harper Conservatives were giving such high bonuses to senior management at a time when they were decimating the public service and forcing increases to the Public Service Health Care Plan for seniors,” Benson said, calling on the Trudeau government to restore the public service.
The CBC News analysis reveals that only three of 95 deputy ministers in the federal government received no performance management pay for 2014-15. Nine of the 95 — or 8.1 per cent — received bonuses in addition to “at risk” pay.
Overall, performance pay for deputy ministers cost taxpayers $4.6 million for 2014-15.
Meanwhile, the government paid out $72.7 million in performance pay to 5,197 public service executives. Only 310 executives — about six per cent — didn’t receive any performance pay for 2014-15.
For those executives who received performance pay, the average “at risk” payout was $13,542. The average bonus on top of “at risk” pay was $5,013.
Salaries for those in the federal government’s executive category — high-level civil servants in federal departments — ran from $106,900 to $202,500 in 2015.
While overall spending on performance pay for executives increased by only 0.3 per cent, the department-by-department results ranged widely.
The highest payouts for “at risk” pay were at the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, where the average cheque for its seven executives was $18,073. Four of the seven also received bonuses averaging $3,803.
The second-highest “at risk” payments went to executives in the Privy Council Office, which supports the prime minister and cabinet, as well as co-ordinates government actions across departments. According to government figures, 94 of the Privy Council’s 101 executives received an average of $16,805 in “at risk” pay. Eleven of the 94 also received bonuses averaging $6,104.
The Office of Infrastructure of Canada, which administers the federal program to fund everything from building roads and bridges to improving sewage treatment, wasn’t far behind with average “at risk” pay of $16,065 for 28 of 30 executives. Five executives also got bonuses averaging $5,598.
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The Canadian Grain Commission had the fourth-highest average “at risk” pay — $15,825 — but it also had the highest proportion of executives who received no performance pay for 2014-15. Two of nine executives didn’t receive at risk pay and none of the executives got a bonus.
Five other departments also saw no bonuses handed out:
- The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.
- The Canadian Human Rights Commission.
- The Public Prosecution Service.
- The Immigration and Refugee Board.
- The Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec.
Canadian Heritage had the highest average bonuses — $7,664 — but they only went to four of the department’s 100 executives. (The remaining 96 got an average of $13,462 in “at risk” pay.)
The Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness handed out the second-highest amount in terms of bonuses — an average of $6,295. Six of the department’s 74 executives got bonuses on top of average “at risk” pay of $14,342.
Rideau Hall sees biggest increase
The biggest increase in spending on performance pay was at Rideau Hall, where Gov. Gen. David Johnston’s term was renewed toward the end of the 2014-15 year. Overall spending on performance pay in the Office of the Governor General’s Secretary rose by 25 per cent over the year prior, to $156,295 from $124,590.
The Office of Infrastructure of Canada had the second-highest rise in spending, jumping to $477,822 from $390,992 — an increase of 22 per cent.
Performance pay spending increased 15.2 per cent at the Office of the Privacy Commissioner, rising to $142,226 from $123,481, to reward 11 of its 12 executives.
The data also shows that all but one of the 35 heads of Canada’s Crown corporations pocketed an average of $42,400 in performance pay.
Salaries for chief executive officers of the federal Crown corporations ranged from $124,700 to $523,900.
The government data does not reveal how much each CEO received.