Bonuses, performance pay for government executives rose in Trudeau’s 1st year

Increase in bonuses, performance pay double what rest of public service got

By Elizabeth Thompson, CBC News

Spending on bonuses and other performance pay for top federal government executives increased by more than double the rate of inflation in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s first year in office, CBC News has learned.

The 3.2 per cent increase in spending for 2015-16, the most recent year available, was also more than twice the 1.25 per cent pay increases the government has negotiated with many of its public sector unions.

Spending on performance pay for top executives increased to $75 million from $72.6 million the year before with wide fluctuations in the percentage increases — or decreases — in many departments.

Spending on performance pay for deputy ministers increased 3.4 per cent to $4.7 million.

The head of Canada’s largest public service union questions why spending on performance pay increased by more than the salary increases for public service workers.

“We hope the government isn’t handing out an increase to their executives that is out of step with the wage increase it was willing to give our hard-working members. It’s the responsibility of the government to explain this increase in executive performance pay spending,” said Robyn Benson, national president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada.

Like many corporations, the federal government offers a system of performance pay designed to attract the best and the brightest into the public service.


Robyn Benson, president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, is calling on the government to explain why spending on executive performance pay outpaced public service salary increases. (CBC)

Those who perform to the level expected get “at-risk” pay, a term that reflects the fact that executives and deputy ministers risk not receiving it if their performance is not satisfactory. Bonuses on top of the maximum at-risk pay go to those who perform above and beyond expectations.

When it comes to doling out performance pay, executives and deputy ministers are evaluated on how successful they have been in running their own departments and in implementing objectives set by the government.

In 2014-15, for example, the objective was successfully implementing the Harper government’s cost-cutting plan. The more jobs and costs top executives cut, the more performance pay they got.

In 2015-16 the priority centred on recruiting people with skills needed in the future and improving mental health in the workplace.

Currently, in addition to promoting a healthy workplace, the Trudeau government has made it a priority to increase the social and cultural diversity of the public service and to support efforts to fix the problem-plagued Phoenix pay system.

The numbers are not detailed enough to know, however, whether those at Public Services and Procurement who were responsible for Phoenix received performance pay.

Basic salary ranges for those in the federal government’s EX category in 2015 range between $106,900 and $202,500 a year.

Deputy ministers’ paycheques that year ran from $192,600 a year to $326,500.


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