Monday, January 03, 2011


It now the evening of Monday, January 3, and the average Canadian annual wage has already fallen well below that of an average of the 100 top CEOs in this country. In actual fact this happened at 2:30 pm earlier today. As the following press release from the Canadian Centre For Policy Alternatives points out the average top CEO makes 155 more money than the average Canadian.

Does this means, as the myth often says, that they "work harder" than the average Canadian ? For this to be true there would have to be 760 hours in each day, and the CEOs would have to work every second of them. Do they magically "create value" by their cunning business decisions ? If that was true then their remuneration should drop when the company they are in charge of drops in value or income, a thing that rarely happens. As the title of the following makes plain CEO pay is "recession proof". Bonuses come whether the company does well or poorly.

Leaving aside the question of the recent massive bailouts of business by government and the mostly invisible day to day subsidies provided by government I would challenge anyone to prove that any CEO has made a cunning non-obvious decision in any company that increased its value to anywhere near the amount these people are paid. In actual fact most companies "run themselves" despite management decisions. Management, of which CEOs are the "big fish" are better pictured as some sort of tube worm existing parasitically on the body of the company fish. They are hardly ever "propellers" that drive the firm forward.

Is this sort of inequality justified in any society ? What are its costs, and I don't mean merely monetary ones ? Things to ponder. Here's the press release. You can read the full17 page report at the Policy Alternatives website.

Canada’s best-paid CEOs ‘recession-proof’: study
January 3, 2011
TORONTO – Canada’s best-paid 100 CEOs breezed through the worst of the recession with earnings 155 times higher than the average Canadian income earner, says a new study by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA).
The study, Recession-Proof, looks at 2009 compensation levels for Canada’s best paid 100 CEOs and finds they pocketed an average of $6.6 million during the darkest period of the recession – a stark contrast from the total average Canadian income of $42,988.

“At this rate of reward, this handful of elite CEOs pocket the equivalent of the average Canadian wage by 2:30 pm on January 3 – the first working day of the year,” says the study’s author and CCPA Research Associate Hugh Mackenzie.

The study shows executive compensation in Canada wasn’t always this rich. In 1998, the best paid 100 CEOs pocketed an average of 104 times more than the average Canadian wage earner, compared to 155 times more in 2009.

“Even that extraordinary number understates the real story,” says Mackenzie. “Thanks to a change in corporate reporting introduced in 2008, we only have a conservative statistical estimate of the stock options that make up about one third of CEOs’ 2009 pay. The public will never know how much most of these CEOs actually got paid in 2009.

“And that’s only half the story. These CEOs are sitting on $1.3 billion of stock options they haven’t yet cashed in. That’s about $2 in future income for every $1 they declared in 2009.”

When the CEOs decide to exercise those stock options, the study reveals Canadians will subsidize that bonus with an estimated average of $360 million in foregone taxes, since stock options are taxed at a lower rate, as if they are capital gains. Among Mackenzie’s recommendations: getting rid of that expensive and unfair loophole.

The study highlights the role that soaring executive compensation plays in the dramatic growth in income inequality in Canada identified in a recent CCPA study by Senior Economist Armine Yalnizyan. Yalnizyan found that fully one third of all income growth in Canada in the past 20 years went to the richest 1% of Canadians.


For more information please contact: Trish Hennessy at (416) 551-2059 or Kerri-Anne Finn at (613) 563-1341 x306.

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