The amount of bonuses and other forms of performance pay for top federal civil servants increased by more than double the rate of inflation during Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's first year in office, according to a report by CBC News.
Spending on performance pay for top executives employed by the federal government rose to $75 million during the fiscal year 2015-16 (the first year that the Liberal Government was in power) from $72.6 million the previous year. That represents a 3.2% year-over-year increase in spending for 2015-16, and more than twice the 1.25% pay increases the federal government has negotiated with many of the public sector unions that represent rank-and-file civil servants.
Spending on performance pay for Deputy Ministers in the federal government increased 3.4% to $4.7 million in fiscal 2015-16. The head of Canada's largest public service union questioned why spending on performance pay for senior government officials increased by more than the salary increases for lower level public service employees.
"We hope the government isn't handing out an increase to their executive 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 (PSAC).
Like many corporations, the federal government offers a system of performance pay designed to attract the best and the brightest into the public service. People 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 executives 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 departments and implementing objectives set by the government. Basic salary ranges for those in the federal government's “EX,” or executive, category in 2015 ranged between $106,900 and $202,500. Deputy Ministers' regular paycheques that year ran from $192,600 to as much as $326,500.
But for those who are judged to be good at their jobs, their base salary was just the start of what senior government executives took home in 2015-16. The biggest increases in performance pay occurred at Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC). The number of executives at the latter rose to 15 from 11, and overall spending on executive performance pay was up 22% in that department. Performance pay at the Public Prosecution Service of Canada was up 17% overall, and the Department of National Defence saw performance pay rise by 14%.
For those who get performance pay, it can translate into thousands of dollars a year. The Transportation Safety Board had the highest average at-risk pay in fiscal 2015-16 — $18,008 — followed by the Finance Department, where executives got an average of $16,530. Executives in the Privy Council Office, which co-ordinates the government's actions and supports the Prime Minister's Office, got an average of $15,866 in at-risk pay while those in the Department of Western Economic Diversification got $15, 440 and Infrastructure Canada executives received $15,399 in bonuses.