Canada Revenue Agency Under Fire Over Annual Bonuses Paid To Executives

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) in Ottawa has found itself embroiled in a new scandal after revelations that senior executives in the government department paid themselves larger than normal bonuses.

Media reports Tuesday said that top executives at CRA have been taking home substantially more performance pay than executives in other government departments – nearly double the typical amount in some cases. The top two levels of executives at CRA have been paying themselves "at risk" pay bonuses on top of their annual salaries of $35,000 a year. That’s nearly double the typical "at risk" pay given to senior executives in the rest of the public service of $18,000.

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 in implementing objectives set by the federal government. At the CRA, the performance pay comes on top of base salaries that run from $152,800 to $202,500 for those in the top executive echelons.

New Democratic Party Revenue critic Pierre-Luc Dusseault questioned whether such large performance pay cheques are justified, given the problems at CRA in recent years.

"When you're a regular Canadian and you have difficulty just to call someone at the CRA, you have difficulty accessing a service, and you see those executives giving themselves performance pay, it's upsetting and it's frustrating for people looking at that situation,” he said.

For its part, the CRA defends the performance pay, saying officials only get it if they get results.

"Executives do not earn performance pay if they do not meet performance expectations," wrote spokesperson Karl Lavoie in an e-mail to Ottawa-based media. "The assessment of these expectations must consider both what results were achieved as well as how they were achieved based on the Key Leadership Competencies outlined by the Treasury Board secretariat and rated accordingly."

Mr. Lavoie said executives are assessed according to the government-wide priorities such as healthier workplaces and diversity as well as the agency's priorities. But critics question why the CRA's top executives are getting so much in performance pay when the agency is under fire for its performance. For example, there was a damning Auditor General's report that found the agency couldn't handle high call volumes, often didn't answer the phone and gave taxpayers incorrect information 30% of the time.