TORONTO - By the time average Canadians finished lunch on Thursday, Canada's highest paid CEOs had already earned the equivalent of their annual salary.
It may be hard to swallow, but according to an annual review by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, by 1:11 p.m. on Jan. 2, the average top-paid Canadian CEO would have earned as much as an average full-time worker's yearly income.
The review found the average compensation among Canada's top 100 CEOs was $7.96 million in 2012. That compared with the average annual worker's salary of $46,634.
Hugh Mackenzie, the author of the study, based his calculations on both the CEOs and the average worker getting compensation starting Jan. 1. Since the average top CEO's compensation amounted to more than $30,600 a day, it took just over a day and a half to reach the $46,000 mark.
The centre says CEO pay for Canadian public companies listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange has ballooned by 73 per cent between 1998 and 2012, the latest figures available.
In contrast, the average Canadian full-time worker's annual salary has only grown by six per cent during this period.
This amounts to the country's top 100 highest-paid CEOs making almost 171 times the earnings of an average Canadian wage — a jump from 105 times in 1998.
Meanwhile, minimum wage workers employed for 40 hours a week earned an average of $20,989 a year in 2012.
"Compensation packages paid to chief executive officers have come under intense scrutiny and pressure from shareholders, the media, and the general public. There is no clear relationship between CEO compensation and any measure of corporate performance," Mackenzie said in a statement.
"But despite the scrutiny, the pay of CEOs in Canada and elsewhere has proven to be remarkably resilient."
The review found the top-earning executive in Canada was the head of the Canadian Pacific Railway (TSX:CP), Hunter Harrison, who was paid $49.1 million in salary, stock options and bonuses in 2012.
Harrison, who retired as chief executive at Canadian National Railway Co. (TSX:CN) in 2009, saw his pay packet boosted some $44.5 million to make up for pension and other payments that CN refused to make when he took the top job at the rival railway.
The second-highest paid CEO was James Smith of Thomson Reuters Corp. (TSX:TRI), who took home $18.8 million, followed by former Talisman Energy Inc.(TSX:TLM) chief executive John Manzoni who pocketed $18.67 million in 2012.
The lowest-paid CEO on the top 100 list was Lino A. Saputo, of Montreal-based dairy producer Saputo Inc. (TSX:SAP), who earned $3.85 million.
The review also pointed out that three women made it onto the list in 2012 — Linda Hasenfratz, CEO of Linamar Corp. (TSX:LNR), Dawn Farrell, CEO of TransAlta Corp. (TSX:TA), and Nancy Southern, CEO of ATCO Ltd. (TSX:ACO.X).
In 2011, only one female executive was in the top 100 ranking.