The median total pay for a CEO of a publicly traded company in Canada was $5.6 million, the survey found. That’s 116 times the average weekly wage in Canada today. Average wages grew about three per cent in 2013, according to StatsCan.
CEO pay is almost back to where it was prior to the Great Recession, when it peaked at a median of $5.8 million. Pay for top executives saw little growth amid the crisis in 2008 and 2009, but began climbing again in 2010.
There is little evidence that the gender gap at the top of the corporate ladder is narrowing. The highest-paid female CEO, Nancy Southern of Canadian Utilities, ranks 65th on the Globe's list of highest-paid CEOs.
Top-paid Canadian CEOs, 2013. Go to the Globe and Mail for the complete list of the 100 highest-paid CEOs. (Story continues below.)
According to an AP/Equilar study released last week, the median total pay for a CEO in the U.S. crossed the $10-million mark for the first time last year.
But that doesn’t mean Canadian CEOs earn half of what their U.S. counterparts earn. When comparing companies of similar size, researchers have found that CEO pay in Canada has pretty much caught up with U.S. CEO pay.
U.S. CEOs used to be paid twice what Canadian CEOs were earnings in the late 1990s, but by 2006 Canadian pay had caught up with U.S. pay, according to a 2012 report from the Institute for Governance of Private and Public Organizations.
The issue of CEO pay has come into focus in recent years, one of the hot-button topics surrounding the debate on income and wealth inequality.
As the Huffington Post and others have chronicled, some part of the growing income gap can be accounted for by decisions made in the boardroom. Top executives have been benchmarking their pay to others at the top of other corporations, while ignoring the wage scale within their own companies.
Paul Gryglewicz, managing partner at Global Governance Advisors, says that’s beginning to change. Companies are increasingly tying their compensation to performance, rather than simply benchmarking with competitors’ pay, and some companies, such as Telus, have started linking their executive pay to workers’ pay.
But Concordia University professor Michel Magnan, an expert in compensation issues, says he doesn’t see things changing because benchmarking has become widespread.
“It seems that Canadian executive compensation practices have taken a page from the U.S. playbook ... and I don’t see why there would be a change in the foreseeable future,” he told the Globe and Mail.
In other parts of the world, political pressure is prompting politicians to take action. The Dodd-Frank Act in the U.S. could soon require companies to state their “CEO-to-worker pay ratio.”
California is considering a law that would tax a company at a higher rate if it paid its CEO more than 100 times the average employee’s pay.
And in various countries around the world, shareholders are being given greater power to reject executive compensation packages.
There are no major efforts underway in Canada to reform CEO pay.