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As CBC layoffs loom, ‘inappropriate’ bonuses in centre stage. How much are they?

Click to play video: 'CBC CEO Catherine Tait faces tough questions on bonus pay for executives'
CBC CEO Catherine Tait faces tough questions on bonus pay for executives
WATCH: CBC CEO Catherine Tait faces tough questions on bonus pay for executives – Jan 30, 2024

Amid plans by CBC to cut 10 per cent of its workforce, the House of Commons heritage committee on Tuesday said it would be “inappropriate for the CBC to grant bonuses to executive members.”

That comes after the committee last week called the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s president and CEO Catherine Tait — who could make more than $120,000 in bonuses on top of her six-figure salary, according to CBC documents — to appear as a witness in the new year.

Tait and the CBC have faced scrutiny since the corporation, which receives about $1.3 billion in annual funding from the Canadian government, announced plans to cut 600 jobs and not fill 200 vacancies over the next year to help make up a $125-million shortfall.

When CBC News anchor Adrienne Arsenault asked Tait last week if executives would still get their bonuses despite the cuts, Tait said it was too early to say.

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“We’ll be looking at that, like we do all our line items in the coming months,” she said in the interview.

The House of Commons heritage committee unanimously agreed on Thursday to question Tait about the cuts and potential bonuses. The committee summoned her to appear at its first meeting in the new year following the holiday recess, though it has not yet set a date.

The committee’s decision has put the spotlight on the public broadcaster’s potential layoffs and bonuses. So who gets bonuses, and how much can they get?

Who gets what?

A CBC payment summary shows the executive team all make at least a quarter of a million dollars in salary — and can earn tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars in bonuses on top of that.

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A CBC document shows the salary range for the public broadcaster’s leadership team. Bonuses include at-risk pay and other taxable benefits like local travel allowances. Source: CBC

A combination of public CBC and federal documents shows the range of the executive team’s salaries and bonuses.

The order-in-council re-appointing Tait to the role of CEO and president shows her salary to be between $422,600 and $497,100 as of July 3, 2023. The CBC payment summary shows Tait’s payment to be a little higher than the order-in-council — between $442,900 and $521,000 as of April 1, 2023 — and that her role’s total “cash compensation” ranges from $472,900 to $623,900.

The document states total cash compensation includes base salary as well as “applicable at-risk incentive pay” and other taxable benefits, including local travel allowance, memberships and financial planning.

CBC spokesperson Leon Mar said Tait’s pay within that range is determined by the terms of her federal appointment and protected by privacy legislation.

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The order-in-council reappointing Tait states the CBC president position is a “CEO 7.” The site also states a Crown corporation CEO 7 could earn a maximum bonus of 28 per cent of their salary. Given Tait’s base salary range, that would appear to put her maximum potential bonus at $145,880 if she is at the top of her salary range, or $124,012 if she is at the lowest end.

Mar did not say what Tait’s bonus last year was.

Global News had asked for an interview with Tait and other CBC executives referenced in this story about their current and past pay and bonuses and if they will take their bonuses this year. The CBC did not agree to interviews and did not say whether the executives will take their bonuses.

In a statement, Mar said that “all possible measures are being considered in the context of managing our financial pressures in the months ahead, including senior executive compensation,” and that the CBC is committed to minimizing the effects of the cuts on its workforce and programs.

The summary payment shows the executive vice-presidents of CBC and Radio-Canada — Barbara Williams and Dany Meloul — each can make between $284,000 and $436,000 in their base salary and a total of $311,000 to $686,500 with total compensation.

Williams and Meloul participate in a long-term incentive plan, the details of which do not appear to be posted publicly. Global News asked for more details on the long-term incentive plan but did not receive an answer.

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A CBC statement posted last August states that 1,033 CBC employees, including managers, received a payment from the short-term incentive plan. The short-term incentive plan is posted publicly.

Click to play video: 'Heritage minister says media sector facing ‘significant crisis’ as CBC lays off 10% of workforce'
Heritage minister says media sector facing ‘significant crisis’ as CBC lays off 10% of workforce

The CBC and Radio-Canada had 7,960 full-time employee equivalents as of April 1, 2023, 81 per cent of whom are unionized, according to a statement. “Their compensation ranges from $30,526 to $136,300, as set out in their respective collective agreements.”

A payment summary for on-air staff shows salaries for the roughly 1,200 hosts, reporters and presenters range between less than $40,000 to more than $340,000.

Six people make more than $300,000 while 81 per cent of on-air staff makes between $50,000 and $99,000, according to the document.

The Canadian Press reported that CBC documents that were previously released through the access-to-information law show over $99 million in bonuses was awarded to employees at the public broadcaster between 2015 and 2022.

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That includes $16 million doled out last year to over 1,100 employees, the highest amount in at least seven years.

The rest of the CBC executive team is comprised of vice-presidents responsible for strategy, people and culture, legal services, technology, and one who also functions as the chief financial officer. The payment summary shows they earn between $258,000 and $436,500 in base salary and between $282,000 and $637,000 with benefits.

The payment summary also lists the median salary — the number between the highest and lowest numbers in a range — of nearly 50 peer companies, as compiled by an external consultant.

A footnote says the peer companies include Corus Entertainment (which owns Global News), Bell Media (which owns CTV), Rogers Communications (which owns CityTV and the Toronto Blue Jays) as well as Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment (which owns the Toronto Maple Leafs and Toronto Raptors) and Canadian Pacific Railway.

The figure shows the maximum total pay for the CBC president and CEO and executive vice-presidents is at least $200,000 below the middle of the salary range for those positions, while the maximum salary range for the vice-presidents is above the industry salary mid-point.

Mar said the CBC’s approach “ensures that total compensation is in the middle range of what is offered by comparable Canadian companies from the entertainment, publishing and telecom industries, as well as a selection of Crown corporations and federally regulated companies.”

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What happens next?

On Thursday, the Bloc Quebecois called on Heritage Minister Pascale St-Onge to fire Tait if the CBC boss doesn’t renounce the planned job cuts.

Because the public broadcaster is independent, members of Parliament cannot decide how CBC and its French-language service, Radio-Canada, spend their money.

The House of Commons is set to rise for winter break on Dec. 15, and will not return until Jan. 29.

Liberal MP Taleeb Noormohamed said Thursday alongside Conservative, NDP and Bloc members of the heritage committee that the questioning of Tait will be “very important.”

— with files from the Canadian Press’s Mickey Djuric

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