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Inappropriate Bonuses? CBC Layoffs Loom

In the midst of CBC’s intentions to reduce its workforce by 10 percent, the House of Commons heritage committee made a statement on Tuesday, asserting that it would be “inappropriate for the CBC to award bonuses to its executive members.”

This follows the committee’s recent summons of Catherine Tait, the President and CEO of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, who could potentially receive bonuses exceeding $120,000 in addition to her six-figure salary, as indicated by CBC documents. She is scheduled to appear as a witness in the upcoming year.

Tait and the CBC have come under scrutiny since the corporation, which receives approximately $1.3 billion in annual funding from the Canadian government, announced plans to eliminate 600 jobs and leave 200 vacancies unfilled over the next year to address a $125-million budget deficit.

When CBC News anchor Adrienne Arsenault questioned Tait last week about whether executives would still receive their bonuses despite the job cuts, Tait responded that it was too early to determine.

The House of Commons heritage committee unanimously agreed last Thursday to question Tait about the cuts and potential bonuses. She has been summoned to appear at the committee’s first meeting after the holiday recess in the new year, although a specific date has not yet been set.

This decision by the committee has drawn attention to the potential layoffs and bonuses at the public broadcaster. So, who is eligible for these bonuses, and how much can they receive?

A CBC payment summary reveals that the executive team all earn at least a quarter of a million dollars in salary and have the potential to earn tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in bonuses on top of that.

According to the order-in-council reappointing Tait as CEO and president, her salary is between $422,600 and $497,100 as of July 3, 2023. The CBC payment summary indicates a slightly higher payment range for Tait, ranging from $442,900 to $521,000 as of April 1, 2023, with her total “cash compensation” for her role falling between $472,900 and $623,900.

Total cash compensation includes base salary, “applicable at-risk incentive pay,” and other taxable benefits such as local travel allowances, memberships, and financial planning.

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

The order-in-council designates Tait’s position as a “CEO 7” and specifies that a Crown corporation CEO 7 could receive a maximum bonus of 28 percent of their salary. Based on Tait’s salary range, this would imply a maximum potential bonus of $145,880 if she is at the upper end of her salary range or $124,012 if she is at the lower end.

Mar did not disclose Tait’s bonus for the previous year.

In a statement, Mar mentioned that the CBC is considering all possible measures to manage its financial pressures, including senior executive compensation, and is committed to minimizing the impact of the cuts on its workforce and programs.

The payment summary also reveals that executive vice-presidents of CBC and Radio-Canada, Barbara Williams and Dany Meloul, can earn between $284,000 and $436,000 in base salary, with total compensation ranging from $311,000 to $686,500. Williams and Meloul participate in a long-term incentive plan, the details of which do not appear to be publicly available.

A CBC statement from last August disclosed that 1,033 CBC employees, including managers, received payments from the short-term incentive plan, which is publicly posted.

As of April 1, 2023, the CBC and Radio-Canada employed 7,960 full-time equivalents, 81 percent of whom were unionized. Their compensation ranges from $30,526 to $136,300 as specified in their respective collective agreements.

A payment summary for on-air staff shows salaries for approximately 1,200 hosts, reporters, and presenters, ranging from less than $40,000 to over $340,000. Six individuals earn over $300,000, while 81 percent of on-air staff earn between $50,000 and $99,000.

According to reports by The Canadian Press, CBC documents obtained through access-to-information laws reveal that over $99 million in bonuses were awarded to employees at the public broadcaster between 2015 and 2022, with $16 million distributed last year to over 1,100 employees, marking the highest amount in at least seven years.

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

Additionally, the payment summary includes the median salary of nearly 50 peer companies as compiled by an external consultant. Notable companies in this group include Corus Entertainment, Bell Media, Rogers Communications, Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, and Canadian Pacific Railway.

This figure indicates that the maximum total pay for the CBC president and CEO and executive vice-presidents is at least $200,000 below the industry salary midpoint, while the maximum salary range for vice-presidents surpasses the industry salary midpoint.

The Bloc Quebecois has called on Heritage Minister Pascale St-Onge to dismiss Tait if she does not rescind the proposed job cuts. However, it’s worth noting that members of Parliament do not have authority over how CBC and Radio-Canada allocate their funds, as the public broadcaster operates independently.

The House of Commons is scheduled to adjourn for the winter break on December 15 and will reconvene on January 29.

Liberal MP Taleeb Noormohamed, along with members from the Conservative, NDP, and Bloc parties, emphasized the importance of Tait’s questioning by the heritage committee on Thursday.

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