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Cenovus president and CEO Alex Pourbaix, left, addresses the company's annual meeting in Calgary, April 25, 2018.

Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press

The biggest companies in Canada’s oil patch said they exceeded their performance goals in 2019, so they bumped up executive pay and paid out millions in stock and cash bonuses.

The pay numbers, disclosed recently to shareholders in company proxy circulars, reflect decisions made before the collapse in oil prices sent the industry seeking a multibillion-dollar aid package from the federal government. The compensation packages are heavily weighted toward company stock – which has collapsed in value in the recent weeks. Some of the companies have also announced executive pay cuts in recent days.

Still, all the companies paid out more than 100 per cent of target bonuses for their top executives – indicating they all had a high opinion of how 2019 turned out. Shareholders had varying outcomes: Cenovus Energy Inc. stock gained 40 per cent in 2019. Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. and Suncor Inc. also posted double-digit returns. Imperial Oil Ltd. stock was up just 2 per cent, while Ovintiv Inc., then known as Encana Corp., fell by 22 per cent.

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Here’s how pay played out at the exploration and production companies that were in the S&P/TSX 60 Index at the end of 2019:

Cenovus CEO Alexander J. Pourbaix saw his pay rise to $9.05-million from $6.56-million in 2018. His cash bonus more than doubled, rising to $2.09-million from $880,000 in 2018, his first full year on the job. His pay package included $5.75-million in share and option awards, valued when Cenovus stock was $11.53 a share. It closed Thursday at $3.86.

The bulk of Cenovus executive bonuses were paid based on a “corporate scorecard” payout percentage of 164 per cent, meaning the company determined that it far exceeded its operating, financial, safety and environmental goals. Cenovus said its board “used its discretion to adjust production results to the level that would have been attained but for the mandatory production curtailment program” announced by the Alberta government in January, 2019.

The company said on April 2 that it would reduce Mr. Pourbaix’s $1-million base salary by 25 per cent, while the salaries of other top executives were cut by 15 per cent.

At Ovintiv, CEO Doug Suttles made US$12.57-million, up from US$11.79-million in 2018. His cash bonus declined to US$1.42-million, from US$2.29-million the previous year, but his share and option awards topped $9.77-million, up from $8.1-million in 2018. The share awards were valued when Encana stock was a split-adjusted US$35.80 a share. Ovintiv, now Denver-based, closed Thursday at US$4.37.

Ovintiv said its company scorecard, used for 75 per cent of executive bonuses, came out at 129 on a 100 scale, largely because of success at integrating Newfield Exploration Co., acquired in February, 2019. Ovintiv then boosted it to 142 on the basis of its safety results.

The company’s board, however, cut the scorecard earlier this year to 103, “in consideration of the current market environment and our stock price performance.” While the bonuses remained above their targets, the practical effect was a cut of US$1-million in annual incentive pay for the five best-paid executives, including a US$500,000 reduction for Mr. Suttles.

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Mark Little, who was named CEO of Suncor on May 2 of last year, made $11.72-million in 2019, including a $1.7-million bonus and $7.14-million in share and option awards.

His predecessor, Steve Williams, made $14.79-million in 2018 – and another $9.62-million in 2019 in his four months on the job. Mr. Williams’s final pay package included a $1-million bonus and $8.18-million in share and option awards. Suncor calculated the values of the share awards when the stock was trading in a range around $43 to $45. Suncor stock closed Thursday at $22.75.

Suncor figured that it exceeded its various business goals by an average of 6 per cent, and further boosted bonus payouts for its six best-paid executives based on their individual performance.

Canadian Natural paid its executive chair, executive vice-chair and president a combined $27.88-million in 2019, with executive chair Murray Edwards collecting $12.82-million of it. Mr. Edwards, who has an annual salary of $1, made $10.76-million in 2018.

Canadian Natural paid the three men bonuses totalling $4.68-million, up from $3.47-million in 2018. The company said its corporate performance score on a range of financial, operating, safety and environmental metrics was 136 per cent – which translated into paying its executives 190 per cent of their bonus targets.

The company also paid the three a total of $21.88-million in share and option awards, based on a valuation when Canadian Natural stock traded in a range around $37 to $39 a share. The stock closed at $18.78 on Thursday.

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Canadian Natural said it was cutting president Tim McKay’s roughly $600,000 salary by 20 per cent, starting this month, and the pay of other top executives by 15 per cent.

At Imperial Oil, former CEO Richard Kruger made $8.09-million, up from $7.87-million in 2018. His bonus of just under $460,000 was about $100,000 less than in the prior year. Mr. Kruger, who retired at the end of 2019, also received stock awards of $3.21-million, calculated when Imperial Oil stock was $32.38. It closed Thursday at $18.07. Mr. Kruger also made $3.13-million of “other compensation,” primarily extra pay for being on “expatriate assignment” in Canada from Imperial Oil’s controlling shareholder, Exxon Mobil Corp.

The company says its board’s decisions on Mr. Kruger’s pay “reflect judgment, rather than the application of formulae or targets.”

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