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Canadian Pacific Railway president and CEO Keith Creel addresses the company's annual meeting in Calgary on May 10, 2017.Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press

Executive compensation spiked at Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. last year, but pay gains were more muted at Canadian National Railway Ltd., which paid zero bonuses to its leaders.

At CP, chief executive Keith Creel made $15.15-million, up from $12.49-million the previous year. CP gave Mr. Creel share and options awards worth $9.5-million last year, up from $6.8-million in 2018. His bonus of slightly less than $3-million was about $150,000 lower than a year earlier.

In a letter to shareholders, board chair Isabelle Courville said CP had record revenue and its best-ever operating cost numbers. It increased capital expenditures while also raising its dividend by 27.5 per cent and buying back shares.

CP has been honing its pay approach for several years, after it lost a shareholder say-on-pay advisory vote in 2016, when former CEO Hunter Harrison was at the helm. CP got nearly 96-per-cent approval at its shareholders’ meeting in 2019.

Most CP executives saw an increase in total compensation in 2019 because the company boosted their stock awards. CP sets a target amount for stock awards that’s a percentage of executive salaries. In 2019, it raised those target percentages, and its six top-paid executives, including Mr. Creel, received $18-million in share and option awards, versus $13-million in 2018.

At CN, CEO Jean-Jacques Ruest made $8.94-million, versus $8.49-million in 2018, when he became the company’s top executive mid-year. His bonus fell to zero from slightly less than $1.6-million in 2018.

CN said it failed to meet all five of its financial goals, tied to revenue, profit, cash flow and return on capital, and it also failed to meet its two safety-related goals (based on the rate of accidents and injuries). Since the company missed its corporate-wide financial targets, it also didn’t pay any executive bonuses based on individual performance.

CN’s workers went on strike for a week in November, cutting into CN’s sales and profits.

The two other CN executives among the top-paid who served in their roles in both 2018 and 2019 saw their total pay decline; each had received bonuses of more than $900,000 in 2018.

CP shares rose 38 per cent in 2019, while CN gained just 7 per cent.

The compensation figures, released in proxy circulars to shareholders in recent days, include millions of dollars in stock awards that have now fallen in value in the current economic crisis.

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