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Telus CEO Darren Entwistle, shown in 2019, received $19.82-million in total compensation in 2021, according to the company’s recently filed proxy circular.AMBER BRACKEN/The Canadian Press

The top-paid Canadian telecom CEO appears poised to hold on to that title for the foreseeable future.

Darren Entwistle, the chief executive of Telus Corp. T-T and the Canadian telecom industry’s longest-serving CEO, received $19.82-million in total compensation in 2021, according to the company’s recently filed proxy circular. That’s up from $13.29-million the previous year, when he also was the top paid Canadian telecom CEO by a wide margin. The year-over-year increase was driven by higher share-based awards and an increase in the company’s estimate of Mr. Entwistle’s pension.

His salary was $1.54-million, up from $1.03-million in 2020, when Mr. Entwistle chose to donate a quarter of his salary to pandemic-related causes. Telus reported the value of his 2021 share awards at $13.11-million. His cash bonus was $1.11-million, up from $855,980 in 2020.

Mr. Entwistle has been the CEO of Telus for more than 20 years, unlike his peers at BCE Inc. and Rogers Communications Inc., who have both taken on the title within the past two-and-a-half years. Mr. Entwistle’s key achievements in 2021 included overseeing the successful initial public offering of Telus’s business and IT services unit, Telus International, and growing Telus’s customer base by 960,000, the company noted in the proxy circular.

All of Telus’s highest-paid executives saw increased bonuses and significant jumps in the estimated values of their pensions, with Mr. Entwistle’s pension increasing by $3.92-million in 2021. The pension amounts Telus and other companies report in their annual compensation disclosures, which are required by regulators, aren’t cash placed in accounts. They are estimates of how much executives’ pensions have grown – or, in rare cases, shrunk – based on their earnings in the past year. Telus attributed the 2021 changes to “market-based salary increases above prior years.”

The company also noted that two executives – Eros Spadotto, executive vice-president of technology strategy and business transformation, and François Gratton, executive vice-president of Telus Health, Telus Agriculture and Telus Quebec – had their positions eliminated at the end of last year as part of a restructuring.

Telus said its disclosure of “all other compensation” of $2.90-million for Mr. Spadotto and $2.95-million for Mr. Gratton included their severance packages and other payments, such as employer contributions under the company’s employee share purchase plan. The latter amounts were typically under $20,000 for the two men in past years’ disclosures. Telus said that, as part of their termination arrangements, Mr. Spadotto’s and Mr. Gratton’s severance payments were increased from 18 months of salary and performance bonus to 24 months “to reflect their 25 and 20 years of service, respectively.”

Telus changed its timing for reporting the value of stock awards, causing it to revise Mr. Entwistle’s 2020 compensation from $16.04-million, as it said in its 2021 circular, to $13.29-million. The change makes Mr. Entwistle’s pay increase in 2021 look larger than it otherwise would.

Mirko Bibic, BCE Inc.’s chief executive, also got a pay bump last year. He took home $11.14-million of total compensation, up from $9.48-million in 2020. The increase was driven by a near-doubling of his cash bonus, to $3.19-million from $1.61-million in the year prior. Bonuses were up 50 per cent or more for other top executives.

The company scored its “corporate performance index,” an evaluation of several financial and strategic goals, at 105 per cent in 2021. In pandemic-wracked 2020, BCE BCE-T scored itself at just 25 per cent on its performance metrics.

BCE stopped using stock options to compensate executives last year. The compensation committee of the company’s board performed a review in 2020 and decided to change its long-term incentive plan to, it said, “discourage undue short-term risk taking.”

At Rogers Communications Inc. RCI-B-T, Tony Staffieri, who was appointed interim CEO in November after a battle for control of the wireless giant, made $4.58-million last year. Mr. Staffieri served as chief financial officer for most of 2021, was fired in late September and then rehired to the top job. In 2020, he was paid $4.19-million in total compensation.

Rogers said Mr. Staffieri will receive a 2022 compensation package that should top $10-million. He will receive a salary of $1.4-million. His bonus will have a target of $1.4-million, but will be able to range up to $2.8-million. He will also receive a long-term stock award equal to 536 per cent of his salary. That award would be $7.5-million.

Rogers said it “modestly exceeded budget” for several financial goals that make up its annual bonus plan. However, “the company underperformed relative to its key competitors,” it said in its proxy circular. So management recommended – and the board’s human resources committee supported – holding the annual cash bonus for 2021 to 110 per cent of its target for senior executives.

Joe Natale, who was ousted as Rogers CEO last November, walked away with $14.11-million in severance, bringing his total compensation for 2021 to $27.38-million. The previous year, Mr. Natale made $11.22-million in total compensation.

Shaw Communications Inc. SJR-B-T paid CEO Bradley Shaw $11.94-million in its fiscal 2021, which ended Aug. 31, up from $6.87-million in the prior year. The Globe and Mail reported Mr. Shaw’s compensation in December when the company first disclosed it.

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