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Some of Canada's largest and best-known charities are paying top officials more than $300,000 annually, government filings show.

Top earners include executives at Plan International Canada Inc., Heart & Stroke Foundation of Ontario, York University Foundation and five hospital foundations. Those charities all paid their chief executives more than $300,000 last year and some, including York, doled out more than $350,000.

Several other charities - including the British Columbia's Children's Hospital Foundation and Toronto General & Western Hospital Foundation - paid top executives between $250,000 and $300,000. And still others, including the Canadian Red Cross, paid officials between $200,000 and $250,000.

The compensation figures are contained in the charities' 2009 filings with the Canada Revenue Agency and they mark the first time Canadian charities have disclosed compensation information for their ten highest-paid officials. Previously charities only had to provide limited information about their five best-paid officers.

The new filings still offer an incomplete picture. There are no exact salary figures or names of the highest-paid individuals. Instead, charities must identify the number of people who earn a salary within a certain range, with the top range "$350,000 and over."

Compensation among charities has been a hot topic since last fall when Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children revealed it paid its former president $2.7-million in 2008.

Liberal MP Albina Guarnieri recently introduced a private member's bill to require charities to reveal details about their five highest-paid executives and cap salaries at $250,000.

Ms. Guarnieri said Tuesday that the more expanded disclosure in the CRA filing doesn't go far enough.

The new form "doesn't really provide the donor with the type of disclosure that he really deserves," she said. "What I am asking is for the same disclosure that companies have to give to their shareholders and that governments give taxpayers."

Ted Garrard, chief executive of Sick Kids Foundation, whose annual salary is $400,000 plus up to $100,000 as a bonus, agreed that more disclosure was needed. "Donors, like shareholders, should have the opportunity to know," he said Tuesday.

But others say focusing on salaries alone is a red herring.

"I have yet to be convinced [excessive compensation]is a serious problem within our sector," said Mark Blumberg, a Toronto lawyer who specializes in charity law.

Mr. Blumberg said most charities pay little or nothing in the way of salaries and forcing them to disclose more information will take up badly needed resources. He added that there are many other areas where better disclosure is needed, such as requiring charities to offer details about the effectiveness of their programs.

Don McCreesh, chairman of Imagine Canada, a charity umbrella organization, added that capping salaries at $250,000 is unworkable. "Some of these charities are big complex organizations and you need some skilled people running them," he said. "If I'm giving money to a big complex organization I want to make sure it's managed right and that may mean paying somebody more than $250,000."

Tim Price, chairman of the York University Foundation board, said the foundation paid CEO Paul Marcus $394,000 in salary and bonus last year. The payment "was in the context of the competitiveness of talent to be able to get a first-class person," Mr. Price said. The foundation was established to create for the university a top notch fundraising operation. "And we wanted to hire the very best talent."

Salary disclosure by charities is haphazard in Canada and some organizations are forced to reveal more than others. For example, a few Canadian charities have offices in the United States, like Sick Kids Foundation, and they must file annual reports with the Internal Revenue Service, which requires detailed information about all executive compensation. Some organizations receiving provincial grants also end up on lists like Ontario's so-called sunshine list, which publishes salaries of public servants and others earning more than $100,000 annually.

But Ontario's list is inconsistent. For example, the 2010 report included salaries of executives at charities such as the CNIB and the YMCA. However, charitable foundations are exempt, meaning there was no salary information about officials running foundations such as The Princess Margaret Hospital Foundation or St. Michael's Hospital. CRA filings show CEOs at both are paid more than $350,000.

Charities who paid execs more than $350,000 in 2009

Figures are from Canada Revenue Agency filings

All from 2009 annual filings with CRA (note only a handful of charities have filed 09 reports yet)

$350,000 or more:

  • The Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto
  • St. Michael's Hospital Foundation, Toronto
  • York University Foundation
  • Princess Margaret Hospital Foundation, Toronto
  • Montreal General Hospital Foundation

$300,000 to $350,000:

  • Mount Sinai Hospital Foundation, Toronto
  • Plan International Canada (formerly Foster Parents Plan)
  • Heart & Stroke Foundation of Ontario
  • YMCA of Greater Toronto

$250,000 to $300,000:

  • Toronto General & Western Hospital Foundation (4 people)
  • British Columbia's Children's Hospital Foundation
  • VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation in Vancouver

$200,000 to $250,000:

  • Canadian Cancer Society, Ontario Division
  • Heart & Stroke Foundation of Canada
  • World Wildlife Fund Canada
  • Salvation Army Territorial Headquarters
  • Hockey Hall of Fame and Museum
  • Canadian Red Cross

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