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Parliament Hill in Ottawa.Dave Chan/The Globe and Mail

Federal deputy ministers received more than $50,000 each in bonuses and other performance rewards – a 12-per-cent hike – during the year they identified thousands of public-service positions for elimination, according to federal spending data on Ottawa's top officials.

The average performance award for the 94 officials paid at the deputy-minister level is significantly higher than the average performance pay for the 5,987 executives working in senior positions under deputy ministers. Figures show those executives saw an average amount of $14,327 – a 1.6-per-cent increase – for performance pay in 2011-12.

That was the fiscal year in which the government began linking performance pay to how senior managers met the government's goal of saving money. Figures show federal deputy ministers chose not to cut back on their own perks. The average performance pay of $52,218 for deputy ministers was up from $46,569. The year-to-year increase in total spending on performance pay also works out to more than 12 per cent, rising from $4,377,497 to $4,908,500.

A deputy minister is the top public servant in a federal department, but the list of 94 officials also includes 10 individuals who are not deputy ministers, such as heads of missions abroad and some other officials who are "general executives" but not deputy ministers.

The Treasury Board voluntarily posts information on executive pay salary ranges and overall statistics on performance pay for executives, while the Privy Council Office does the same for the pay of deputy ministers and heads of Crown corporations. NDP Treasury Board critic Mathieu Ravignat said the size of the increase is "inappropriate" during a period of fiscal restraint and that deputy ministers should be leading by example. "We're talking about a double standard," he said, noting that the government is cutting jobs and front-line services. In the 2011-12 fiscal year, the government identified 19,200 public-service jobs for elimination.

A spokesperson for the PCO said performance pay for deputy ministers is higher than that for executives because more of their pay is treated as "at risk" and must be re-earned each year. As for the 12-per-cent increase, the spokesperson said amounts vary from year to year based on a range of factors, including evaluations and where deputy ministers sit in their salary ranges.

Unlike some provincial governments, Ottawa does not produce a "sunshine list" that would detail what individual executives or deputy ministers receive in terms of salary and performance pay.

The issue of whether further disclosure is warranted federally will return in the fall when the House of Commons continues its study of Bill C-461, which deals with whether salary information on individual public servants should be disclosed through Access to Information.

Edmonton-St. Albert MP Brent Rathgeber, the sponsor of the bill, quit the Conservative caucus last month in protest after his Tory colleagues amended his bill so that only individuals with salaries above the highest possible pay for deputy ministers – $466,661 – would be released. Mr. Rathgeber had suggested the threshold be set at $188,000.

Currently the federal government only provides salary and performance ranges based on job classification. For instance, an entry-level executive qualifies for a salary between $104,600 and $123,000, plus a maximum performance award of 15 per cent or $18,450. There are five levels of executives and four levels of deputy ministers. The highest ranking deputy ministers are paid between $272,000 and $319,900, plus a maximum performance award of 39 per cent – which works out to a potential high of $466,661 in total compensation.

The government breaks down performance pay into three categories: the first is base salary increases up to the maximum in a range. The other two categories are at-risk pay and bonuses, both of which are over and above an employee's base salary. The government says an employee receives at-risk pay "when they meet the targets outlined in their performance agreement." The criteria for bonus pay are that it "can only be awarded for exceptional achievements that exceed the highest rating in both corporate and individual commitments."