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At current pay rates, Canada's highest-paid chief executive officers will earn the equivalent of the average Canadian annual wage by 2:30 p.m. ET Monday - the first working day of the year, a new study says.

The paper, by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, examined 2009 compensation levels for Canada's best paid 100 CEOs. It found they pocketed an average of $6.6-million, despite the recession, compared with the average income of $42,988 and the average minimum-wage worker's income of $19,877.

The gap appears to be widening. In 1998, the best-paid 100 CEOs garnered an average 104 times more than the average Canadian wage earner. By 2009, that had climbed to 155 times more than the average earner.

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At this rate of reward, "by about 2:30 on Jan. 3, the average of the 100 best-paid public company CEOs in Canada already pocketed what it would take a Canadian working full-time, all year to earn," said the study's author and CCPA research associate Hugh Mackenzie.

The results may be understating the trend, he added. Due to changes in corporate reporting introduced in 2008, "we only have a conservative statistical estimate of the stock options that make up about one third of CEOs' 2009 pay. The public will never know how much these CEOs actually got paid in 2009."

These CEOs have $1.3-billion of stock options they haven't yet cashed in. "That's about $2 in future income for every $1 they declared in 2009."

The findings comes a month after the CCPA released a study showing that a third of all income growth in Canada in the past two decades went to the richest 1 per cent of Canadians. Soaring executive compensation plays a role in the surge in income inequality, it said.

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