How justified are top Crown corporation CEO salaries in Saskatchewan?

Global News: It’s no secret that top bosses get top dollar and the latest 2015 payee disclosure report from the province proves that.

Of the four largest Crown corporations in Saskatchewan, Sasktel CEO Ron Styles topped the list at $619,905.

Andrew Cartmell at SGI raked in $490,582, while SaskEnergy CEO Doug Kelln made $459,184. SaskPower top boss Mike Marsh rounded out the club with $434,189.

University of Regina business professor Andrew Stevens said there’s a pressure for public utilities and crown corporations to recruit high caliber talent.

“They have to ensure they’re delivering quality and affordable public services,” Stevens said.

“There’s the market pressure there. They have to be shown and seen actually performing, advancing the interests of the public, as well as the organization they represent.”

Public sector executives are paid less when compared to their private sector counterparts, Stevens noted, despite similar burden in terms of work load and responsibility.

“Let’s take SaskTel for instance, if you compare it to Telus, the CEO there makes about $24 million if you include total compensation package. At MTS, it’s over a million dollars,” Stevens said.

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) released a report earlier this year listing the top 100 CEO private sector salaries in 2014.

Two Saskatchewan CEOs made that list. William Doyle of Potash Corporation (now retired) ranked #38, with a total income of $8,692,947. Cameco Corp CEO Tim Gitzel ranked #81 at $5,099,097.

CCPA senior economist David Macdonald said the issue is becoming not about how much CEOs are getting paid, but rather the growing disparity between bosses and employees.

“The top 100 CEOs make 184 times more than the average Canadian,” Macdonald said.

“If we go back to the mid 1990s, we see that number about 100 times. If we go back to the 80s, we see it at about 40 times.”

Macdonald said pay disparity is happening at all levels of management.

“This is happening not only with top executives, but it’s also happening a couple of levels down in management structures where we’re seeing this gap between what the wealthiest make and what everybody else makes,” he said.

With public sector employees the pay gap is less disproportionate, the economist explained.

“One of the interesting features of public sector pay is it tends to be much narrower,” Macdonald said.

“The folks at the bottom get lifted if they work for the public sector… The folks at the top gets pulled down.”

According to the recent payee disclosure numbers, 634 Crown corporation employees make over $150,000 in Saskatchewan.

Stevens said it’s important not to only look at compensation but value added to a company.

“I don’t think we should be offended when a public sector worker makes over $100,000,” he said.

“It’s the ratio that we should judge and look at and assess, more so, than it is compensation.”