EDITORIAL: Bonuses for bureaucrats | SaltWire

Food prices are through the roof.

Gas prices are through the roof.

Home heating costs are (sometimes literally) through the roof.

So it’s hard to stop your blood pressure from going through the roof when you learn that federal government executives received $190 million in bonus pay for their work in 2020-21.

Yes, that’s right, performance bonuses at a time when Canadians were complaining loudly about the poor service and long lag times they had to endure when trying to access federal government services.

Waiting for hours in outdoor lineups to get passports renewed. Being given the wrong directions by the perpetually problematic ArriveCAN app (which cost $54 million and then had to be scrapped for all its flaws). Not being able to reach a live person on the phone while trying to navigate the maze of Canada’s immigration rules.

It’s a tough pill to swallow when you walk past the meat you can’t afford in your local Canadian supermarket to realize that as so many families were scrimping to make ends meet, top federal bureaucrats were being handed fatter pay packets for doing such a good job.

The details of the bonuses were outlined in an order paper tabled in Parliament last month by Edmonton West Conservative MP Kelly McCauley and reported on by Postmedia.


It’s hard to stop your blood pressure from going through the roof when you learn that federal government executives received $190 million in bonus pay for their work in 2020-21.


Nearly 90 per cent of public sector executives — 7,752 people — received the extra pay, more than 500 than the year before. In addition, 8,317 public servants not at the executive level had their efforts rewarded with salary top-ups, again, 500 more than the previous year.

According to the federal government, in order to receive bonus pay, executives in the public service must meet or exceed the performance stipulations of their contracts, as well as demonstrate these “leadership competencies”: create vision and strategy; mobilize people; uphold integrity and respect; collaborate with partners and stakeholders; promote innovation and guide change; and achieve results.

You could argue that the federal government certainly mobilized people last year, particularly those who had to queue for hours to access government services.

Upholding integrity and respect? Well, we’re not so sure anyone passed muster on that particular “leadership competency” in receiving bonus pay on top of already generous salaries when many Canadians are struggling to make it from one day to the next.

Treasury Board Secretariat spokesperson Barb Couperus said in a statement to Postmedia that “Performance pay is an important component of executives’ total compensation package but must be re-earned each year,” and that, “The at-risk nature of performance pay helps to hold executives accountable for delivery of results and excellence in leadership.”

Surely true excellence in leadership includes leading by example and forgoing bonus pay when people who aren’t on the federal payroll are facing real risks to survive.

The only result the federal government has achieved with this exercise is to underscore how out of touch it is with most Canadians.

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