CBC President Catherine Tait cautioned over executive bonuses after mass layoff

On December 12, the House of Commons heritage committee told CBC CEO Catherine Tait that paying staff $16 million in annual bonuses constituted an ‘inappropriate’ expenditure. 

CBC President Catherine Tait cautioned over executive bonuses after mass layoff
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Spencer Colby and Gilberto Mesquita - stock.adobe.com
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This Christmas, the House of Commons heritage committee says executives with Canada’s state broadcaster must forgo end-of-year bonuses that total in the millions of dollars. 

On December 12, the committee told CBC CEO Catherine Tait that paying staff another $16 million in annual bonuses constituted an ‘inappropriate’ expenditure. 

“Given the job cuts announced at CBC for 2024 it would be inappropriate for the CBC to grant bonuses to executive members,” the committee wrote in a report to Parliament. 

Despite receiving $1.3 billion in taxpayer funds last fiscal year, the state broadcaster meandered its way to a $125 million shortfall. They blamed the “fierce competition from the digital giants” over frivolous spending on salaries, leading to 626 job cuts.

According to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF), the number of CBC staffers taking home six-figure salaries has increased yearly since 2015. The state broadcaster paid 144 corporate directors $135,388 annually on average, excluding bonuses and expenses.

In November 2022, the CTF reported the CBC has given out more than $156 million in bonuses and pay raises since 2015 — an average annual bonus and pay raise of $14,200 and $1,800, respectively. 

During the pandemic, they managed to pay millions more in bonuses, including $15,013,838 in 2020 to 1,034 employees and $16,052,148 the following year to 108 more employees. 

Heritage Minister Pascale St-Onge told reporters Monday that she considered it a CBC-centric problem. “I will let them answer those questions,” she said.

“Should they accept these bonuses?” asked a reporter. “Everybody at CBC right now needs to consider the financial situation and impact it has on employees at large,” replied St-Onge.

In a December 4 interview with CBC National announcer Adrienne Arsenault, Tait could not say whether end-of-year bonuses would be paid as usual. 

“I am going to presume no bonuses this year?” asked Arsenault. “It is too early to say,” replied Tait.

“So, there’s a chance bonuses could still happen at a time when jobs are being cut?” pressed the host. “I am not going to comment on something that hasn’t been discussed,” replied Tait.

Cabinet seven months ago extended her term to January 3, 2025, with the search for her successor expected to take place this winter. 

According to Blacklock’s Reporter, actual bonuses to individual executives are confidential. However, Tait’s predecessor Hubert Lacroix testified his “bonus was around 20 percent or 21 percent.”

“There are a couple of people who get an incentive to 50 percent of their base salary because this is all part of a compensation philosophy,” Lacroix told the Senate communications committee in 2014. “We can talk about that because I think it is important. It goes from about eight percent up to 50 percent.”

Lacroix, who left CBC in 2018, earned $428,000 per year. Tait is paid $497,000 a year.

According to Blacklock's Reporter, the Trudeau Liberals granted the former CBC head a retroactive 10.3% pay raise in February — five years after his tenure ceased.

Earlier this month, the Crown corporation said it expected further reductions next year to offset revenue losses from the pandemic.

Its 2021 budget, which cost taxpayers $1.2 billion, included $21 million in "immediate operational support" to ensure "stability during the pandemic."

In addition, Ottawa allocated another "$42 million to help CBC/Radio-Canada recover from the pandemic," as first reported by the National Post. 

“The Covid-19 pandemic and the challenges of covering it put immense pressure on CBC’s workplace, operations, finances and systems,” said a 2021 heritage department briefing note Funding Support For The CBC

According to the briefing note, ad revenue fell precipitously in 2020 — as much as 20% over the same period in 2019. "It is anticipated the effects of Covid-19 will persist," said one quarterly financial report.

As a result, 80% of its staff worked remotely, with evening TV newscasts suspended for the first time since 1952.

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