National Defence executives rake in almost $3.5 million in bonuses


“You have someone that was supposedly so good at their job that they were worth an extra $100,000?,” said one retired Canadian Forces colonel. “Let’s hear all about their deeds.”

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National Defence civilian executives were awarded almost $3.5 million in bonuses with one public servant being paid an extra $101,000.

The bonuses cover the period between April 2021 and March 2022, a time that involved the federal government and National Defence responding to the pandemic. But it was also a period marked by ongoing bungled defence procurements, cost overruns in the billions of dollars on equipment programs, and allegations of widespread sexual harassment at the department and in the military.

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The bonuses were paid to 252 National Defence executives, according to the documents obtained through the Access to Information law. That means almost all executives in the department received the extra money.

The largest bonus was $101,000, according to the documents. Other significant bonuses clocked in at $55,354, $41,920, $39,578, $36,100, and $30,782. Most bonuses were in the $15,000 range but one civilian executive was awarded $151.84, according to the documents.

The names of the public servants receiving the bonuses were censored from the records to protect their privacy.

During the period outlined the lowest-paid executive would have a salary range of $103,000 to $131,000. Upper-level executives would have a salary range of $195,000 to $230,000.

The salary range for the deputy minister group during this period ranged from a low of $219,000 to the upper level of $371,000.

Ottawa lawyer Michel Drapeau, who obtained the access to information records, criticized the decision to give the public service executives the bonuses, noting they are well paid in the first place and have additional significant benefits. “This is a slap in the face to the average Canadian,” said Drapeau, a retired Canadian Forces colonel. “There is nothing I can think of that happened in the department that would merit such bonuses.”

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National Defence spokesman Dan Le Bouthillier said like all federal organizations, the department follows the Treasury Board Performance Management Program for Executives. That program “encourages excellence in performance by setting clear objectives, evaluating achievement of results, recognizing and rewarding performance, and providing a framework for consistency in performance management,” he added.

Drapeau counters that if the performance of one of the department’s employees was so outstanding that it was worth more than $100,000 then National Defence shouldn’t be afraid of publicizing what that individual did for the money. “You have someone that was supposedly so good at their job that they were worth an extra $100,000?,” said Drapeau. “Let’s hear all about their deeds.”

In June, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation revealed that federal executives took home $1.3 billion in bonuses between 2015 and 2022, citing documents obtained under the Access to Information law.

Those documents listed the average annual bonuses for executives from 2015 to 2022 ranging between $15,550 to $18,252.

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The annual cost of executive bonuses has steadily increased, ranging from $138 million in the 2015-16 fiscal year to nearly $202 million in 2022-23. Throughout the entire public service, government workers were paid over half a billion dollars in bonuses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Performance measures for executives are based on targets specific to their roles and responsibilities, Treasury Board Spokesperson Martin Potvin told the National Post in June. “Performance pay is an important component of executives’ total compensation package but must be re-earned each year.

“The at-risk nature of performance pay helps to hold executives accountable for delivery of results and excellence in leadership,” Potvin added.

Executives who don’t meet performance targets, he said, are not eligible for bonuses.

According to numbers published online by the federal government, Canada’s federal bureaucracy increased from 257,034 in 2015 — consisting of 195,565 employees of the core public administration and 61,469 working for arm’s-length government agencies — to 335,957 in 2022, with 254,309 working in core administration and 81,648 employed by agencies.

(With files from Bryan Passifiume, National Post)

David Pugliese is an award-winning journalist covering Canadian Forces and military issues in Canada. To support his work, including exclusive content for subscribers only, sign up here:

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