Earnings up for CEOs at SaskTel, SaskPower

Top executives at SaskPower and Sasktel made a lot more money this past year, according to the latest payee disclosure from the Crown Investment Corporation.

Michael Marsh, SaskPower’s CEO, saw his compensation jump from $448,500 in 2015/16 to $481,169 in the most recent fiscal year. Altogether, SaskPower has 11 executives and top managers earning more than $300,000.

But Marsh plays second fiddle to Sasktel’s outgoing CEO. Ron Styles got an 11.8 per cent raise, from $566,762 to $633,895, to take top spot among Crown executives. Seven other members of his leadership team cracked the $300,000 mark. Styles, who has led the telecom company for seven years, announced his retirement this June.

Overall compensation actually dropped slightly at Sasktel, however, while it rose only about two per cent at SaskPower.

The NDP’s interim leader said the disclosure shows a “massive increase” in CEO compensation. Nicole Sarauer told reporters that ordinary Crown employees “should be very upset” with the news, which comes just as government workers are gearing up for a 3.5 per cent across-the-board pay cut.

“It’s not honest with what the Sask. Party said they were going to do,” she said. “They said everyone was going to take a 3.5 per cent hit. And now, even if they do take a 3.5 per cent hit, it’s not even close to what they received in a raise this year.”

Crown Investment Corporation Minister Joe Hargrave stressed that the CEOs will be taking the same 3.5 cut to their base pay as everyone else. He said that will be reflected in next year’s disclosure. The compensation hikes in Monday’s release don’t have much to do with base pay, he explained, since they’re driven by “holdback pay” – basically performance bonuses for successful management.

“If the Crown performs very well, they get paid a little more,” he said. “The board makes those decisions and they set those parameters at the start of the year.”

Styles, he added, also took home vacation pay that had been building up in the years before his retirement.

The minister said he gets the concern over how much Crowns pay out to their top executives, but he said government-owned companies still need to stay competitive with what the private sector offers.

“It’s a lot of money and I understand that,” he said. “It’s more than our premier makes for Pete’s sake. But that’s what the industry standard is.”

Hargrave said $400,000 of base pay, plus bonuses, isn’t much compared to what the CEOs of Rogers and Telus earn – both of them take home more than a million dollars per year, he said.

“We want to make sure that Sasktel and Saskpower continue to be strong and are run by very capable people,” he said.

Two top executives have actually seen their overall compensation fall from 2015/2016 to 2016/17. Douglas Kelln of SaskEnergy was down from $463,697 to $401,884, while SGI’s Andrew Cartmell saw his compensation drop sharply from $573,720 to $404,400.

The disclosure also reported travel expenses for Crown executives and senior managers, with totals sometimes exceeding $10,000 per year. One of the top bills came from SGI Chief Operating Officer Don Thompson, who charged more than $26,000 in travel expenses.

Hargrave’s office pointed out that Thompson’s responsibilities cover operations across Western Canada and Ontario, which make up about a third of the Crown’s business. He also attended a three-day trip to London, England, to meet with more than a dozen reinsurers, who provide coverage to help mitigate potentially catastrophic losses.