During the pandemic, Ottawa stepped up to provide financial support to Canada’s airlines - and that money came with strings attached, including restrictions on compensation for top execs.
Once those restrictions were lifted, The Globe reports that, in 2022, Air Canada paid CEO Michael Rousseau CAD $12.38 million. That’s 233 per cent more than it paid him in 2021.
The news doesn’t come out of left field. Air Canada announced in 2022 that it would return to pre-pandemic compensation practices.
The issue of executive pay during the pandemic and recovery period has been a thorny issue for Canada’s biggest airline. It made headlines in 2021 - in the middle of pandemic travel lockdowns - when reports revealed the airline paid high-level managers millions in “COVID-19 pandemic mitigation bonuses” for 2020.
The payouts took place as Air Canada was negotiating a nearly $6 billion bailout from the federal government. Ottawa criticized the airline, and included limits on executive compensation in the final financial support agreement.
That APR, 2021 aid package involved the federal government buying a half-billion dollar stake in the airline. As the Globe reports, the 2021 package priced shares in Air Canada at just over $23. The shares traded at $18.58 on 06APR, 2023.
Air Canada’s NOV 2021 withdrawal from the government’s credit line cut the executive compensation strings attached to that financing, and paved the way for compensation to take off once more.
The company’s 2022 CEO compensation was published in its proxy circular released 07APR: “total compensation for 2022 included a $1.3-million salary, share and stock option awards valued at $7.8-million, and a bonus of $2.28-million.”
The circular says that the board’s HR committee determined that executives’ “contribution and performance was exceptional in 2022, particularly given the challenging headwinds the corporation and industry faced entering 2022 and continued to experience over the course of the year.”
It added that, “Mr. Rousseau… led Air Canada to meaningfully improved financial and operational results in 2022, including significant year-over-year improvements.”