Dairy commission won’t reveal executive bonuses

The Canadian Dairy Commission — which twice this year has approved increases in the price of milk — gave out two rounds of raises and bonuses during the global COVID-19 pandemic. And it’s keeping some of the amounts secret, citing government regulations.

According to an Access to Information request by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, the raises totalled roughly $265,000 over two years and went mainly to unionized employees who were scheduled to get raises under their collective agreements.

But the amount of the bonuses paid to five executives in 2020 and 2021 weren’t revealed.

“This is absolutely outrageous. Taxpayers gave the CDC $4.7 million last year. We deserve to know exactly what people are getting paid, especially when they’re getting bonuses in the middle of a pandemic,” said Franco Terrazzano, federal director of the CTF.

In the 2019-20 fiscal year, the CDC got $3.9 million from the federal government. In 2020-21, that figure was $4.7 million.

According to a spokesperson, the CDC was following government guidelines when it didn’t reveal the size of the bonuses.

“We are following Treasury Board Secretariat guidelines; they do not post the amounts when there are five executives or less,” said Chantal Paul, the CDC’s director of corporate services.

The raises to employees weren’t anything out of the ordinary for civil servants, Paul added.

“Employees at the Canadian Dairy Commission are under the same collective agreements and working conditions as federal public servants in federal departments,” Paul said.

Long-time food industry watcher Sylvain Charlebois said the bonus secrecy is disappointing, but not surprising.

“Given the CDC’s track-record on transparency and accountability, one has to wonder what performance criteria were used to give these bonuses away. To learn that our crown corporation grants bonuses is not that surprising, but that information should be posted on their website, at the very least,” said Charlebois, director of the Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University.

Terrazzano said other crown corporations and federal agencies, including the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, have been more forthcoming with information about executive bonuses. He said the federal government should have the same kind of proactive salary disclosure as Ontario and other provinces.

“There really needs to be a federal Sunshine List. They exist in most provinces, and there should be one federally, too,” said Terrazzano.

In 2020, according to the Access to Information request, the CDC gave a total of $143,202 in raises to 57 employees. In 2021, the CDC gave out a total of $122,128 in raises to 48 employees.

The CDC is a crown corporation which sets the wholesale price of milk in Canada, with input from dairy farmers, provincial and regional milk marketing boards and other stakeholders.

In February, it raised the wholesale “farmgate” price of milk by 8.4 per cent. In June, it announced another 2.5 per cent increase will be coming in September. The 2.5 per cent increase is expected to be approved by provincial bodies by the end of this month.

In a press release announcing the September increase, the CDC cited increased costs for feed, energy and fertilizer faced by dairy farmers.

The current chair of the CDC is Jennifer Hayes, a dairy and beef farmer from Quebec. On July 6, federal agriculture minister Marie-Claude Bibeau appointed long-time CDC staffer Benoit Basillais, an economist, as the organizations new CEO replacing Serge Riendeau.


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