According to "Recession-Proof: Canada's 100 best paid CEOs," a report published by Hugh Mackenzie, this was a great year to be a CEO despite the downturn in the Canadian economy in 2009. The report notes that based on the previous compensation patterns "on January 3 [2011] the average of the 100 best-paid public company CEOs in Canada already pocketed what it would take a Canadian working full-time, all year to earn."

Assuming that the average CEO of Canada's top 100 compensating companies works 80 hours a week, 52 weeks a year, the hourly wage for top executives amounts to approximately $1,600/hour.

IN PICTURES: How To Make Your First $1 Million

Top Paid CEOs
Below are the top paid Canadian CEOs in 2009 based on base salary, bonus, sharers, options, pension benefits and other forms of compensation as determined Hugh Mackenzie.

CEO Company Total Compensation 2010 Return
Aaron Regent Barrick Gold (NYSE:ABX) $24,217,040 30%
Hunter Harrison Canadian National Railway (NYSE:CNI) $17,343,160 25%
Gerald Schwartz Onex (TSE:OCX) $16,689,758 27%
Edmund Clark TD Bank (NYSE:TD) $15,188,391 18%
Nadir Mohamed Rogers Communication (NYSE:RCI) $13,687,699 15%
Fred George Gammon Gold (NYSE:GRS) $13,061,177 -30%
Edward Sampson Niko Resources (TSE:NKO) $12,949,343 7%

With the Canadian stock market improving 18% in 2010, as measured by the iShares MSCI Canada Index ETF (NYSE:EWC), there is one company that immediately draw my attention: Gammon Gold, which lost 30% of its value. Although CEO compensation is usually indicative of past corporate performance, high salaries should be awarded to those who can improve the operations of a company on an ongoing basis; however, Gammon Gold significantly underperformed the broad Canadian market. Why?

Gammon Gold
In late 2009 CEO Fred George announced his retirement after 14 solid years with Gammon Gold. As co-founder of the corporation, he helped guide the company from a small exploration firm to one of the largest precious metal producers in Mexico. Upon retiring, George was given equivalent to 36-months of compensation and all of his outstanding option positions fully vested.

Under new management, Gammon has experienced mixed results, potentially due to big bath strategies. Despite that year-over-year revenues have been increasing, earnings continue to disappoint. In their first quarter results, for example, despite a 175% rise in EBIT, foreign exchange losses significantly contributed to a 50% EPS decrease. Likewise, in the second quarter an impairment charge of $220,610,000 was realized as mining operations at the El Cubo mine were suspended due to labor disputes and rising costs.

The Bottom Line
In contrast to a regular, Canadian, full-time worker who earned slightly less than $43,000 a year, the top 100 CEOs brought home an average salary of $6.6 million. Even Michael Waites, CEO of Finning International (TSE:FTT.TO) who finds himself at the bottom of the list earned a staggering $2,967,000. For those of us wanting to become millionaires, becoming CEO of a major company seems to be the way to go. (Think you have what it takes to be chief executive? Find out what those at the top have in common. Check out Becoming A CEO.)

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