A tiny airline with really big bonuses - Macleans.ca

A tiny airline with really big bonuses

Critics are outraged at little First Air’s $1.5 million in bonuses


A tiny airline with really big bonuses

How much CEOs deserve to be paid is a topic of much debate in these dark economic days. But spats over executive pay are not con?ned to the boardrooms of New York and Toronto. The latest one is taking place in Canada’s Arctic, where a scandal is brewing over the huge bonuses doled out to senior executives at First Air.

The airline, controlled by Inuit-owned Makivik Corp., handed company executives $1.5 million worth of bonuses last summer. Pita Aatam, chairman of First Air and president of Makivik, received a record-breaking bonus of $600,000, and George Berthe, Makivik’s corporate secretary, received a bonus of $250,000, according to Nunatsiaq News. By comparison, the head of Air Canada, Montie Brewer, took home a $690,000 bonus last year—only $90,000 more than Aatam, even though Air Canada has revenues of $2.5 billion compared to just $200 million for First Air.

Since the bonuses became public this fall, there’s been a growing push to have the money returned. “We can’t let this fester any longer,” said Liberal Senator Charlie Watt, a former president of Makivik, and one of the most vocal opponents of the bonuses. He has been calling for an emergency meeting on the subject and even the possible resignation of the directors involved.

Makivik, however, isn’t backing down. In a statement, the company claims that the bonuses were rati?ed by the board, and paid by a company that “generated a favourable return.” They “were earned, were reasonable and fair,” says the company. Far from being contrite, Makivik’s executives say “a number of us feel that these amounts were long overdue . . . and could have been higher.”

But opponents argue that the bonuses are outrageous because Makivik is no ordinary company. It’s a non-pro?t owned by the Inuit of northern Quebec with a mandate focused on the political, social and economic development in the region. Not only do the fat bonuses undermine the company’s credibility, argues Watt, but they’ve turned the collective into little more than a “piggy bank to a few.”


A tiny airline with really big bonuses

  1. “a number of us ‘feel’ these amounts were long overdue… &…. could have been higher”. I’ll bet your $600,000.oo ,self appointed bonus that there are a hell of a lot more against what you did than than for it!

    What exactly is it that gives you this”selfish” notion that you somehow can do whatever you damm well please with this money that belongs to all NUNAVIMUIT INUIT.

    Could be his recent Readers Digest- “HERO OF THE YEAR AWARD”winner has gone to his head, that combined with The National Achievement Award to George Berthe (head of First Air,they fired long time employee Bob Davis!!)

    If you corrupt excuses for leaders think we (Nunavik Inuit) agree with your point of view then let’s give it some democratic discussion time ( cause we aren’t allowed to ask tough questions in past elections)!

    Considering the high rate of suicide, teen pregnancy, vandalism, violent crime, overcrowded housing, employees who regularly show up to work drunk or hung over.

    It’s that same kind of twisted thinking that keeps trying to have self gov’t when you can’t even get enough graduates (from all Nunavik) each year to even fill a mini-bus BUT at the same time you all continue to push for this”SELF GOVERNMENT”! Who exactly will be running this self government, uneducated Inuit or more outsiders as it exists now? As you know that is who keeps things humming up north! It also happens to be a major source of the things that are distroying this once peaceful region of “CANADA”.

    Of course the provincial governments over the years have be as forth coming & open as recent Makivik executives. In other words, I don’t trust them further than I could throw them but given the chance I’d try and throw them as far as possible( from any position of leadership!).

    inuit children who go to school hungry if they go to school at all

    • Was it from Air Inuit or First air?… For some reason I was thinking it came from Air Inuit.

    • I think most of that money is from the ppl who have never claimed their benefits from their agreements with the feds and provincial agreement, like my late father ( Peter Kadlak), who was originally from kuujjuaq and tassiujaq, but moved to the kivalliq region in the 50’s. Maybe some its my money??

  2. It is so unfortunate that the Makivik executives have decided to treat themselves to these huge bonuses, especially Peter Adams. He has done some very good things for the Inuit community in the past and his reputation will be permenantly tarnished for this one lapse of clear thinking. Chances are he will probably be voted out of office for this during the spring election for President, but it just goes to show that absolute power corrupts absolutly.
    The thing that I am most discouraged by is that The First Air board as well as the Makivik executives still to this day feel it was thier god given right to take $1,500,000.oo of the benificiaries money with out informing them. To this day they have not publicly disclosed who got what amount or what exactly they have done to deserve it. The fact of the matter is that each subsidary company of the Inuit owned Makivik corporation doles out perdiums and payments each time they meet over and above the regular salaries they recieve through out the year. Chances are, not one of the Makivik executives would be hired for any other Airline to sit as a board member .
    The only reason First Air is profiting the way they are is solely because they hold the population of the region hostage to thier high costs of cargo and tickets, Mostly paid by government organizations who have no choice but to use them. First Air is a monopoly Air Freight carrier to Nunavik other than the Air Inuit which is also owned and operated by Makivik Corporation.

    As a benificiary of the James Bay Northern Quebec Agreement I am truely saddened by the lack of accountability from the Makivik Corperation as well as the lack of disclosure when it comes to the Executives personal spending and benifits from the corperate bank account, I feel as an Inuk I have a right to know these things. I don’t really care what the salaries are, I’m sure they are the highest in the region anyways, however any spending over and above that should be public knowledge. That should include Lodging, Vehicle expences, Gas expences, Travel expences, Use of a Makivik credit card for personal crap, Free Cargo, Furniture, P.R budget, etc.,etc. It probably totals in the millions each year if added up. For that alone we deserve to know.
    Hopefully the ever forgiving Inuit will not be nieve enough to re-elect these same ppl. again. Vote for a change this time around its long overdue, No to George Berthe, Micheal Gordon, Anthony Ittoshat, Clen House and lets start fresh, hopefully a new executive will learn from the mistakes of the past corruption.

  3. love to get first air ticket to montreal if its possible someday would be nice.
    Merry x-mas to all who see this and a have a very happy holidays to all!
    God bless all take care!

  4. Wow, Kinaujamii???:) or lotta 75% miik Sometime’s way bill so mcuh money HEY were inuit here too. Nakugijaulartaaa we pay so much first air ticket. maybe I can go cancun 3 or 4 time’s in a Month’s with the ticket from kuujjuaq to montreal PRICE’S

  5. This conduct reveals one thing. The Aboriginal peoples are as subject to exploitation by their executives as any other group.

    When we realize that we have to strip our companies of their non-wealth producing coordinators and get the real work done by the 20% that remain.

  6. Viewers should google this website [NUNATSIAQ NEWS] & while you’re ther check out the ARCHIVES & TALKBACK sections.

    Something to read & make you all warm and fuzzy over the holidays as you REFLECT on the meaning of CHRISTMAS !

  7. When news about the bonuses hit the ears of Inuit, a shockwave of outrage resonated throughout Nunavik. How could this have happened? It may be hard to admit, not only are the executives & board of directors are at fault, but so are all the Inuit who elected them.

    The executives and board of directors of the Makivik Corporation have been re-elected term after term by the people. They have been in their elected positions for so long that they have become too comfortable. On top of that, in the last few elections, the voter turnout has been extremely low, reflecting the population’s lack of involvement or interest.

    In contrast, the recent Nunavik Inuit Land Claims Agreement disbursements have brought almost 80% of eligible voters to the polls where it was determined that a portion of the millions of dollars from the Agreement went into the pockets of the Inuit; only if the voter turnout wasn’t linked to personal gain. Inuit should take the same interest when it comes to electing the people who will run their birthright organization.

    The $1.5 million bonus should have been used to benefit the population. It could have used to help elevate the severe housing shortage in Nunavik. It is not uncommon for three or four generations to live under one roof. The few homes that could have been built with that bonus would have changed some lives for the better. You cannot put a price on that.

    The bonus could have gone to every man, woman and child in Nunavik, $1.5 million divided by a population of 10,000 is $150 each, either in the form of cash or a credit towards cargo, although it’s a drop in the bucket in the grand skim of things, it would have helped families deal with the high cost of living.

    My point is that the bonuses could have been used towards countless initiatives that could have benefited far more than the hand full of people.

    As for the Senator Charlie Watt who has been the most vocal about the First Air executives’ bonus, he himself was the President of the Makivik Corporation at one time. He used the Inuit’s money to purchase a lavish home in one of the most prestigious neighborhoods on the west island of Montreal. That was his downfall is his political career in Nunavik. My response to his out roars is, “What a hypocrite!”

    I believe that the executives and the board of directors have all but forgotten the objectives of the Makivik Corporation.
    -To receive, administer, use and invest the compensation money intended for the Inuit, as provided for in the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement.
    -To relieve poverty and to promote the welfare, advancement, and education of the Inuit.
    -To foster, promote, protect and assist in the preserving the Inuit way of life, values and traditions.
    -To initiate, expand and develop opportunities for the Inuit to participate in the economic development of their society.
    -To exercise the functions vested in it by other acts of the Agreement.
    -To develop and improve the Inuit communities and to improve their means of actions.
    -To assist in the creation, financing or developing of businesses, resources, properties and industries of the Inuit.

    If anything is taken from away from this incident, going forward, I hope that the Inuit of Nunavik begin to take an active role in the Makivik Corporation’s affairs. This incident could have been prevented if Inuit were more in tuned with what’s going on.

    We all know of a few people who will have a wonderful Christmas this year, while many in Nunavik will still live in poverty, in over crowded, run-down homes, and wake up to little, if any, presents under the tree and food in the fridge.

  8. Joe,I agree with most of your statement but I would venture to say that the Inuit of Nunavik has long ago come to realize just how corrupt the majority of the leadership is in Nunavik.

    The result of course is obvious, people have become jaded & apathetic to the political process.

    It also didn’t help when a good chunk of the origional “BENIFICARIES” were written out of any chance to equally participate or benefit from the JBNQA, much less have a say in the process of lessening our “EQUALITY” under said agreement.

    Perhaps we need to consider sending potential leaders away for a year or so before they assure leadership roles so we (Nunavik Inuit) can be somewhat reassured we have sober leadership before any more money is wasted on self gov’t.

  9. For the most part, there seems to be general agreement, the current crop of corporate Executives have overstayed their welcome and there is a desperate need for change.

    Before commenting too much farther, I first have to state I am the former Assistant Treasurer of Makivik Corporation and have an outstanding legal matter with them in terms of a wrongful dismissal suit.

    I do however feel the need to comment on one item “Joe” brought up and that was a comparission between what Mr. Charlie Watt had done in the past in comparission to the highway robbery that the current banditos have undertaken and that is that the “house” in question regarding Mr. Watt, continued to be the property of Makivik Corporation, until its resale some months after Peter Adams took over the reigns of power. (I might add it was sold at a considerable loss for expedient political purposes.) If someone wanted to check they will find an investment portfolio the size of Makivik Corporations should and must include some real estate investments.

    Now unlike a housing investment for the corporation, outright throwing money at oneself because there is no one to check this is uncomparable. Once the money the Executives of Makivik granted themselves went to their bank accounts, the funds were no longer legally the Corporations, the same cannot be said for the house. Not only should Peter Adams, George Berthe and the other board of directors of Bradley Air Services/First Air be taken to task over this plunder, but Anthony Ittoshat as Treasurer of the Corporation should come clean with all the facts of this sorry episode. Who exacly got how much and for what service. I think until these questions are properly answered, beneficaries to the James Bay Northern Quebec Agreement have a right to be outraged over the turn of events.

  10. Shame on the executives! They are there to run the business at a profit to benfit the people not themselves and their ever increasing greed.

    Shame, shame, shame on those who continue to suck the life from the people they are there to help!

    Terri in Alberta

  11. Shame, shame, shame is right, but then again…maybe these bonuses were part and parcel of their employment contract. Has anyone looked at this? Maybe their contracts stipulated a performance bonus…!!!!
    Do we have all the facts?

    • Believe me this self indulgent ransacking of Bradley Air Services / First Air is definitely NOT in any service contract I was aware of in my 20 years service with Makivik Corporation.

      I can think of no real explanation for this plundering other then GREED! Pure and simple. Oh, maybe a sense of invincibility and entitlement on the part of the Executives(Peter Adams/Geroge Berthe/Anthony Ittoshat), for their prolonged stay at the top of the Nunavik foodchain may have also served as encouragement to them.