A former Manitoba Hydro executive has sauntered into retirement with more than $740,000 in hand, capping a career with the Crown corporation as its top earner last year.

Lorne Midford, former vice-president of asset planning and delivery, was paid $741,772 in 2021 — more than double his 2020 salary of $354,254 — according to public compensation disclosure reports published this week.

Midford also earned more than Hydro chief executive officer Jay Grewal, who took home $513,046 last year, an increase of about $1,600 over 2020. Grewal was the corporation’s second-highest earner.

In an email to the Free Press, Manitoba Hydro spokesperson Bruce Owen said Midford retired in late 2021, after 36 years with the Crown corporation.

Owen noted employees who voluntarily retire are not paid severance. Hydro does not comment on specific individuals in the report, he added.

“The payments you see for all individuals on the report include a number of different figures: salary, northern allowance, overtime, banked vacation and other accrued benefits earned over a long career at Manitoba Hydro,” Owen said.

Midford’s six-figure take is one of the largest Hydro has paid to a single employee since 2017, when the Crown corporation bought out a number of executives as part of downsizing efforts.

That year, Lloyd Kuczek, a former vice-president of customer care and energy conservation, received $805,015. The previous year, he had earned $218,716, according to compensation disclosure reports.

Unifor national representative Suzanne King said the latest departure payout is “another disrespect” to Hydro workers currently on strike.

bout 230 gas workers with Unifor Local 681 walked off the job June 17, after collective bargaining hit an impasse. The local has been without a collective agreement since December 2020.

The union asked for a 3.8 per cent wage increase in 2021, with a “fair wage increase” in following years, King said. The Crown corporation has offered a “very minimal increase,” with 0.5 per cent in 2021, followed by 1.5 per cent the next three years, she said.

The nearly three-quarters-of-a-million dollars paid to Midford last year is more than Manitoba Hydro has offered in wages to its striking employees for the same fiscal year, King said.

“In the same time period, they paid one person more money than they’re offering 230 of us,” she said. “We’re only four per cent of payroll. They can afford to pay us… We know it’s not about the money. It’s about the Stefanson government holding it up.”

Opposition Hydro critic Adrien Sala said Hydro workers are rightly frustrated by the “eye-popping compensation” package while they are “fighting tooth and nail for small wage increases.”

“We’re in the midst of an affordability crisis right now, the cost of everything is going up and government and Hydro should be focused on ensuring Hydro workers get fair wages, rather than handing out big cheques to Hydro executives who are leaving their jobs,” the NDP MLA said.

Meanwhile, Canadian Taxpayers Federation Prairie director Robin Speer said the average Manitoban will also have a tough time reconciling the executive compensation package amid rising fuel prices, inflation and electricity costs.

“The government of Manitoba probably needs to relook at contracts for some of these arrangements, in terms of compensation for individuals leaving,” Speer said, adding some belt-tightening at the Crown corporation is in order.

“There’s probably a bit of a disconnect between regular, hard-working Manitobans and some of these costs that they’re going to bear.”

According to the compensation disclosure report, six Hydro employees earned more than $300,000 last year. Total compensation for employees who earned over $75,000 in 2021 was more than $454.6 million.