The NDP has slammed the Progressive Conservative government after its “hand-picked” board at Manitoba Hydro considered a year-end bonus for CEO Jay Grewal at the same time front-line workers were on the picket line.

The Opposition held a news conference Friday to draw attention to the issue and a July 12 Hydro board meeting where members discussed in camera “year-end compensation” for the Crown utility’s chief executive officer.

While the details of that meeting aren’t made public, NDP Leader Wab Kinew noted at that same time, 240 Hydro workers (represented by Unifor) were on strike after years without a contract.

“Right now, with inflation being what it is, with your life getting more expensive each and every day, I don’t think anyone wants to see CEOs taking home big compensation packages, big bonuses — least of all when we’re talking about a company that is owned by the people of Manitoba,” Kinew said.

Last year, provincial disclosures listed Grewal’s salary at $513,046.

Manitoba Hydro board chairman Edward Kennedy said the CEO has had performance incentives built into her contract since she was hired in January 2019 by a previous board.

“These incentives are based on accountability for completion of key annual goals, in this case, as set out at the beginning of the ‘21-22 fiscal year,” a statement from Kennedy said Friday. He defended the practice of rewarding CEOs with bonuses for achieving targeted goals.

“This is a best-practice pay structure for CEOs, including at Crown-owned utilities across Canada.”

He noted Grewal’s base salary has not increased in the almost four years since she started at Manitoba Hydro.

Meantime, Kinew said hydro bills have increased since the Progressive Conservative government took office in 2016, and will increase even further when the PCs pass Bill 36 (Manitoba Hydro Amendment and Public Utilities Board Amendment Act).

It would have hydro rates set every three years, which the PCs say would save the cost of holding a Public Utilities Board rate application every year.

Until then, annual electricity rate increases will be capped at the rate of inflation, to a maximum five per cent.

“The PCs should not be rubber stamping this (CEO bonus) and pushing through Bill 36,” Kinew said.