The following Compensation Discussion and Analysis discusses the structure, policies, principles and elements of our executive compensation program as well as the process related to and individuals involved in our executive compensation decisions. Information about the compensation awarded to our Named Executive Officers (as defined below) in 2007, 2008 and 2009 can be found in the Summary Compensation Table and related compensation tables.
The Compensation Committee has engaged Watson Wyatt as executive compensation consultants. Watson Wyatt reports to the Chair of the Committee and primarily provides input to the Committee on the philosophy and competitiveness of the design and award values for certain of our executive and director compensation programs.
As discussed in further detail below, our executive compensation consists of six main elements: base salary, short-term incentives, performance units, performance stock options, retirement benefits and severance benefits. We design executive compensation policies to attract, motivate and retain qualified executives. To emphasize performance-based compensation, we benchmark total cash compensation levels to the median of a peer group of companies and provide the opportunity to earn total compensation above the median through medium-term and long-term incentive plans.
Based on a study conducted by Watson Wyatt in 2009, during the past three years, the realized pay of our Named Executive Officers was within the top quartile of our peer group, coinciding with the top quartile performance of our company relative to our peer group. Watson Wyatt conducted similar studies in 2007 and 2008 and obtained results that are consistent with the results of the 2009 study. A similar study of 2008 chief executive officer compensation at companies comprising the S&P/TSX 60 Index conducted by the Hay Group, an independent executive compensation consulting group, found similar results for the compensation of our CEO. We believe the results of these studies demonstrate the alignment between our Named Executive Officers’ compensation and our performance and support the Compensation Committee’s compensation philosophy.
We design our incentive plans with performance periods of varying durations. We provide executives with annual incentives through the Short-Term Incentive Plan, three-year incentives through the Medium-Term Incentive Plan and ten-year incentives through the Performance Option Plans. To align incentive compensation with shareholder interests, we link the amount of variable compensation to total shareholder return or metrics with a demonstrated relationship to total shareholder return. Our incentive plans do not provide mechanisms by which executives can monetize unvested equity awards.
100% of the outstanding options granted under our 2007 Performance Option Plan vested based on the difference between our cash flow return on investment and our weighted average cost of capital during the three-year performance period ended December 31, 2009.
We also provide retirement benefits to supplement the income of our employees after their retirement, and in cases of termination without cause, we strive to provide appropriate severance benefits that reflect the potential difficulty in obtaining comparable employment in a short period of time and provide for a complete separation between the terminated employee and our company. In the past, we entered into change in control agreements with certain of our senior executives, which agreements remain outstanding. No new agreements have been entered into since 1994.
We strongly support Share ownership by our executives. Each of our executives is required to hold Shares with a value of between one and five times the executive’s base salary, depending on the executive’s position. Our share ownership guidelines reflect the value of Shares held by executives and can be met through direct or beneficial ownership of Shares.
For a discussion of the goals and achievements considered by the Board in making decisions related to certain elements of the 2009 and 2010 compensation of our Chief Executive Officer, see "— Chief Executive Officer Compensation".