Politicians might see a pay hike in the fall

On Wednesday, MLAs voted 14 to 2 to review MLA salaries and benefits. Only Premier Dennis Fentie and Health and Social Services minister Brad…

On Wednesday, MLAs voted 14 to 2 to review MLA salaries and benefits.

Only Premier Dennis Fentie and Health and Social Services minister Brad Cathers voted against the review.

“This has been a long time coming,” said Yukon Federation of Labour president Alex Furlong.

“It’s been talked about for years, but no one had the political will to do it.”

It took some courage, said NDP MLA Steve Cardiff, who introduced the motion.

An independent salary review might look self-serving, he said.

“But in reality, it had to happen.

“There hasn’t been a wage review in over 20 years.”

Yukon politicians are some of the lowest paid in Canada, said Furlong.

“And if they were union members, we would be advocating that it’s grossly unfair.

“Just because they’re politicians, it should be no different.

“The current cost of living and inflation, that doesn’t change for them, just like it doesn’t change for anyone else.”

Increasing the pay will probably draw more candidates, he added.

The wages have deterred candidates, said Cardiff.

“They look at the salary and say they can’t do that to their family,” he said.

Politicians aren’t impoverished, said Cardiff.

“But we should be recognized by the work we do, and be compensated.”

Politicians carry enormous responsibility and watch over the territory’s finances, said Furlong.

“And you don’t do that kind of stuff for $56,000 a year.”

Fentie says politicians shouldn’t be in it for the money.

Furlong agrees.

But, “when members are caring for the health and welfare of citizens, and managing a budget of $900 million, they should be paid accordingly,” he said.

Cathers amended the motion to review MLA salaries — he changed the wording to make it a legislative initiative, not the government’s.

“It’s not a government priority,” said Cathers on Thursday.

But, after amending it, Cathers voted against the motion.

That’s unusual, said Cardiff.

“He made an amendment to make it better.”

“It’s a choice of individual members, and once the amendment passed, my personal choice was it’s not a personal priority,” said Cathers.

“I didn’t get into this for the money, and it’s not an area I had any real desire to focus on.”

Fentie also opposed the motion.

“The premier says he doesn’t even look at his pay stub,” said Cardiff.

“If that’s the case, he should donate it to a worthy cause that could use it.”

The salary review should be completed by the fall sitting, said Cardiff.

Yukon politicians will probably see a pay hike following the review, he added.

“But nothing is pre-determined,” said Cardiff.

“The review will look at what the job entails, what the same job entails in other jurisdictions and come up with recommendations.

“That will be sufficient for me.”