Leading by example

Nacho Nyak Dun Chief Simon Mervyn makes $70,000 a year. He should get a raise. Alright, maybe not a raise per se. But he should definitely get a pat on the back.

Nacho Nyak Dun Chief Simon Mervyn makes $70,000 a year. He should get a raise.

Alright, maybe not a raise per se. But he should definitely get a pat on the back.

So should Liard McMillan of the Liard First Nation. And Math’ieya Alatini of the Kluane First Nation. And Peter Johnston of the of Teslin Tlingit Council.

All four of these aboriginal leaders voluntarily answered a Yukon News query about their annual pay in the name of transparency and accountability.

Of the four, Alatini makes the most at $82,000. The others make far less. And they are taxed on their earnings by Ottawa.

These leaders are living up to their title.

It is not the same across Canada.

Recently the Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation revealed more than 700 chiefs in Canada were paid more than $100,000 a year. And 82 were paid more than Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who made $315,462 last year.

A chief and three councillors with the Glooscap First Nation, population 300, in Nova Scotia were each paid more than $209,000 a year. And maybe they are worth it. Maybe.

Understand that aboriginal leaders have to contend with issues that would give many municipal mayors nightmares – abject poverty, education, health and social service challenges, housing, economic development, resource management and development, water delivery and other duties.

Frequently all this has to be done with small, tangled populations with all the rivalries and resentments that come with that. In such communities, often power is concentrated.

As a result, leadership carries far more headaches and responsibilities than your typical municipal politician might face.

But, faced with the poverty, the politics and the power, a leader must be more transparent, not less.

McMillan, Alatini, Johnston and Mervyn understand this. They are leading by example.

It is a well-established tradition in Canada. Political leaders across the country publish their salaries. It is unthinkable to do otherwise.

So why do some aboriginal leaders argue otherwise? Why do they think they are exempt from the standard met by, say, Whitehorse Mayor Bev Buckway? Or, for that matter, the prime minister of Canada.

Bottom line, they are not.

Some insist they share their salary with members, but not the media.

That, too, is a dubious response. Again, if that information is freely available to members, what is the problem sharing it with the media?

Who are they trying to zoom?

Which is what this issue is all about.

By their cowering, secretive ways, the other Yukon chiefs are simply adding to their problems – fostering speculation, jealousy and, ultimately, resentment among their constituents. And, in some cases, beyond them.

Their silence suggests they have something to hide.

They would serve themselves and their communities better if they just published their salaries.

At least then all the cards would be on the table.

After all, a competent leader can easily justify what they’re getting paid.