salary review long overdue

On Wednesday, politicians initiated a review of their wages. It has been more than 20 years since Yukon politicians’ wages were reviewed.

On Wednesday, politicians initiated a review of their wages.

It has been more than 20 years since Yukon politicians’ wages were reviewed.

That is way too long.

Currently, the Yukon premier is running a $900-million operation. Dennis Fentie is making roughly half the wage his deputies are.

It is too little.

Of course, deputy ministers serve at the whim of ministers. But Fentie’s job security is similarly tenuous.

All politicians’ jobs are.

And they are the ones who carry the responsibility of running the government.

And so they should be paid more.

There are several variables, but the ballpark salary of an opposition MLA is $54,000.

That’s all politicians can bank on when they consider running for office.

A teacher, a relatively successful businessperson or just about any other professional working in the Yukon would take a significant pay cut if they won an election.

It’s noble to consider public service something people should do for relatively little compensation, but the reality is that people have mortgages, children en route to university and alimony payments to make.

And so, the low wage the Yukon pays its politicians has become a barrier to finding new talent.

And all three parties know it.

Check their rosters in the last few elections and you’ll find some good candidates. You’ll also find some Styrofoamers.

It isn’t good for the territory.

The dearth of credible candidates actually erodes confidence in the political system.

The public reviews the slates and concludes the territory lacks the talent to fill 18 seats with dynamic, thoughtful people.

They see three or four good folks in each party and suggest an end to the party system.

But the problem isn’t the party system.

It’s the wages.

There are hundreds of talented people in the Yukon. They just can’t afford to give up their day jobs for a seat in the legislature.

They look at the hassle, the lack of security and the salary and they pass on the opportunity.

Now an independent commission will review MLA salaries as they compare to other jurisdictions.

The report is due in the fall.

New Democrat Steve Cardiff got the ball rolling.

A politician’s job has changed in the last 20 years or so, he said, noting the Yukon’s population has increased, as has the number of issues and their complexity.

“We’re calling for an independent, non-partisan commission to look at what MLAs are paid in other jurisdictions and what benefits they receive, to compare that with what MLAs make and the benefits they receive.

“This isn’t for us, necessarily. It’s for the future.”

He’s right.

We applaud him for moving this forward. (RM)


Wages Part II

There’s something strange going on in the ranks of the Yukon Party.

On Wednesday, Premier Dennis Fentie and Health Minister Brad Cathers voted against their colleagues. Or vice versa.

Sometimes it’s hard to tell these things.

What we do know is that Fentie and Cathers were the only two members to oppose the establishment of a salary review commission.

And, in subsequent media interviews, a feisty (some might say angry) Fentie deemed such a review unnecessary.

He bristled at the suggestion that raising salaries would raise the calibre of the politicians sitting in the house.

“What you’re saying is those of us who are toiling away in the political arena right now and have in the past — never once complaining about the remuneration received — are not capable,” he told CBC Radio One.

“I’ve never made the decision to enter politics for the money.

“If I wanted to make more money, I’d go back to the private sector.”

Of course, that’s not the point at all.

Over the years, the legislature has seen many capable, clever and distinguished people.

But the wage issue is a barrier preventing people from running.

His party apparently knows this. They all voted for the NDP motion.

Fentie and Cathers didn’t.

It’s rare for the Yukon Party caucus not to vote as a block.

The fact the caucus voted against Fentie on this issue, one he’s clearly passionate about, suggests a schism on that bench.

And you know what they say: It’s money that’s going to cause the biggest problems in any relationship. (RM)