As new MLAs move in, severance cash moves out

It’s a busy time in Yukon’s main administration building these days. The remaining Yukon Party MLAs are packing up and preparing to move into the Opposition offices in the basement, as the newly elected Liberals get ready to move in upstairs.

It’s a busy time in Yukon’s main administration building these days.

The remaining Yukon Party MLAs are packing up and preparing to move into the Opposition offices in the basement, as the newly elected Liberals get ready to move in upstairs.

The NDP is also relocating into the former Liberal offices downstairs.

“Probably within the next week, everybody will be relocated,” said Helen Fitzsimmons, a director with the legislative assembly office.

She said that because the distribution of seats between the three parties is exactly what it was in 2011, no renovations are needed. But they will have to figure out what staff they need, and the Liberals have “got to do some major recruiting,” she said.

Fitzsimmons said the date for the official swearing-in of the new government will likely be announced next week. She said there’s been no indication from premier-designate Sandy Silver about when he’ll hold the new government’s first legislative session.

“They don’t have to call a fall session if they don’t want to,” she explained. “There’s no schedule.”

In the Yukon, legislative sittings are limited to a maximum of 60 days a year.

As the outgoing MLAs leave, however, they will be collecting their severance pay. For most of them, that amount is double what it would have been had the election been held by Oct. 11. That’s because severance pay jumps from 25 to 50 per cent of an MLA’s earnings after five years in office, and the last election was held on Oct. 11, 2011.

In total, the MLAs who weren’t re-elected will collect more than $600,000 in severance, though the exact amounts won’t be available until new ministers have been announced.

That includes roughly $66,000 for outgoing premier Darrell Pasloski, $58,000 for each Yukon Party minister, and $38,000 for NDP MLAs. Former Speaker David Laxton will receive just over $31,000. Outgoing deputy premier Elaine Taylor will receive about $116,000 and the Yukon Party’s Darius Elias will receive about $75,000, as they have been in office for more than eight years and are entitled to a full year’s income in severance.

Most of the outgoing MLAs will also have their pension contributions returned to them with interest, though Taylor and Elias are entitled to pension benefits once they reach age 55.

Pasloski will receive about $72,000 in pension contributions, his ministers about $60,000 and other MLAs about $39,000.

The government will also pay for Elias’s rent in Old Crow through the end of December. It’s customary for rural MLAs to have their rent covered in Whitehorse or in the riding they represent, if they don’t already have residences in both.

The Yukon Liberals have promised to legislate fixed election dates. If those dates are fixed at intervals of exactly five years or less, that would prevent the severance pay of first-term MLAs from abruptly doubling days before they’re voted out of office.

Contact Maura Forrest at maura.forrest@yukon-news.com

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