The Yukon government ought to disclose the salaries of its top bosses, say the territory’s NDP and Liberal opposition parties.
Such information is easily found in other, less-secretive jurisdictions. A quick survey conducted by Yukon News found that at least four provinces disclose the salaries and performance bonuses paid to deputy ministers, who effectively run government departments.
But in the Yukon, this information is secret.
This, despite the fact that the salaries and bonuses paid to deputy ministers are political decisions. Cabinet determines both.
The territory will only disclose the pay band of deputy ministers, rather than individual salaries. In 2008, Yukon’s deputies received salaries in the range of $138,897 to $180,403.
That’s not good enough, says NDP Leader Todd Hardy.
“This is public money,” he said. “Therefore the public has a right to know. We need that open accountability.”
“If I was premier, damn right. All salaries would be made public, all contracts and bonuses.”
Liberal Leader Arthur Mitchell was out of town and unavailable for comment. But Don Inverarity, the Liberal MLA for Porter Creek South, agrees that such information ought to be released.
“I’m not sure if we need to post them on the front page of the newspaper, but they should be made available, certainly at the legislative assembly level,” he said.
Premier Dennis Fentie often boasts how his government is open and accountable. But, on this subject, he declined to speak.
It should be noted that previous Liberal and NDP governments never disclosed the salaries and bonuses paid to top bosses, either. But they were never asked.
For the past 12 years, Ontario has disclosed the salaries of all public servants who earn more than $100,000.
“It lets taxpayers compare the performance of an organization with the compensation given to the people running it,” is how the Ontario government explains why it does so.
Given the lacklustre reviews that some government employees gave their bosses in the latest employment engagement survey, it would be interesting to see what annual bonuses some of the deputy ministers took in, said Hardy.
“I do question whether any of these people deserve a bonus if their employees feel very dissatisfied with the leadership they’re working under,” he said.
Keeping such information secret may not benefit deputy ministers, either, said Hardy.
He recalls how Gordie Howe, at the top of his hockey game, was paid a mediocre salary by his employers at the Detroit Red Wings.
Howe was assured he earned far more than anyone else. For this reason, he was instructed to not tell anyone his salary.
It turned out he was being chiselled.
“That’s how you manipulate and that’s how you basically prevent employees understanding where they rate, what they’re being paid, are they being valued properly. That’s actually what brought about the initial movement for the NHL players’ association,” said Hardy.
“This is an old system that should be abolished.”
Inverarity finds nothing unusual in the Yukon government’s decision to keep deputy minister salaries secret. That’s just how the Yukon Party runs things, he said.
“If we ask questions about the budget in the House, we don’t get answers,” he said. “They’re constantly skirting the issue and they won’t come out and tell us what they’re spending on things.”
Information that should be public is also frequently shielded by the government behind Yukon’s access to information laws, said Inverarity. Yukon News tried to obtain the salaries of deputy ministers through an access to information request but was denied. The paper is appealing.
Such obstruction makes it difficult for opposition parties to hold government accountable, said Inverarity.
“How do you do that when information is being withheld?” he asked.
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