Liard First Nation Chief Liard McMillan won another three-year term in a hotly contested election on Monday.
McMillan, 34, said he plans to spend his third term focusing on the social woes widespread in his constituency of Watson Lake and Lower Post. Alcoholism and its attendant ills are prevalent in the communities, and McMillan hopes to see the First Nation help its members heal with specialized programs.
Getting more members out of their overcrowded housing units and out on traplines shared by members would be a good start, he said.
McMillan also campaigned on a pledge that will send a shiver down the spine of Yukon’s animal rights lobby: he wants to introduce a $150 bounty on wolves.
The measure will be unpopular with some, McMillan acknowledged, but it has solid support among his members, who fault wolves for lowering the number of moose and caribou nearby.
He also plans to ramp up a fight against the Kaska Dena Council in Lower Post, across the British Columbia border. In the fractious world of Kaska politics, McMillan is firmly rooted in the camp that’s opposed to negotiating land claim agreements with Ottawa.
The council, meanwhile, is doing just that, on behalf of all Kaska – a group that includes members of the Liard First Nation and Ross River First Nation, which “are being dragged kicking and screaming into this process without our consent,” according to McMillan.
“We want to unveil some of the secrecy and lack of accountability around those issues.”
McMillan was first elected as chief in 2003. This election was the stiffest race he’s fought yet. Of the three challengers, the biggest threat was George Morgan, who accused McMillan of financial mismanagement, making hay of a scandal involving the purchase of three hotels that was financed, in part, with federal affordable housing money.
Both accuse the other of personal attacks and dirty tricks. In the end, McMillan overtook Morgan by slightly fewer than 60 votes.
In Morgan’s view, the results show how “tribalism … takes precedence over common sense” in the community.
One criticism aimed at Morgan was he was merely visiting Watson Lake and that, if he lost, he would soon return to his job with the federal government in Ottawa. He wouldn’t say what his plans are now.
“I’m not even going to go there with you. That is not an election issue.”
Another chief shares his salary
Peter Johnston, chief of the Teslin Tlingit Council, earns $70,000 a year.
He was out of town last week, when the Yukon News polled each First Nation chief and asked whether he or she would disclose their salary in the spirit of openness and accountability.
But Johnston doesn’t mind sharing how much he earns. “Certain things shouldn’t be talked about. This isn’t one of them.”
Johnston had several members ask him why he hadn’t disclosed his salary. He wants everyone to know he has nothing to hide.
“We’re different from some other First Nations. We’re above board.”
Friday’s article noted that the Vuntut Gwitchin is the only Yukon First Nation to disclose its financial statements online, yet these statements don’t include a break down of how much chief and council are paid.
But this information can be found elsewhere, in the First Nations’ Governance Act, which is online, noted Darius Elias, MLA for Vuntut Gwichin.
Chief Joe Linklater earns at least $93,323. He could earn more, if the management committee wanted to reward him for additional duties. Linklater didn’t return another call to the News by deadline.
The salaries of nine chiefs remain a mystery to the public: Mark Wedge of the Carcross/Tagish First Nation, James Allen of the Champagne/Aishihik First Nations, Brenda Sam of the Ta’an Kwach’an Council, Eddie Taylor of the Tr’ondek Hwech’in First Nation, Darin Isaac, chief of the Selkirk First Nation, Mike Smith of the Kwanlin Dun First Nation, Eddie Skookum of the Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation, Jack Caesar of the Ross River Dena Council and David Johnny Sr. of White River First Nation.
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