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Politician pay raise shrouded in secrecy — or shame

Yukon Party MLAs Glenn Hart and Jim Kenyon sat on the committee that recommended a large increase to their salaries be made retroactive to June.

Yukon Party MLAs Glenn Hart and Jim Kenyon sat on the committee that recommended a large increase to their salaries be made retroactive to June.

Until now, the names had been suppressed by party brass.

Still, no one would answer for their actions on the Members’ Services Board, which recommended pay hikes for all MLAs based on a report commissioned by the committee this spring.

The report recommended pay hikes effective January 1, 2008. But an unnamed board member proposed making the salary increase retroactive to June 1, 2007.

The amendment was unanimously approved by the five-member board.

That means the average MLA will receive a minimum $20,000 extra on their first cheque in the new-year, depending on their position.

As an added bonus, the salary windfall won’t be taxed until next year.

Politicians would not confirm who put forward the motion, but there was a discussion about how appropriate retroactive pay would be.

A consensus was reached on the motion.

The increase was passed in the legislature without debate on the retro pay, which adds another $300,000 to the cost of salary increase.

Before the increase, MLAs were paid $38,000 annually, the lowest in Canada.

All MLAs will be paid $65,000 annually, plus more for holding cabinet and leadership positions.

MLAs sitting in cabinet receive an extra $35,000 a year, and the premier gets another $15,000 on top of that.

The leader of the official opposition gets $35,000 on top of the base MLA salary, while the third party leader gets an additional $15,000.

Calls to the Yukon Party office were not returned by deadline. Speaker Ted Staffen, the committee chair, did not return calls.

Both the NDP and Liberal parties spoke about the committee’s decision, but were short on details.

“I’m not going to tell you what anyone else said and who said what,” said NDP MLA Steve Cardiff, who stood in for leader Todd Hardy at the meetings.

He supported the report’s recommendations. He also confirmed the presence of Hart and Kenyon at the meeting.

“There was a discussion about retroactivity, and a consensus was reached,” said Cardiff.

“It was a consensus decision, that says it all right there.”

The report should have accepted in its entirety without changes, said Liberal Leader Arthur Mitchell.

“I didn’t think it was right to make (the salary increase) retroactive, nor was it politically smart,” he said.

Mitchell raised concerns about the retro pay but a consensus was needed and he bowed to the majority.

He did not put forward the retroactive pay motion, he said.

“I believe it was a government member, but I don’t know,” he added.

Mitchell removed himself from the legislature when the second and third reading of the legislation came forward.

“I would have felt I had to speak on the (retro pay) and nobody seemed to want a big debate over it,” he said.

Board members made the argument that since they made the decision in the spring to move forward with a pay hike, salaries will be made retroactive to that time.

Salaries for ministers and the premier were actually lower in 2007 than in 1979.

And, along with the leader of the opposition and third-party leader, they are less the half the national average.

The raise puts Yukon politicians fourth last in Canada, in front of Alberta, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.

Wage hikes will cost about $520,000 annually on top of the current cost of $1,040,000.

The raise was recommended by former clerk of the assembly Patrick Michael in a report released last month.