Brad Cathers, Yukon Party MLA, said his party opposes the bill that would see a pay increase for Premier Sandy Silver, for Speaker of the House Nils Clarke, for deputy speaker Don Hutton, and for Leader of the third party, Liz Hanson. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)

Yukon MLAs consider a bigger payday

New bill proposes salary increase for some members of the legislative assembly

Some members of the Yukon legislative assembly will see a pay increase if a new bill is adopted this fall.

On Oct. 10, Liberal MLA Tracy-Anne McPhee introduced Bill 25.

Included among the amendments to the Legislative Assembly Act is one that would see salary increases for Premier Sandy Silver, for Speaker of the House Nils Clarke, for deputy speaker Don Hutton , and for Leader of the third party, Liz Hanson.

The members’ services board (five MLAs appointed to be responsible for financial and administrative policies affecting the legislative assembly) recommended an increase for Silver of $2,946, for Clarke of $9,001, for Hutton of $3,676 and for Hanson of $2,860.

Speaking to the News on Oct. 11, NDP MLA Kate White said the NDP is opposed to the bill.

“We’ve been talking since 2016 about the importance of reviewing the minimum wage,” said White.

“They chose to first review MLA and minister’s salaries before reviewing minimum wage. So that’s the issue.”

“We believe that until that (minimum wage) review is done and it says that minimum wage is going up, there is no way we can support this bill.”

White said the bill includes other important issues (such as a new formula for calculating severance), but as there’s no separating those from the salary increase, the NDP won’t support the bill.

Brad Cathers, Yukon Party MLA, said his party also opposes the bill. Cathers, who is one of five MLAs on the members’ services board, said he voted against the bill.

“We made it clear for months that the MLA pay review was not a priority for the Yukon Party caucus. We also made it clear to the other caucuses that we oppose salary increases to elected officials while cuts to health are being considered,” he said.

Cathers said it shows poor leadership to push through a salary increase for government while at the same time introducing cuts to departments such as education and health and social services. In early October, a leaked government document called on deputy ministers to reduce operations and maintenance budgets by up to two per cent.

“If the health system is being made to make do with less, it’s not appropriate to talk about increasing salaries (for government).”

After question period on Oct. 10, McPhee told reporters a review like this hasn’t been done since 2007.

“What I’d like to also explain about that is that the rationale for this is that the leader of the opposition’s salary is already at 25 per cent of the Canadian average for MLAs across the country,” she said. “And it seemed like a reasonable thing to do, was to bring the other leaders so they were all in line with the 25 per cent.”

“It’s always a complex situation when you have to bring forward legislation or deal with the issues around raising, virtually, your own pay or the pay of your colleagues and I think there just hasn’t necessarily been the opportunity or the will to do that.”

Cathers said the Yukon Party doesn’t share the view that the salary discrepancy is a significant problem.

“As I say, this is not about comparing salaries to salaries. The issue is the priorities of Yukoners.”

Additional changes to the bill include a new formula for calculating severance, one that links severance to the number of years of completed service rather than fixed service thresholds. In 2016, a clause in the Legislative Assembly Act doubled severance pay for most MLAs.

As well, amounts specified for expense allowances were changed. This follows recent changes to the Income Tax Act which means that, beginning on Jan. 1, MLAs lose tax-exempt status.

The bill will be voted on this fall.

With files from Julien Gignac

Contact Amy Kenny at amy.kenny@yukon-news.com

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