Yukon MLAs overdue for a raise

On April 1, Yukon MLAs will get a raise. For 13 years, salaries for the premier, ministers and leaders of the opposition have been frozen.

On April 1, Yukon MLAs will get a raise.

For 13 years, salaries for the premier, ministers and leaders of the opposition have been frozen.

However, the indemnity, or base rate, for all MLAs has fluctuated slightly, according to the consumer price index, to cover the rising cost of living.

Nevertheless, Yukon MLAs remain some of the lowest paid in Canada.

Next month’s raise won’t change that.

At the lowest end of the scale, a backbench or opposition MLA from Whitehorse makes $37,434, and receives $16,342 for expenses. So, if you roll in the expense budget, they currently make about $53,776 a year.

On April 1, the indemnity will increase to $38,183, a rise of about two per cent.

A rural MLA makes slightly more in expenses: $18,717.

Ministers and the Official Opposition leader make an additional $21,147, as they have since 1993 when then-premier John Ostashek cut pay for all Yukon civil servants.

“John Ostashek came to power and thought the finances of the government were in terrible shape,” said Patrick Michael, clerk of the legislative assembly.

“So he cut the civil servants’ pay by two per cent, but in the same bill he brought forward, the MLA pay was cut by five (per cent) and then frozen,” said Michael on Thursday.

“It took a few years for the indexing to kick back in. It took until 1998 to recover the level of pay they had on April 1, 1992.

“The salaries for ministers and leaders were all knocked down, but they never were indexed. So the number that they were dropped to — $21,147 for a minister — is still current pay.”

Ministers were paid higher salaries in the early ‘80s — $24,000 — but their salaries were cut to $20,000 for most of that decade.

Now, a minister from a rural riding grosses $77,298, including expenses and indemnity.

The premier makes $7,824 more than a minister.

So Premier Dennis Fentie, who is a rural MLA from Watson Lake, will gross $85,122 for 2005-06.

In past interviews Fentie said he wasn’t worried about the relatively low pay for Yukon politicians, claiming he is “not in it for the money.”

Fentie is principally responsible for a budget that has topped $800 million in recent years.

This year’s budget is projected to be $790 million.

Contact Graeme McElheran at gmcelheran@yukon-news.com

CULTURE

Yukon museums

to get $200,000

Yukon’s museums are slated for a raise this year, Culture minister Elaine Taylor announced from Whitehorse’s Old Log Church Museum Thursday.

The territory’s museums and interpretive and cultural centres will see $200,000 more in their 2006-2007 budgets, taking total spending in the area to an even $1.5 million, subject to legislative approval.

The announcement comes as part of a flurry of pre-budget spending, in areas like infrastructure, the arts and emergency measures, which has many Yukon Party ministers crowing this week.

The bulk of the new money will pay for special exhibits, counting and cataloguing artifacts, and joint marketing initiatives.

Museums and cultural institutions fuel the territory’s economy, said Yukon Historical and Museums Association president Julia Pike, who flew in from Dawson City for the announcement.

They add $3.3 million a year to the territory’s economy, and employ 10 per cent of the population in Yukon’s communities, she said.

And with this new funding, we’ll be able to do even more, added Pike.

“Now let’s cross our fingers and hope for a fruitful visitors season,” Taylor added. (LC)

COMMUNICATIONS

E-mailers back online

A “hardware issue” stopped some correspondence from flowing freely in the Yukon this week.

The outage affected all Northwestel residential customers who use northwestel.net addresses.

“We’ve had some ups and downs,” said Northwestel spokesperson Anne Kennedy.

The service went down Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m. and was restored at 11:15 a.m. Thursday.

At about 12:30 p.m. it went down again and came back up around 1:30 p.m., according to Kennedy.

“At this point they’re still looking into the cause, but it appeared to be a problem with the e-mail server,” said Kennedy.

Northwestel will not release the number of affected customers. (LC)