Scores of native chiefs out-earn PM

TheGlobeandMail.com – News/Politics
Published Monday, Nov. 22, 2010.    Gloria Galloway

More than 80 aboriginal-reserve politicians were paid more than Prime Minister Stephen Harper last year, according to new data obtained by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

The figures come one month after the organization used Access to Information laws to obtain salary information for band chiefs and councilors that showed at least 30 chiefs were making more than the after-tax income of Canada’s provincial premiers.

That was based on the release of partial information, the taxpayers federation said Monday. When the more complete data was obtained, it showed that 222 reserve politicians were making more than their respective premiers in 2008-09. And more than 700 received an income that was the equivalent of a off-reserve salary of more than $100,000.

The federation found that one native politician in Atlantic Canada was paid $978,468, last year which it says is the equivalent of $1.8-million off-reserve because aboriginals living on reserves are not required to pay income tax.

“We have been pushing for years for greater transparency but what really kick-started our efforts in this was about a year ago when we were given information from the Peguis reserve in Manitoba,” said Colin Craig, the federation’s prairie director.

“Those numbers showed that basically all five of the reserve’s politicians were making more that the Prime Minister of Canada.”

When the organization released the initial numbers in October, Grand Chief Ron Evans of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs pointed out that the average salary for a chief in Canada is about $60,000 and that the issues that they must deal with – land claims, health care, poverty, and over-crowded housing – are stressful.

Chief Evans said he was glad the taxpayers federation had raised the issue because it is important to have a discussion about it. But, he added, unlike the premiers, chiefs don’t get a pension when they leave office.

Mr. Craig said it was important to emphasize that not all on-reserve politicians are receiving exorbitant salaries.

But “a lot of reserve politicians are abusing their ability to set their own pay levels and to keep it hidden from the public.” And in most cases, he said, it is tax dollars that are paying those salaries.

The taxpayers federation supports a private member’s bill introduced by Conservative MP Kelly Block that would require the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs to post the salaries received by on-reserve politicians on the internet.

“These tax dollars aren’t meant for reserve politicians to live high on the hog,” Mr. Craig said. “They are meant for services for the people. But, far too often, reserve politicians are letting down their own people.”

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