MLA pay streamlined
Base pay now $71,000 before deductions

Glen Korstrom
Northern News Services

NNSL (Sep 20/99) - How much MLAs are paid has now become clearer.

A bill passed recently in the legislative assembly rolls several MLA allowances into a single annual $71,000 base salary, in part to show clearly how much they are paid.

Additional payments are in store for the members that also serve as the speaker, $25,000; the premier, $54,000; a cabinet minister, $38,000; the deputy speaker, $5,000 and standing committee chairs, $3,000.

"The proposed changes are major strides in providing the transparency that the public wants and will make the system easier to understand," said Finance Minister Charles Dent just before the bill became law.

"The system is flexible while still maintaining public accountability for expenditures made by and on behalf of members."

The changes mean that instead of an unaccountable allowance for living and other expenses, there will be an accountable expense for living in Yellowknife.

This allowance will not exceed $15,000 per year. Expenses will also be paid for travelling to and from a member's constituency.

Other major changes to the bill deal with conflict of interest.

These changes include implementing the recommendations made by the conflict of interest review panel.

Panel members recommended changes in four main areas: a stronger and more accessible conflict of interest commissioner's office, a defined procedure for dealing with conflict of interest investigations, a less expensive and more timely alternative to full public inquiries where warranted and a regime where NWT residents know what is expected of MLAs and senior appointed GNWT staff and how and where to voice concerns.

"I think I can safely say that no one is happier than I am that some of these rather vague areas in the legislation have been more clearly defined," said Hay River MLA Jane Groenewegen.

"I think we found out the hard way -- that there were areas that needed to be clearly defined."

According to Dent, who presented the bill to the house, the process for filing a complaint, its investigation and disposition has been refined to make it less complicated for the complainant and for the member named in the complaint.

"The bill proposes that the reasonable costs of a member complained against shall be paid according to a policy of the Board of Management," Dent said.

"The bill also proposes that no payment be made for a complainant's costs."