|Daily out of town allowance||200||100|
* Alberta $18,210 non-taxable; NWT $1,000
|** All out-of-town Alberta members eligible for housing allowance. Cabinet ministers only in NWT.|
|*** Alberta uses sliding scale for committee meeting pay: 0-4 hours $95, 4-8 $157, 8+ $247|
by Richard Gleeson
Northern News Services
NNSL (Mar 19/97) - Basic pay is just the tip of the iceberg for members of the legislative assembly.
An array of added indemnities and expenses quickly ups the amount of tax dollars our elected leaders are entitled to.
Last year, members claimed a total of about $4.1 million in wages and expenses.
Though territorial officials will answer general questions about expenses, the policies from which those answers come are not available for public scrutiny.
Policy on cabinet expenses is contained in a confidential cabinet document. Details of expenses all MLAs can claim are also confidential.
Both policies are based on the provisions of the legislative assembly and Executive Council Act.
During the spring session, total expenses claimed by each member will be made public, but details of those expenses will not.
"We provide monthly updates to the members that break down every constituency expense they've incurred," explained Myles Moreside, director of finance for the legislative assembly.
"That shows their travel, advertising, cost of constituency meetings -- this is what we could provide (to the public) but it's not required by the legislation or policy."
Basic salaries and premiums for added roles -- such as chairing a committee -- were cut by seven per cent last year, just before bureaucrats' salaries were reduced eight per cent.
Salaries start at a basic $36,748 for ordinary members, $94,664 for ministers and the speaker and $99,723 for the premier.
Members collect another $200 for each day spent at committee meetings.
A variety of other roles provide added pay: $1,860 for caucus chairmen to $5,580 for deputy speaker.
And members from other constituencies are flown to and from the capital for committee meetings and sessions of the assembly courtesy of the legislative assembly.
While here, they get $207 a day for living expenses. Those with residences in Yellowknife collect $57 a day during session and committee meetings.
Among those making do on $57 a day are cabinet ministers from other constituencies who maintain residences in the capital.
If they bring their families with them, they are entitled to collect a maximum of $35,000 a year to cover household expenses. If they live alone that amount drops to $26,000.
In the office
Members are also eligible to claim a variety of expenses to cover the cost of running constituency offices.
Each ordinary MLA is entitled to claim 90 days of non-accountable living allowances for constituency work. Cabinet ministers, the premier and the speaker -- because they spend more time in the capital -- can claim only 30 days.
Non-accountable means members would have to inform the legislative assembly of the days spent doing such work but not show receipts.
That translates into $57 a day for work in the member's home community, or $200 a day for work outside the riding.
The remainder of constituency expenses must be backed up with receipts.
Members get between $450 and $900 a month to lease office space and cover utilities.
Annual budget limits to cover advertising, travel and accommodation related to constituency business range from $16,710 in Yellowknife to $31,544 in South Baffin.
Up to $5,000 is available for office furniture. Members are also entitled to bill the legislative assembly for computer equipment.
An allowance of $27,778 is available for the hiring of a constituency assistant.
Annual long-distance phone bill maximums range from $3,000 for Yellowknife MLAs to $5,110 for Baffin and High Arctic members.
Before or after each session, $1,000 is available for members who wish to produce a newsletter for their constituents.
Members are also entitled to 10 hours of free legal advice related to constituency matters.