Report reveals Nunavut MLAs raked in big bucks last year
MLA pay packets in 2016-17 ranged from $122,762 to $220,106 a year
It’s not hard to understand why so many Nunavut MLAs want to seek re-election this Oct. 30.
As revealed in a report tabled in the legislative assembly Sept. 19, members of the Nunavut legislature make big bucks—and they rank among the best paid wage earners in Nunavut.
All MLAs fall within the top five per cent of wage earners in Canada and some are close to the top one per cent.
The only downside? An MLA’s job is highly precarious—subject to the whims of voters and guaranteed for only four years.
The 30-page report covers the financial year between April 1, 2016 and March 31, 2017, the last full year in which MLAs were on the public payroll.
Not surprisingly, the document reveals that the MLA with the greatest responsibility, Premier Peter Taptuna, took home the biggest pay packet during that period: $220,106.
Taptuna’s pay increased by about $14,000 over the past two years. A report from 2014-15 said Taptuna took in $206,860 that year.
It’s also $21,000 higher than the amount that Eva Aariak, then the premier, received seven years ago in 2010-11: $199,936.
Taptuna’s cabinet colleagues aren’t starving either. The second highest paid MLA in 2016-17 was Iqaluit-Manirajak MLA Monica Ell-Kanayuk, who has served as economic development minister and minister responsible for numerous other portfolios, at $212,505.
Cambridge Bay MLA Keith Peterson, who serves as minister of finance, justice and other portfolios, came in third at $209,609.
Nunavut MLAs are paid through a complex system of payments that they call indemnities and allowances. That means no two MLAs get the same total salary.
All MLAs started off the 2016-17 fiscal year with an MLA indemnity, or salary payment, of $104,245. The first $1,000 is tax free.
On top that, each MLA received whatever northern allowance their community was eligible for, at amounts equal to those listed in the collective agreement between the Government of Nunavut and its unionized employees.
Some regular MLAs got extra amounts for serving as chair or deputy chair of a standing committee and in 2016-17, 11 of the 22 MLAs got a housing allowance of $4,800.
That housing allowance is available to all MLAs who own their own house and use it as their principal residence or who pay full market rent for a housing unit.
And those MLAs able to grab a cabinet job got an extra ministerial indemnity, worth $80,048.
Speaker George Qulaut of Amittuq received a speaker’s indemnity, also worth $80,048. Put together with a northern allowance of $22,579, that gave Qulaut a total salary of $207,672 that year.
Because he’s premier, Taptuna received a higher ministerial indemnity: $96,046 and Ell-Kanayuk, because she’s deputy premier, received a ministerial indemnity of $88,445.
Among regular MLAs, Alexander Sammurtok was the lowest paid, at $122,762. South Baffin MLA David Joanasie was the next lowest, at $123,731.
And Tununiq MLA Joe Enook was the highest paid regular MLA. He took in $157,519.
In the Northwest Territories, MLAs receive a basic salary similar to Nunavut’s: $103,851. But the extra amounts for premier ($78,896), speaker ($45,203) and cabinet minister ($55,583) in the NWT are lower than for Nunavut.
In 2015, Statistics Canada reported, based on tax returns, that to make it into the top vie per cent in 2013, a taxfiler would have to earn at least $115,700 per year, a category that all MLAs fell into last year.
To make it into the top one per cent, a taxfiler in 2013 would require a total income of $222,000. Some Nunavut cabinet member are already earning close to that amount.
MLAs also receive travel and living allowances to cover expenses incurred when performing their duties, but those payments are not considered part of their income.
And outside of their pay, MLAs get funding to run their constituency offices and hire constituency staff.
Readers can view MLAs’ constituency expense reports for 2016-17, as well as all salary disclosures, in the report embedded below.
Sept. 19 was the last sitting day of the fourth legislative assembly of Nunavut which is set to dissolve this Sunday, Sept. 24 in time for the issuance of a writ of election Sept. 25.
Election day is Oct. 30. The deadline for filing declarations of candidacy is Sept. 29, 2 p.m. local time.