How much did we pay our Nunavut MLAs last year?
Ex-cabinet minister Jeannie Ugyuk the highest paid MLA in 2014-15
Members of the Legislative Assembly of Nunavut, dependent on the whims of voters for positions that are guaranteed for only four years or less, hold some of the most precarious jobs in the territory.
But with a guaranteed six-figure annual salary, Nunavut MLAs are rolling in the dough — especially those who manage to claw their way into cabinet.
A document disclosing annual MLA pay packages for the period between April 1, 2014 and March 31, 2015 — the most recent year for which numbers are available — shows the lowest paid MLA that year, Alexander Sammurtok of Rankin Inlet, pulled in $115,872.
As for the highest paid MLA in 2014-15, that honour goes to Jeannie Ugyuk, ex-cabinet minister and ex-MLA for Netsilik.
Before she quit in November 2015, during her last full year of employment Ugyuk raked in $208,084.
In comparison, the median income for her home community, Taloyoak, stood at only $22,630 in 2013 and at only $28,910 for all of Nunavut.
The legislative assembly pays MLAs under a complex system of salary payments called “indemnities,” plus the standard housing and northern allowances that all Government of Nunavut employees are eligible for.
Some regular members get extra payments for serving as committee chairs, and no two MLAs receive exactly the same amount. (See document embedded at the bottom of the page.)
In 2014-15, every MLA started off with a basic MLA indemnity of $97,355.
On top of that, each cabinet minister, except the premier and deputy premier, took in a ministerial indemnity: $75,505 per year.
And, on top of the basic $97,355 MLA salary, the premier gets the biggest ministerial indemnity of them all. In 2014-15, that was worth an extra $89,698.
That, plus the standard GN housing and northern allowance payments, gave Premier Peter Taptuna a total salary of $206,869.
Deputy Premier Monica Ell, who received the deputy premier’s ministerial indemnity of $82,601, recorded a total salary, including allowances, of $199,772.
Speaker George Qulaut, who got the equivalent of the standard cabinet indemnity, took in $195,439.
Even Samuel Nuqingaq, the disgraced ex-MLA for Uqqummiut who barely got a chance to try out his seat in the legislature, earned a basic salary of $56,170 and a northern allowance payment of $13,061 for a total pay package worth $69,231.
Between the fall of 2013 and the spring of 2014, MLAs imposed two suspensions on Nuqingaq for “unacceptable conduct” caused by alcohol abuse.
That includes the period between May 22, 2014 and July 16, 2014, when Nuqingaq was paid for doing nothing — because MLAs decided to suspend him with pay.
Nuqingaq eventually received a conditional discharge in October 2015 after pleading guilty to a charge of being unlawfully in a dwelling house in relation to an incident that occurred in his home community of Qikiqtarjuaq in February 2014.
In October 2014, MLAs booted him out for good.
His successor, Pauloosie Keyootak, who took the Uqqummiut seat in a byelection held Feb. 9, 2015, received salary and allowances worth $16,157 for the approximately two-and-a-half month period between the election and the end of the 2014-15 fiscal year.
For cabinet ministers, the benefits don’t end with their indemnity and allowance payments.
Cabinet ministers who maintain a primary residence outside Iqaluit are entitled to reimbursement for costs related to maintaining a second residence in the capital.
In 2014-15, Environment Minister Johnny Mike, who is from Pangnirtung, received temporary accommodation benefit payments totalling $70,397.79, according to a second document tabled separately earlier this month.
Under the same benefit scheme, Education Minister Paul Quassa received $58,780.22, Taptuna received $54,004.83 and Ugyuk received $38,650.37.
That’s not all.
Cabinet ministers from outside Iqaluit may also claim “home travel expenses” for themselves, their spouses and their children.
Under that arrangement, Ugyuk received $60,051.57, Taptuna received $59,090.48, Finance Minister Keith Peterson received $36,810.89 and Quassa received $23,309.72.