There is something about the legislative assembly’s Board of Management that seems to give its members a uniquely different perspective on reality.
What some might call a luxury hotel in downtown Vancouver with a spa and a doorman, the Board of Management – the body of MLAs who oversee salaries and allowances for assembly members — might call “not out of line for hotels in downtown Vancouver.”
And what some might call a perk, that is flying from Yellowknife to Vancouver to stay at the hotel so Board of Management members could spend two days of government time talking about MLA pension plans with investment managers, the board may call it a “reasonable” investment of their time and resources.
So when the board hears that the wage freeze initiated by MLAs two years ago is about to expire one would think the politically prudent thing to do is to acknowledge the liability of allowing the resumption of annual MLA salary increases while the government they preside over plays hardball with its workers.
Instead, they insist no decision has been made just yet. Tim Mercer, clerk of the legislative assembly, meanwhile, who was elected by no one, insists the wage freeze has nothing to do with collective bargaining with the Union of Northern Workers for which these same politicians are responsible.
This logic essentially allows MLAs to put one hand in the government’s pocket and find money for their salary increases while putting the other hand in the other pocket and find nothing for GNWT employees and programs.
In most provinces across the country MLA wage increases are tied to government financial performance and the economy. This isn’t the case for the territory where only the consumer price index is considered in MLA wage increases outside of periodic salary reviews that affect the next assembly.
If economy and performance were key to their salary adjustments, MLAs in the Northwest Territories might have taken a lead from Saskatchewan. There, MLAs saw a 3.5 per cent wage decrease in May of this year, which is expected to save the government $500,000 a year while Manitoba MLAs took a wage freeze until the next election with Progressive Conservative MLAs even promising to reimburse $70,000 back to the government this fiscal year.
Whether our MLAs thought they might be done with collective agreement negotiations by the time their wage freeze expired is pure speculation but with a wage review to take place prior to the next election and with salaries already among the highest in the country, they need to tread lightly.
But better yet, instead of wandering into a slow-motion PR disaster hoping nobody will notice their wage freeze had ended, why not tell all workers in the territory they have their back and recognize tough times require tough measures, including for themselves.