Politics

How much do the NWT premier, cabinet, and MLAs earn?


A vote is taking place on Thursday to determine the next leader of the Northwest Territories and their six cabinet members. But what's the pay like for all of those positions?

Four people are running for premier and a good number of the 19 newly elected MLAs are hoping to win positions on cabinet. Once the premier and cabinet are sworn in, on Friday, the premier can begin assigning cabinet members to departments as ministers.

The jobs of regular MLA, premier, and minister all carry different salaries. There are also a range of other factors contributing to the annual sum an MLA is ultimately paid.

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Regular MLA – starting at $107,940

If you're a regular MLA, put simply, it means you aren't in cabinet and you're not the speaker. Since cabinet comprises seven people (including the premier) and the speaker makes eight, that means 11 of the 19 territorial politicians will qualify as regular MLAs.

All MLAs also get a series of benefits and other allowances, outlined lower in this article, but $107,940 is the basic annual salary. No MLA will earn any less than that.

Committee chairs – at least $111,308

In reality, not many MLAs earn only the basic annual salary. Of the 11 regular MLAs, several will end up chairing standing committees or, potentially, special committees. Chairing a committee earns between an extra $3,368 and $9,925, depending on the committee, elevating that regular MLA's salary.

Committees are an important part of how territorial politicians get things done. Almost all in-depth scrutinizing of legislation happens in committees, even though you don't hear about them as often as you hear about the televised question-and-answer sessions between MLAs and ministers. (Committee meetings are regularly televised too, on community TV or via the Legislative Assembly's social channels, if you're keen.)

The chair of caucus – caucus being the entire group of 19 MLAs – also gets a $3,368 payment (called an indemnity), while the deputy chair of the Committee of the Whole, which is the name for the full group of 19 when they sit as a committee, earns an additional $4,562.

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Speaker – $154,922

The speaker, who keeps the other MLAs in order and ensures things proceed smoothly when they come together in the legislature, gets an indemnity of $46,982 on top of their salary as a regular MLA.

There is also a $7,601 indemnity for a deputy speaker.

Minister – $165,711

Six cabinet members each receive $57,771 on top of their salary as a regular MLA when they become ministers of the NWT government's various departments. The premier assigns ministerial portfolios to cabinet members once the composition of cabinet has been decided through a series of secret ballots. (This is not an immediate process, and can take weeks.)

Premier – $190,036

The new premier will, naturally, be the highest-paid MLA in the legislature, receiving an additional indemnity of $82,096.

How does that compare to other jurisdictions? Here's a guide to premiers' salaries (basic pay plus premier's indemnity only, excluding all other allowances – figures from provincial and territorial legislatures on October 23, 2019, unless otherwise stated):

  • British Columbia: $210,946
  • Nova Scotia: $202,026
  • Nunavut: $198,521 (reported 2018 figure)
  • Quebec: $196,193
  • NWT: $190,036
  • Alberta: $186,180
  • Manitoba: $173,714
  • Saskatchewan: $166,137
  • Newfoundland & Labrador: $160,525
  • Prince Edward Island: $152,898 (reported 2018 figure)
  • New Brunswick: $152,150 (reported 2017 figure, frozen until 2021)
  • Yukon: $143,493
  • Ontario: $112,771 (reported 2018 figure for Doug Ford; previously $209,000)

Additional benefits and allowances

Every NWT MLA gets a tax-free expense allowance of $7,778 per year.

Those who don't live "within commuting distance" of Yellowknife get that doubled to $15,556 and can also be reimbursed up to $31,000 annually for a "temporary residence" in Yellowknife, or – if they "establish a secondary residence" in Yellowknife, in addition to one in their home community – they can receive up to $31,000 plus an additional $6,000 annually for each dependent in the second home, up to an annual total of $49,000.

MLAs have access to various health, dental, and insurance plans, and a pension plan. More details are set out on the Legislative Assembly's website.

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