Nearly every member of the Tory caucus has some extra job that they’re working on the side — and most of them are getting paid tens of thousands of dollars extra at the taxpayers’ expense.
Confederation Building. — Photo by Rhonda Hayward/The Telegram
Out of a caucus of 32 members, nearly half of the PC MHAs are in cabinet — 14 in all — plus Premier Tom Marshall, Speaker Ross Wiseman and Attorney General Felix Collins.
All of those politicians earn extra money on top of their base salary of $95,000 salary for MHAs, and they’re not the only ones.
Throw in the parliamentary secretaries — four of them — who make half of a minister’s salary on top of their base pay.
And then there’s other little odd jobs around government — caucus chair, whip, deputy chair of committees and others. Each of those jobs pays an extra $13,517.
Two MHAs are off running for the party leadership — Paul Davis and Steve Kent — which leaves just four members of the Tory caucus who are just backbenchers without anything else going on.
John Dinn, one of the four, likes it that way, although he didn’t really want to talk to The Telegram about his salary.
“I don’t want to go talking about that, because you’re going to piss off people,” he said. “I’m happy where I’m at, and I’m happy doing what I do, and I do what I do because I do what I do because I like doing what I do.”
Dinn said he’s got other things of his own going on, even if they’re not taxpayer-funded activities.
“If I have any kind of other position like minister or anything like that, it’d spoil my life. I enjoy a life outside of politics. I hunt. I grow a few vegetables. Sure, that’s all gone, right, if you’re at anything else,” he said.
Calvin Peach, Eli Cross and Ray Hunter, the other three Tory MHAs who don’t have any special roles that earn more pay, declined to do interviews.
Tom Hedderson, parliamentary assistant to the premier, said his job as MHA is simply to represent the constituents of his district. If he’s doing work outside of that, it’s reasonable there should be other compensation.
“For example, for speaking engagements I’m first choice for the premier if he can’t be at an event and wants to be represented at an event,” he said. “As part of the staff of the premier’s office, I’m involved in meetings, discussions, advice and so on and so forth.”
That role pays $27,000 on top of the base MHA salary.
The Tories have a lot of people earning extra pay, but proportionally, the NDP caucus has even more.
Each of the three people in the caucus has some salary bump — Lorraine Michael gets money for being leader, Gerry Rogers is caucus chair and George Murphy is party whip.
Nobody from the NDP was available to explain what caucus chairperson does in a caucus of three people, or why a whip is necessary to keep track of those MHAs.
Deputy Government House Leader Keith Hutchings said these roles are standard for parliamentary governments.
“They’ve been in place for some time. At some point in the future (if) the House of Assembly or the government of the day wanted to look at that in regards to what they could do differently, I mean, that’s certainly open for a discussion at some point in the future,” he said. “I think the positions now as established are well established in tradition. They play a key role in the running of the legislature.”
Liberal Leader Dwight Ball defended the jobs that members of his caucus do. Apart from his leader’s salary, the Liberals have a house leader, deputy house leader, caucus chair, whip and chair of the public accounts committee. Each of those jobs pays upwards of $13,000 on top of the base MHA salary.
For years, Ball has talked about changing the structure of the legislature, though. He wants fewer MHAs and more active committees.
“I believe that the province is ready for that when it comes to representation,” he said.