Thursday, September 18, 2014
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Mi’kmaq reps pay it forward

Potlotek First Nation men put their $42,840 compensation back into community

ERIN POTTIE CAPE BRETON BUREAU

POTLOTEK — In Cape Breton, two Mi’kmaq politicians have chosen to forgo their annual salaries in order to create more wealth in their community.

 

Following the legislated disclosure of First Nations salaries last month, it was discovered that two Potlotek First Nation men did not receive honorariums for their work as councillors.

Band councillor and capital director Quentin Doucette and former councillor John Johnson Jr. say that’s simply because they found better uses for the $42,840 compensation.

“They pay me for being director of capital, but they don’t pay me for being councillor,” said Doucette, who was first elected to a two-year term in August 2012.

“I made a decision when I got elected that I would take one pay, even though I do the two things.

“That’s just my choice on what I think my role as councillor and director should be. Other individuals in other communities don’t feel the way I do.”

Doucette, who was re-elected for his second term as councillor in the band’s Aug. 5 election, says he already receives $42,840 a year for his role as director of housing and public works.

His waived councillor’s honorarium is put back into the Potlotek First Nation’s coffers, he said.

“I never really understood why some (politicians) earn multiple salaries for being around their office anyway,” said Doucette.

“I just told them we could use it elsewhere. I’m here on a daily basis anyway, so that salary I get would cover any other work I do in that capacity.”

Johnson Jr., the owner of Basque Gas & Convenience, also did not take home an honorarium but did receive $228,500 for payment related to business, making him the highest-paid politician last year in Potlotek.

While he wasn’t elected to a second term this month, Johnson Jr. said his past honorariums were spent on religious trips for elders and to entertain local children, many of whom are disadvantaged.

His honorarium paid for such things as a trip to a Cape Breton Screaming Eagles game, a laser tag event and tickets to see an acrobatic circus.

Johnson Jr. delivered money to the community through a co-ordinator of the Nova Scotia Mi’kmaw Summer Games.

“I didn’t have anything to do with it personally; I didn’t touch the money at all,” he said.

“It was more or less to help my people around here, like some people who are less fortunate.

“I figured I was doing alright anyway, I didn’t need extra money and I (saw) people going without.”

The disclosure of First Nations salaries follows the Conservative government’s enactment of the First Nations Financial Transparency Act in March. It requires native bands to supply audited consolidated financial statements and make remuneration and expenses for aboriginal politicians available to members.

First Nations started posting the information online in July. According to the act, they have up to 120 days from the end of the fiscal year to make the figures available.

So far, six of the 13 First Nations in Nova Scotia have complied with the requirements.

Potlotek Chief Wilbert Marshall’s honorarium was revealed to be $61,200, with total compensation of $77,143, while four other councillors each received honorariums of $42,840 for the past fiscal year.

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