It has been interesting to watch the response, both in the media and on social media, to the First Nations Financial Transparency Act.
While some have called the act, which requires First Nations bands to publicly post the honoraria and salaries of elected officials including the chief councillor, a step forward in openness and accountability. Others have questioned the need for the books of the numerous bands to be so open. Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, while saying he supports the transparency of the act, has publicly stated he would scrap it if elected to pursue something that included more consultation and was more respectful.
While Trudeau has a point about consultation, doing away with a piece of legislation that mandates openness and accountability among elected officials would be doing a disservice not only to the people who elected those officials but to others across the country as well. Not only do those directly affected by the pay of chief and councillors deserve to know, but others do as well.
And the reason for that is simple – you can’t judge the appropriateness of pay without something to compare it to. In fact, comparison is a big part of the equation when it comes to appropriate pay.
For example, let’s just say officials in one community of 1,500 people are receiving an honoraria of $3,000 per month. That may seem completely reasonable, but if people in that community see officials in a similar-sized community receive an honoraria of $1,000 then those same people are going to begin to ask some serious questions.
Why the difference in pay? What are the higher paid officials doing that the others aren’t? Is this higher pay justified in light of what others receive? And so on and so forth.
To date only two bands on the North Coast – the Gitga’at and Old Massett Village council — have submitted their transparency filings. And whether you agree with it or not, the people of the North Coast deserve to see the others.