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Shuswap Chief’s Salary Highest in Country
October 31, 2014
Chief Paul Sam’s take-home pay higher than prime minister’s at more than $200,000
OTTAWA — An elderly B.C. First Nations chief and his ex-wife, along with one of their sons and a grandson, received more than $4.1 million in remuneration over the past four years.
Shuswap First Nation Chief Paul Sam, 80, gets a tax-free salary that has averaged $264,000 over that period to run a tiny reserve near Invermere, a resort community near the AlbertaShuswap have 267 members, of whom just 87 live on the son, Dean Martin, is doing even better, with an average annual salary of $536,000 over the four years, running a band corporation that operates various businesses on and near the reserve.
The figures were provided this week to The Vancouver Sun by disgruntled Shuswap members who are challenging in next month’s election a family that has ruled for more than three decades.
A dissident councillor, who earns $57,700 annually, said she was unaware until recently that Chief Sam and the only other councillor, ex-wife Alice Sam, 82, were earning such lofty salaries.
“We had no idea. We are absolutely disgusted,” Barbara Cote told The Sun Thursday while vowing to reform band finances if she’s successful in a bid to take control of council.
Cote’s concerns got backing Thursday from the office of Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt.
“Our government expects First Nation band councils to use tax payer dollars responsibly and for the benefit of all community members,” Erica Meekes, a spokeswoman for the department said in a statement.
“Community members have asked for an explanation of the salaries of this chief and councillor. They deserve that explanation.”
Both Cote and Tim Eugene, another candidate in next month’s election, say they want to take over council and bring in reforms to ensure both disclosure and a greater distribution of funds to cover education and culture programs, child care, and home renovation.
They said some community members have gone without water and electricity in the winter, but were unable to get help from the band.
For the most recent fiscal year, Chief Sam and his ex-wife both reported salaries of about $202,000, their lowest in the four years. The chief’s top salary was just slightly less than $300,000 in 2010-11, while the top year for Alice Sam, 82, was 2011-12 when she had about $242,000 in remuneration.
Even the $202,000 figures make them the highest paid politicians on an after-tax basis — not only among First Nations leaders across the country, but also among all Canadian politicians, according to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper earns $327,400 plus a $2,000-a-year car allowance. Premier Christy Clark has a $193,532 annual salary.
“To take home $202,000 off reserve you would need a salary of $330,000,” according to CTF B.C. spokesman Jordan Bateman.
Their sons, Dean Martin and band media relations spokesman Gord Martin, said their parents’ hard work and longevity justify having salaries higher than a prime minister who presides over an economy that produces just under $2 trillion in goods and services annually.
Shuswap First Nation Chief Paul Sam gets a tax-free salary that has averaged $264,000 over the last four years to run a tiny reserve near Invermere. Prime Minister Stephen Harper earns $327,400 plus a $2,000-a-year car allowance, but after paying taxes, he would take home about $202,000 of that. File photo. Photograph by: shuswapnation.org , Handout
“With all due respect to Harper and to everybody else, I don’t think they’ve been in power for 34 straight years,” Dean Martin, chief executive officer of Kinbasket Development Corp., said in an interview Thursday.
“To be … the leader of a nation, and we’re not just a band, we are a nation, and to lead it for 34 years, is something totally unheard of, I don’t care in what political field you’re in.”
He also noted that his father is the band manager, while his mother is the bookkeeper, so both have jobs beyond political duties.
The recently released figures show that Dean Martin makes the most money in the family, with $765,651 in remuneration in 2010-11 that included $54,498 in travel expenses. The total fell to $410,730 in 2011-12, and $431,549 in 2012-13. Figures for the latest fiscal year for Dean Martin weren’t available.
Martin said the high salaries are justified because the family has brought considerable economic development to the community, with assets that include a golf course and resort, a new supermarket, a Tim Hortons, a hardware store, and real estate development for non-Aboriginal residents.
“I’m not embarrassed about what we’re doing,” Martin said.
The band takes in considerable government revenues, including just over $900,000 in the 2013-14 years from the federal Aboriginal affairs and Health departments.
Martin’s late son Randy, an elected councillor, earned $276,012 in 2010-11 and $301,341 in 2011-12. He died early in the 2012-13 year during a trip to Las Vegas, having already earned $35,159 that year.
Bands are only recently making salary details public in response to legal requirements under the First Nations Financial Disclosure Act, passed last year by the Harper government over the objections of the New Democratic Party and the Liberals.
The CTF’s analysis of that data indicated that the highest paid B.C. chief last year was Ron Giesbrecht, of the Kwikwetlem First Nation, who recorded $914,219 in income. That was an apparently isolated incident relating to a controversial $800,000 bonus Giesbrecht received in connection with a single land transaction with the B.C. government.
The 16 other top salaries highlighted by the CTF, among the salaries of hundreds of chiefs and councillors, were mostly in the range of just over $100,000 to a high of $123,033 for Cheslatta Carrier Chief Richard Peters. The exception was Osoyoos Chief Clarence Louie, one of B.C.’s most entrepreneurial chiefs, who pulled in $147,369.
Nationally, no other chiefs or councillors topped the $200,000 mark, according to the CTF.
Chief Sam, according to one band member, moved to Canada from the U.S. not long before being elected chief 34 years ago. When he came to Canada his surname was changed from Martin to Sam, but his son refused to explain why the change was made.
Update (November 8, 2014) – Shuswap reserve chooses new council after spending became key issue in band election: