Eddie Erasmus is the current Grand Chief of the Tlicho government. The post is up for election in September. (CBC) A job that’s just about to come up for competition — the Grand Chief of the Tlicho — is now one of the highest paid elected positions in the N.W.T.
Salary and per diem increases that the Tlicho assembly approved in April at the end of the last Tlicho assembly came into effect on Tuesday. After the increases, the Grand Chief now gets paid just over $200,000 annually, about $20,000 more than the N.W.T. premier.
Most chiefs also got increases. For the first time, their salaries reflect the difference in the populations of their respective communities.
For example, the salary of Chief Clifford Daniels of Behchoko, the largest of the Tlicho communities, jumped from $140,000 to $166,556. The salary of chief Johnny Arrowmaker of Wekweti, the smallest community, remained at $140,000.
"When we look back through all the work, it’s a complex job as chief, similar to a cabinet minister in the territorial government," said Alfonz Nitsiza, the chief of Whati.
"It’s not like in the old days, when you drag around an interpreter. You have to adapt."
Nitsiza pointed out that members of the Tlicho assembly don’t collect the host of benefits, such as housing and living allowances, that members of the legislature collect.
Compensation for members of the Tlicho assembly who are not chiefs increased to $26,033. The daily per diem they collect for attending meetings was hiked, from $500 to $550. Chiefs and the Grand Chief do not collect per diems.
Apart from annual cost-of-living increases they get, it’s been almost 12 years since the last salary increases. At the time, members of the assembly who are not chiefs collected $250 per day for attending meetings, but no annual salary.
Nitsiza said the job has become far more complex since those early days, pointing out that they must deal with an annual budget of $32 million, lawsuits, managing the Tlicho government, and overseeing a $100 million trust fund.
Candidates to be the next Grand Chief will be nominated in Behchoko on Thursday. Election day is Sept. 11.
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