Nova Scotia is Canada’s seventh most populated province, with more people living in big cities like Calgary, Toronto and Montreal than in all of Nova Scotia.
But even with a much smaller taxpayer base, nowhere pays its premier better than Nova Scotia.
Stephen McNeil earns $112,791.20 in his role, $12,000 more than the nearest provincial leader.
It’s a full $20,000 more than Premier Doug Ford of Ontario (who earns $92,424 as premier). Ontario’s population is nearly 15 times larger, according to the latest data from the census.
Nova Scotia’s Progressive Conservative Leader admits it’s strange that the premier top up — the funds paid in addition to the base MLA salary of $89,234.90 — is unequaled across the country.
“It’s bizarre that the premier of Nova Scotia has one of the highest salaries in the country,” said Tim Houston.
Houston says he’d like to see compensation for elected officials go under the microscope, but demurred when asked if he’d accept a pay cut.
Gary Burrill, Leader of the Nova Scotia NDP, says he’d be willing to take a pay cut if he is given the opportunity to be premier.
“I think that it would be perfectly reasonable for the premier to work for the same salary as an ordinary cabinet minister,” said Burrill.
In Nova Scotia, ministers earn $49,0461.51 on top of their regular pay as an MLA. That means Burrill would reduce the premier top up by $63,744.
Burrill says it’s worth it, especially when you look at the current state of the Nova Scotia economy.
“I think it’s incumbent on people in leadership to demonstrate by their own lifestyle — that they have a deep thorough understanding of the challenges which the majority of the people of the province are facing.”
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Despite the top-up, McNeil isn’t the highest-paid premier overall. MLA salaries are lower in the Maritimes and McNeil says compensation isn’t something he’s planning on altering while he is in charge.
“That salary was set before I came in and it has not changed nor will it change as long as I get the privilege to do what I do,” said McNeil.
The Canadian Taxpayers Federation says this is something that matters to taxpayers and that McNeil should lead by example.
Paige MacPherson, Atlantic Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, says that Nova Scotia’s average income is on the lower end of the national rankings.
“If the government looked at the MLA and premier salaries and said ‘Ok, these are at a high level where they can, and should be frozen,’ that’s a good baby step in the right direction but he could take a giant leap in the right direction by actually scaling those salaries back.”
The McNeil Government froze salaries in 2015.
With files from Alexander Quon