Bureaucrat salaries grow while Ontario land claims stall
In less than a decade, Ontario’s Liberal government has more than doubled the number of senior staff in the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs, according to the province’s public salary disclosure website.
In 2005, there were just 4 senior staff in what was then known as the Ontario Secretariat of Aboriginal Affairs. But by 2009, the number of senior staff increased to 24 within the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs.
Much of the increase was in negotiator positions, those responsible for Aboriginal land claims. In 2005, the province employed just two negotiators, but by 2009 that number jumped to 7.
Also on the rise were salaries for these senior staff, including that of the Deputy Minister, which saw a significant increase.
According to the Public Sector Salary Disclosure, the Deputy Minister’s total salary was just over $135,000 a year in 2005. Four years later, it was close to $250,000 a year, a 85% increase.
Senior negotiators also saw significant increases in remuneration over that same time span. In 2005, the Ministry’s director of negotiations was making just over $100,000 a year. By 2009, the position paid over $130,000 annually, nearly a one-third jump in salary.
Lonny Bomberry is the director of Land and Resources for the Six Nations of the Grand River, near Brantford, ON. He says he’s not surprised by the increases since the province deals with many large and complex land claim negotiations, including Caledonia, where a major dispute has dragged on for over 5 years now.
“In our particular situation with the Caledonia reclamation and negotiations filed from 2006, they needed an increase of people just for this one set of negotiations,” shared Bomberry.
Chief Arthur Moore is the spokesperson for the Mattawa First Nations, a tribal council made up of 10 communities located northeast of Thunder Bay, ON.
“I’m quite surprised it has grown that quickly,” said Chief Moore. “But I knew it was growing and that it would provide positions to accommodate the First Nations across Ontario.”
Mattawa First Nations are in the middle of what is now referred to as ‘The Ring of Fire.’ The region is home to one of the largest mineral deposits in the world, and the subject of many new land claims as First Nations try to get a share of the potential billions in revenue expected to be extracted.
Kevin Gaudet is with the Ontario branch of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) and a very vocal critic of so-called big government: “It’s not provincial jurisdiction. It’s gross overlap and duplication with the federal government.”
Gaudet says the entire department needs to be scrapped, or at least roll back the salaries and reduce the number of staff.
He asks whether First Nation communities are getting better services because of staff increases and whether land claims are being resolved.
Caledonia is just one of many outstanding land claim disputes in limbo since 2010, according to Bomberry.
In an email, the Ontario Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs stated that Deputy Ministers and other non-bargaining unit staff salaries have been frozen for the current and upcoming fiscal years.
But the CTF says more should be done.
“Freezing isn’t enough,” says Gaudet. “It’s grown so big so fast, that freezing will not get the budget balanced.”