Annapolis Valley chief agrees to huge pay cut after furor over salary | The Chronicle Herald (external - login to view)
Annapolis Valley chief agrees to huge pay cut after furor over salary
March 8, 2012 - 6:51am By GORDON DELANEY Valley Bureau (external - login to view)
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Annapolis Valley First Nation Chief Janette Peterson.
CAMBRIDGE — The chief of the Annapolis Valley First Nation has kept an election promise to allow band members to decide her salary.
Janette Peterson will take a huge pay cut, after members of the small Mi’kmaq community voted to set her pay at $60,000 a year, the newly elected chief confirmed Wednesday.
Thirty-three band members voted on the new salary at a meeting Feb. 25. Approximately 100 people live on the small reserve near Berwick, but not all are eligible to vote. Another 100 band members live off the reserve.
Peterson, 61, said she requested the members set her salary and she left the room while they discussed the subject and voted. They cut approximately $90,000 from the minimum $150,000 salary she was entitled to when elected chief in December.
“I feel pretty good about it. ... I think that’s an honest wage and it’s the band members’ wish,” she said in an interview.
“I told the band membership that if I do a good job, and if we have the revenue to increase wages for another year, so be it. If not, I wouldn’t worry about it.”
Peterson, who became the first female chief on the reserve in 30 years, said it was a good turnout at the meeting.
She’s the first chief to allow band members to decide her pay.
She defeated former chief Brian Toney, who held the position for the previous 12 years.
Peterson was elected on a promise of more transparency and accountability on the reserve, located in Cambridge, just east of Berwick.
Goldy Simon, a band member and resident of the community, was at the meeting where the chief’s new salary was determined.
“I’m really happy about it,” she said Wednesday. “No former chief and council has ever done that. ... It’s a great savings for our band membership.”
Simon said she hopes the money will be reinvested in the community.
Peterson has also told band members that from now on the band’s financial books will be open for viewing.
“We have nothing to hide,” she said. “Anybody who wants to come down and see the books, or anything else they’re interested in and want to know, they’re welcome to do that. We’re willing to share anything they want to see.”
Peterson said past band council meetings with the chief and two councillors — Marilyn Toney and Lawrence Toney — had been closed to the band members.
“Now when we have band council meetings, they will be open to the full membership. They can come and listen and participate.”
Members have been invited to the next band council meeting next month.
Peterson served as a band councillor for two years in 1999-2000, but this is her first term as chief. She has been involved in native politics for about 40 years, most recently on the board of directors for the Native Women’s Association of Nova Scotia.
She said she plans to initiate a bylaw so the chief’s wages will always be set by band members in the future.
“I’m depending on the membership to give me direction. I want them to be the decision-makers,” she said.
“Once I retire from politics on this reserve, I want to set a good example for the young people who are going to be our future leaders.
“That’s my main goal, to be a good example, be an honest chief and one the young people can look up to.”
Peterson told The Chronicle Herald during her campaign for chief in December that she was “really concerned with all the chiefs making these big salaries.”
She was referring to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation releasing information last year that showed some chiefs were making hundreds of thousands of dollars in annual salaries and expenses.
“No more going in and taking this and that from the people,” Peterson said. “I was elected by the people and I’m in here for the people, and it’s going to stay that way.
“I’m asking for the band membership to join me in making these changes, and what should happen on this reserve. This is their community and I’ll be relying on them.”
She said her next big mandate will be creating jobs and applying for funding for special needs on the reserve.
Peterson ran unsuccessfully for chief the previous three terms but said there was a strong desire for positive change in the community this time around.