B.C. chief says he will consult band members about $900,000 in pay
Published Friday, August 1, 2014 10:15PM EDT
A B.C. First Nation leader labelled as "the Million Dollar Chief" after his income was revealed said he is talking with his band members about how to respond to recent public attention.
Ron Giesbrecht, the chief of the Kwikwetlem First Nation, found himself under a spotlight when his $914,000 in pay was publicized under the new First Nations Financial Transparency Act.
Of that amount, $800,000 came from a bonus.
The total amount is more than the combined salaries of Prime Minister Stephen Harper and U.S. President Barack Obama. Though more salaries are still being revealed under the new act, Giesbrecht’s pay is the most so far.
On Friday, Giesbrecht said that he has been consulting with nation members about the appropriate response to the attention and questions.
"As chief of the nation I’ve been talking to my band members who elected me as chief, and I’m going through that process right now," he told CTV News. "I just ask for a little bit of time so that I can go through my membership list and talk to all the people that vote and get their input on it."
In response to the news, at least one band member is calling for Giesbrecht's resignation. The Canadian Press reported Friday that Ron Jackman was angry to learn of the chief’s high salary.
Jackman said that if the Giesbrecht doesn't resign on his own, Kwikwetlem members will have a meeting to decide the chief’s political future for him.
A statement posted Friday on the nation’s website said that further statements will not be available until Thursday, Aug. 7.
"Our Chief is accountable to members of the Kwikwetlem First Nation, and is taking time to talk to them now and over the coming days," the statement said.
According to the statement, Giesbrecht is paid $4,800 per year as chief, earns $80,000 per year for his role as economic developer, and also received an $800,000 bonus as part of an agreement to pay the chief 10 per cent of economic development contracts.
Details of the contracts have not been released, but Giesbrecht told CTV News that while there "was a 10 per cent bonus … that’s been removed."
"We have made some changes," he said. Geisbrecht did not offer more information.
The statement from the First Nation also said that Giesbrecht is scheduled to undergo "unavoidable medical treatment early next week." It added, "We ask that we are given the time, space and respect to go through this process."
The Kwikwetlem nation has only about 85 members. About half of the people in the nation live on a reserve east of Vancouver, near the Fraser River. The federal government estimates that out of the half a dozen homes on the reserve, 37 per cent need to be repaired or replaced.
Giesbrecht lives in a condo up the hill from the reserve.
The apparent disparity between band living conditions and Giesbrecht’s salary has drawn criticism.
"I trust that the members of that community would rather have their band council invest in housing units than paying a chief close to a million dollars, tax free," Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt told CTV News in a phone interview.
Giesbrecht said that he will consult with his community members so that they have a say what happens next.
"We will have more to say, as a nation, on Wednesday afternoon," he said.
With a report by CTV’s Jill Macyshon and files from The Canadian Press.