Departing premiers get plenty of perks

Unlimited moose, a staffer and an extra month’s pay among the benefits

James McLeod jmcleod@thetelegram.com
Published on August 9, 2014
Busts of the prime ministers and the first premier of Newfoundland and Labrador at Confederation Building. — Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram

As though there wasn’t already plenty of reason for Steve Kent, Paul Davis and John Ottenheimer to hustle to become premier, it’s a great way to get a free moose licence.

Aside from the base $95,000 salary as MHA and the extra $72,000 salary you get as premier, there’s a whole list of secondary benefits that come with the job.

And the benefits don’t go away when you retire.

The environment minister can, at his or her discretion, issue free fishing licences, badges, tags and seals free of charge to any former premier upon request.

Former premier Roger Grimes is the last one to avail of the privilege — he said that later this fall he’ll be heading into the woods with some friends to get his moose.

“I have the last three (years),” he said. “I don’t own a gun. I’m not a hunter, but I do have entitlement to a licence.”

Grimes said the rules are that one of this friends can actually take the moose on his licence as long as he’s there when the animal is killed.

He said he gets some sausages and a couple roasts from the moose, but his wife doesn’t like it much.

“It’s a great way to spend the better part of a week,” he said. “We just enjoy it.”

If going into the woods after a moose isn’t your thing, though, there are other benefits.

A retiring premier is entitled to an office on the scale usually given to cabinet ministers — up to 500 square feet — for up to three years after resigning.

Moreover, a former premier can hire a private secretary for up to three years, at a salary comparable to the premier’s personal assistant — roughly $70,000 according to this year’s budget details.

A spokesman for the premier’s office said that every premier in the province’s history, except for Beaton Tulk and Tom Rideout, have used the office and secretarial allowance.

Retired premier Kathy Dunderdale is using it, and has hired her daughter, Sara Dunderdale.

Dunderdale declined to do an interview for this story, but Grimes said that there’s a lot of work to be done after you resign as premier.

He said he kept his former executive assistant on to do the private secretary work.

“She stayed on in that job,” he said. “She archived all of my cabinet papers, all of my documentation, put it all into a filing system, got ready to ship some stuff over to the university and all that kind of stuff.”

The same process would allow a former premier to keep their own files on issues important to them, for example if they were doing post-retirement speeches or writing a book.

The provision for the private secretary goes back a long way, though. It was originally authorized in a cabinet order shortly after Frank Moores retired in 1979, and it was made retroactive so it applied to both Moores and Joey Smallwood.

As if being a former premier wasn’t already sweet enough, they also get severance pay — 81.2 per cent of their gross salary, with one month’s severance for every year worked, to a maximum of 12 months.

Aside from severance, another cabinet order from 1975 stipulates that ministers and premiers retiring get paid up until the end of the month, and then they keep getting their salary for the month after they retire, too.

The extra month that you get paid after you retire isn’t counted as pensionable time.

The premier’s car allowance also applies for up to three months after retirement.

jmcleod@thetelegram.com

Twitter: TelegramJames