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First Nations file financial reports

Four out of seven First Nations in northeastern B.C. have filed their First Nations Financial Transparency Act documents by the July 29 deadline.
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Four out of seven First Nations in northeastern B.C. have filed their First Nations Financial Transparency Act documents by the July 29 deadline.

These documents show how much money each First Nation earned and spent, including how much chiefs and councillors were paid in 2014-15.

The four bands that filed their documents on time were the Fort Nelson, Blueberry River, Prophet River, and West Moberly First Nations. Filings for the Saulteau, Halfway River, and Doig River First Nations do not appear on the Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) website.

Messages directed to the band offices of Blueberry River, Fort Nelson, and Doig River First Nations, along with West Moberly Chief Roland Willson, seeking comment have not been returned.

Saulteau Chief Nathan Parenteau said that his band would be posting their financials in their near future.

The 2015 numbers noted below are for the financial year that ended March 31. All 2014 numbers are for the financial year that ended March 31, 2014.

 

Fort Nelson revenues top $18M

Of the four First Nations that filed in northeastern B.C., Fort Nelson First Nation showed the highest revenues, at around $18.7 million.

Their largest single source of revenue was from the AANDC at around $5.9 million. Others  sources of income included investments, and $60,000 generated from property taxes.

The band posted expenses of around $17 million, with the largest single slice of spending on education, at around $3.4 million.

The Fort Nelson First Nation operates the Chalo School.

Liz Logan is the current chief of Fort Nelson First Nation. She received around $64,000 in pay over seven months. All together, the nine people who made up chief and council over the past year earned a total of about $392,600 in salaries and expenses.

An election was held in 2014 that resulted in two new councillors, with Liz Logan taking over as chief from Sharleen Gale, who continues to serve as councillor.

The documents did not detail how much Gale made as councillor and how much she made as a chief, but the report stated she earned just over $49,000 for the 12 months she served in both positions.

 

Fewer dollars for Blueberry River

Blueberry River First Nation saw both its revenue and expenses decline from 2014 numbers, their documents state.

In 2015, the band posted revenues of about $7.4 million, with expenses of about $9.5 million.

In 2014, revenues were about $13 million, with expenses of about $12 million.

Despite running an operating deficit, Blueberry is carrying an accumulated operating surplus of about $16.5 million.

Blueberry Chief Marvin Yahey earned around $108,000 in pay. All together, he and four other councillors earned a total of about $469,000 and claimed expenses of around $4,600.

 

Revenue up for West Moberly

The West Moberly First Nation’s finances grew last year, with about an extra $2 million coming from a category called "industrial contracts."

In 2015, band revenues were about $9.4 million, an increase from 2014 revenues of about $6.8 million. The band's 2015 expenditures were about $9 million, an increase from 2014 expenditures of $7.9 million.

West Moberly First Nation Chief Roland Willson earned about $73,300 in actual salary, with $2,200 in other remuneration. Five people who served in four councillor positions earned a combined $290,000 in actual salary and other remuneration. They posted about $50,300 in expenses.

 

Prophet River smallest for funds

Prophet River appears to have the smallest revenue and expenditures of the First Nations that have filed their reports.

Revenues for 2015 were around $5.5 million, with expenses around $4.2 million.

Their largest single expense of the 25 or so items listed for the year was called “MOU program,” which accounted for roughly $829,000 in actual expenses for 2015. No further detail was given about this expense.

The band's largest single source of revenue was Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, which transferred $1,090,000 to the band in 2015.

Chief Lynette Tsakoza earned about $104,500, with expenses of about $18,000.

The other two councillors, Jennifer Reno and Beverly Stager, earned about $169,000 in total, and reported about $22,100 in expenses.

Tsakoza noted the responsibilities of a First Nation chief are "totally different" than those of a municipal mayor.

"Members are the ones who vote you in and we do follow up on the things they want," she said.

 

Chief pay higher than average

A preliminary analysis of the B.C. First Nations who posted their finances shows that these four northeastern chiefs pay were higher than the provincial average of around $61,000.

Blueberry River First Nation band administrator Cici Sterritt said last year that First Nations’ leaders responsibilities are different than those of a municipal mayor.

It takes “quite a bit of time” for these individuals to meet with major proponents, contractors, and other industrial powers about industrial development on their traditional lands, Sterritt added.

“If you compared to what a municipal government gets and what we receive, it’s very minimal,” Sterritt said last year.

“It’s like a provincial government,” she continued, “I would say, because we are responsible for health services on the reserve… our social development, our housing operations and maintenance in the building, the roads, the garbage.

“We also have our school that’s on-reserve," she said.

 

reporter@ahnfsj.ca