B.C. Premier Christy Clark has collected more than $277,000 from the provincial Liberal Party since 2011 to top up her government salary, the party disclosed Wednesday.
In addition to her $195,000 salary as Premier, Ms. Clark has received an escalating annual amount from the Liberals – $50,000 for 2015 and this year.
The figures were released for the first time in response to a Globe and Mail report on the Premier's stipend. The practice puts British Columbia in exclusive company: Only one other Premier receives such a payment.
In Saskatchewan, Brad Wall has collected about $37,000 from his Saskatchewan Party every year since taking office in 2007, which tops up his government salary of about $166,000.
Payments from parties were once more widespread but have declined over the past decade due to tighter party finances and the passage of laws banning the practice.
The revelation about Ms. Clark's extra payments follows Globe and Mail reports that she has been appearing at small, exclusive fundraisers at which patrons pay large amounts of money for access to the Premier.
While Ms. Clark has always reported in an annual disclosure statement that she collects an allowance from her party, the dollar figure was not released until this week, prompting a conflict complaint from the Official Opposition.
Ms. Clark said Wednesday that she did not disclose the amount earlier because she had not been directly asked. "I would have happily disclosed it last year if you had asked me."
NDP MLA David Eby, in a letter Wednesday to Conflict of Interest Commissioner Paul Fraser, alleges the Premier is gaining a personal benefit from political donations to her party. "The laundering of donations through the party before they are passed to the Premier cannot conceal the reprehensible activity that is taking place here which has benefited the Premier in six figures," Mr. Eby wrote.
Ms. Clark said there is no connection between her party's fundraising success and the amount of money she receives from the party, and dismissed Mr. Eby's characterization that she is effectively collecting a commission on her fundraising efforts for her party.
"All kinds of people accuse me of all kinds of things," the Premier said.
Premiers in Quebec, New Brunswick and Alberta have abandoned the practice of collecting money from their parties. According to past statements made by former Quebec premier Jean Charest, former New Brunswick premier Bernard Lord and former Alberta premier Alison Redford, the then-premiers collected additional pay because, while they were remunerated by the public for running their provinces, as leaders of their respective parties they were also entitled to a second salary.
In 2006, Mr. Lord defended the nearly $76,000 he collected from his party. "There's absolutely nothing wrong with me receiving a salary from the PC Party of New Brunswick as long as it is fully declared to the public, as it is declared now," he said at the time.
He would lose power later that year. The province's new Liberal government amended the conflict-of-interest act to prohibit the payments.
In Quebec, Mr. Charest, who was Premier from 2003 to 2012, collected an extra $75,000 a year from his provincial Liberal Party on top of his official salary of $182,717.
The special payments started in 1998 when he became party leader. Mr. Charest only confirmed the existence of the payments in 2008. "I always thought it was a private matter," he said.
Mr. Charest renounced the payments in 2010 and the Quebec legislature adopted a code of ethics barring its members from receiving money from a political party.
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has never received money from her party and neither did former Premier Dalton McGuinty, according to a spokeswoman for the Ontario Liberals. "[The party] has never been asked by our leader and has not considered doing so," she said.
The leaders of Alberta's Progressive Conservative Party received payments from 1965 to 2015, according to the party's current executive director, Troy Wason. The payments were probably made to seven premiers beginning with Peter Lougheed in 1971 and ending with Jim Prentice last May, he said.
"This is a long-standing practice for 44 years, but I don't know the details," said Mr. Wason, who became director in the chaotic month after the party lost power and was forced to fire all of its staff and close its offices. "When I took over, we didn't have enough money to rub together, so paying leaders – that's over."
With new fundraising rules that ban unions and corporations from donating to parties, Mr. Wason does not believe the payments will be restarted.
Alberta Premier Rachel Notley does not collect a salary from the NDP, according to her office. However, she is reimbursed for some of the expenses she incurs as party leader, receiving about $10,000 last year. Under Alberta law, a party does not need to disclose the amount of pay or reimbursements it gives a leader.
The current premiers of Manitoba, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador received no party money, according to their offices.
While the Progressive Conservative Party of Newfoundland and Labrador held power from 2003 to 2015, party president Mark Whiffen said that being premier is a high honour that comes with its own benefits. "It has simply never come up because it is not part of our party political culture to pay a leader more than the public salary," he told The Globe on Wednesday.
Since 1993, the B.C. Liberal Party has provided an allowance to its leader – although the payment was supposed to be a temporary measure. Party officials say the amount has varied between $30,000 and $50,000. Rich Coleman, Deputy Premier and a top fundraiser for the party, told reporters the money compensates the leader for the additional work they do on behalf of the party.
"The leaders have always had some form of stipend because it's like having two jobs and they spend probably 70 hours, 80 hours a week working," Mr. Coleman said. B.C. cabinet ministers can claim expenses from the party if their party obligations cost them money, he said, but only the leader is given a stipend for their service.
With a report from Tu Thanh Ha in Quebec