N.S. government looking to tackle judges' salaries next: premier
Bill 148 will go to a third and final reading during another overnight session at the Nova Scotia Legislature Thursday, and CTV News has learned the government is planning to tackle judges’ salaries next.
Bill 148 does not apply to judges but their salaries are set through a tribunal, which the province is bound to accept.
“We went in starting with the same pay as we have with everyone else: with zeros,” said Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil, referring to wage freezes that are set out for public sector workers in Bill 148.
But last fall, the salary tribunal awarded judges a 3.8 per cent increase for 2014, which bumps a judge’s salary from just under $223,000 to just over $231,000.
In both 2015 and 2016, salaries will increase along with the rate of inflation, forecasted at 0.6 per cent in the first year and 1.9 per cent in the second.
“It’s like arbitration, it’s final when it’s moved. Executive Council has no authority to change it. This tribunal of three people determines what the government and taxpayers of Nova Scotia can afford to pay,” McNeil said.
The premier says it highlights the risk for taxpayers and government, and he has to act. The Nova Scotia tribunal is the only one in the country whose recommendations are binding.
“We can actually still leave the tribunal but take out the clause that it’s binding, and that’s what happens in many other jurisdictions,” McNeil said. “That's what we're looking at: does it make sense for us?”
That’s something the government will tackle once Bill 148 is made law.
The NDP is doing its best to drag that process out.
“It’s one of the few tools we have as a small caucus you know, against a huge majority, to try and hold up the bill as long as possible so that people will become more aware of it,” said NDP MLA Lenore Zann.
This morning, the law amendments committee held a special hearing for a hearing-impaired man who was denied the opportunity to take part yesterday. Chairman Terry Farrell apologized today, saying too much attention was paid to sticking to the committee’s time frame.
But the man declined the invitation to appear today, instead submitting a statement to be read on his behalf.
In it he says he will be, “reviewing options with respect to filing a complaint on this issue with the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission and or the Provincial Ombudsperson.”
Much opposition has been raised toward the bill – including union protests throughout the day Wednesday – but there has been some support.
“This is not cutting back salaries, this is stemming the growth of increases for salaries. And in a province that’s swimming in red ink, which we currently are, it’s important to see what's affordable,” said Nick Langley with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.
The bill affects 75,000 public sector employees, including government departments and staff, Crown corporations and agencies.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Jacqueline Foster