Legislature bends rules after MLAs' pay-hike imbroglio in New Brunswick | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Legislature bends rules after MLAs' pay-hike imbroglio in New Brunswick

October 02, 2017 - 12:35 PM

FREDERICTON - For the second year in a row, New Brunswick legislators are slated to get a raise they don't want — and are likely breaking the law in refusing.

The Liberal government imposed a pay freeze on MLAs two years ago, but the bill enacting it has not yet been approved by the legislature — and so the politicians' pay was automatically hiked under previous legislation on Oct. 1.

However, the government is withholding the increases in the meantime — an imbroglio that breaks the law, according to law professor Nicole O'Byrne.

"There is no legislative authority ... that allows the withholding of any portion of a salary owed to an MLA by the executive branch of government. MLA salaries are set by legislation," the University of New Brunswick professor wrote in an email.

"This illegal action raises serious questions about the executive's respect and understanding of the role of the legislative assembly."

Chris Collins, Speaker of the legislature, said while he knows they are bending the rules, it wouldn't be prudent to pay out the increases and then have to retrieve them again.

"It would be silly for me to give people a pay raise that I'm going to have to collect back from them in a few months," Collins said in an interview.

He said members of the all-party Legislative Administration Commission last week ratified the decision not to pay out the salary increases.

"We decided that it would be more prudent to wait for the legislation to come through and hold the pay raises back, instead of paying them and actually collecting the money again. There's no appetite right now for increases to MLA pays. The people of New Brunswick have made that very clear to us," he said.

Collins said they know the intent of the government is to introduce legislation during the fall session of the legislature, but O'Byrne said that shouldn't matter.

"It is not relevant that there was an expectation that a legislative amendment would be proposed and passed during the fall session," she said.

The current Legislative Assembly Act prescribes automatic salary increases for members of the legislature when the economy grows. O'Byrne recommends that section be amended.

"The regular course of action in most Canadian jurisdictions is for an independent commission to review MLA salaries. Then it would be up to the Legislative Assembly to accept the recommendations or not," she said.

Premier Brian Gallant announced pay cuts for himself and members of cabinet in 2015, and froze MLAs' salaries at $85,000.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2017
The Canadian Press

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