Maureen Bader: B.C. MLA pay freeze nothing more than April Fools’ joke

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The April Fools’ Day MLA salary freeze was nothing more than an exercise in tomfoolery. And a good one too, because people were almost fooled. When Premier Gordon Campbell announced in January that MLA salaries would be frozen for 2010 and 2011 as of April 1, he tried to create the illusion of restraint during difficult economic times. However, according to the formula used to determine the automatic annual MLA pay adjustment, MLAs would have had no salary increase for 2010 anyway. Taxpayers, faced with their own economic worries and concerned about the deficit and skyrocketing debt, need to see real spending cuts, not spin and trickery.

Taxpayers have been forced to fund big pay increases for politicians in B.C. In 2007, the MLAs accepted the salary and pension recommendations from a hand-picked panel that saw MLA base pay increase from $76,100 to $98,000 per year, a 30 percent jump in a single blow. Annual salary increases were put into legislation and follow a prescribed rule, and today, the MLA base salary is $101,859 per year, a 34 percent increase from the previous 2007 base. The pay hikes, coupled with the increase in the number of MLAs from 79 to 87, mean the total base salary bill grew from $6 million in 2007 to $8.9 million in 2009, a 48 percent increase. All this and additional pay not discussed here mean politicians are becoming an expensive fixture for taxpayers.

The 2007 panel that reviewed MLA compensation recommended the basic salary be adjusted every year. The index used to calculate the annual MLA pay hike is from Statistics Canada’s December Consumer Price Index report. In the December 2009 report, the average change of the CPI in B.C. was zero percent. That means the increase in MLA pay for 2010 would have been zero, according to the established guidelines. There is no “freeze” for 2010 despite the announcement. Can you say bogus?

Taxpaying families concerned about stagnating incomes, increasing deficits, and skyrocketing debt might wonder just how serious government is about spending control when it engages in this type of trickery. Average annual salaries in B.C. rose from $38,896 in 2007 to $41,600 in 2009, a seven percent increase. Average family incomes rose from $81,239 in 2007 to $84,749 in 2009, a four percent increase. For taxpaying families, MLA pay has not only increased too much, it is out of line with what most families receive. It’s time for government to roll back the pay hikes to get them in line with those of taxpaying families.

This government has rolled back MLA base salaries and other perks before. In 2002, the government made a voluntary five percent reduction in the MLA base pay and a voluntary 25 percent reduction in their other funding. At the time, Premier Campbell said, “Our province has a significant structural deficit, and we must act quickly to restore sound fiscal management. MLAs were clear that they want our caucus to lead by example.” Then finance minister Gary Collins said: “It’s not about a lot of money. It is to try and send a message that we’re going to take a certain amount of the burden personally.”

The same holds true today.

Our politicians must lead by example once again and bring the cost of government into line with taxpayers’ ability to pay. Bogus pay freeze claims might fool a few, but not everyone. Now is the time to show leadership and roll back the 2007 pay increase.

Maureen Bader is the B.C. director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

Comments (7) Add New Comment
It is simple.
Gordon Campbell is a liar.

He consistently says one thing and then does whatever he pleases.

He does it because we let him.
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ds
I agree 100%, they should roll their pay back. They did it to the health workers and now thy've done it to Drs in interior health. When people asked if they could get out of a contract with private gas co. they answered no as it is a contract that has to be forfilled. I just don't see the difference.
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glen p robbins
If the BC NDP government in (long) waiting doesn't want to push to roll back these wages -- perhaps they could offer legislation assuring no more increases to pay for five more years and see how the BC Liberals vote on it?
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astro
The NDP froze their salaries before the last election. They gave their pay raises to charity. If they had won the election, this would have continued for all MLA's. They lost the election so taxpayers can only look in the mirror if they need someone to blame.
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glen p robbins
What did the NDP do with the pensions? (No such thing as altruism). I admit the allocation of the raise to charity was admirable. Are the NDP writing off this donation this year as well? If so, good. I don't believe the tax payers are to blame for the NDP loss, although I believe those BC Liberal voters ought to look in the mirror (as you suggest). Again, Carole James did not lie to get elected, Gordon Campbell did, and if the NDP get a huge majority in 2013-(assuming you don't want the NDP to get a huge majority) - who gets the blame then? The BC NDP have gone against the HST -- when some believe they would love the tax revenues (historical large governments). Some also believe the NDP is doing so because it is the only political road to go down. If the BC NDP offered up a Bill -- no raises -- for five years -- even some fiscal conservatives might take notice -- some might even join up. What would the BC Liberals in the Legislature do?

If I were Carole James -- I would set finance critic Ralston free to make this happen.
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Evil Eye
Campbell honest? No more honest than a Vancouver Sun Editorial. Gordo is a flim-flam man supreme; a con-artist; a snake-oil salesman and yet he and his band of corporatist cheaters are reelected.

No wonder grow-ops flourish here, BC is built on gangsterism and corruption. Best place on earth - eh?
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Ken Barth
Gordo is not a Premier; he is an illusionist directed by cronies!
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