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Ryan Ross - Between the lines -- Ryan Ross

MLAs got a raise with little fanfare - Many Islanders might have forgotten it was coming, but on April 1 their representatives in the legislative assembly got a raise. It came after the Indemnities and Allowances Commission issued its report in November and decided MLAs should get a 0.75 per cent raised. The actual amount of an increase each MLA will get varies because some get extra compensation, such as cabinet ministers, but the base salary went up by $506. What it means is the salaries range from $67,906 for an MLA with no additional pay to $141,655 for Premier Robert Ghiz. Even with the raise they are also still the lowest paid MLAs in the country. The Indemnities and Allowances Commission issues a report every year and every time it decides a pay raise is in order for MLAs there is a public outcry over politicians getting more money than some feel they deserve. But if Islanders don’t like the current method of deciding if raises are due then what are the options? There is likely little public appetite for P.E.I.’s MLAs deciding how much of a raise they should get and if the politicians listened to Islanders their salaries would never go up. That’s not realistic and a permanent salary freeze is never going to happen. As it stands, the only way MLAs can overrule the independent Indemnities and Allowances Commission to keep from getting a raise is by a changing the Legislative Assembly Act. What that means is MLAs don’t give themselves a raise but they can decline it, which…

Photo : Ryan Ross April 22, 2014

Teresa Wright - Between the lines -- Teresa Wright

Spring session – where’s the meat? - We’re close to the halfway mark of the spring session of the legislature, and I’m still waiting for something substantial to happen. Our law-makers have been sitting for over two weeks in the legislature, debating issues, poring through government’s spending plans for the year and yes, taking pot shots at one another, hoping for political gain. There have certainly been some pot shots – mainly coming from the general direction of the Opposition Progressive Conservative caucus’ corner of the chamber. Their two biggest issues so far this session have been: –      Accusing Finance Minister Wes Sheridan of cooking the province’s books two years ago with his accounting of a $25 million HST transition payment from Ottawa; –      Going through minutiae of cabinet ministers’ expenses and finding small amounts charged to taxpayers for personal expenses (i.e. George Webster’s hotel room movie; Valerie Docherty’s hotel room upgrade) While these issues are by no means insignificant, I’ve found it surprising how much precious question period time the Opposition Tories have devoted to them. The $25-million HST payment took up all or most of the first four question periods. In P.E.I. legislature terms, that’s a whole week, since the house only sits four days a week. The issue is difficult to explain and has a lot to do with accounting rules (which can make even the most ardent political watchers’ eyes glaze over), yet the Tories believe this is a big political point-scorer for them. On the first day, OppositionLeader Steven Myers accused Sheridan of committing a ‘breach of…

Photo : Teresa  Wright April 21, 2014