P.E.I. MLAs may soon be getting a hike in pay on the same day Islanders start paying a new, higher tax.
The Indemnities and Allowances Commission filed its most recent report to the legislature earlier this month. In it, the commission decided on a one per cent increase for MLA salaries beginning April - the same day the HST will come into effect in P.E.I.
The report notes that MLA salaries have been frozen since 2009 and are currently the lowest in the region and the country.
"The commission has concluded, based on the consumer price index, collective bargaining agreements and a comparison of MLA compensation in other jurisdictions, that there shall be a one per cent increase in remuneration (rounded to the nearest $100) for the fiscal year beginning April 1, 2013," the report states.
This decision comes on the heels of a recent admission by government it may once again have to push back its deficit elimination target date of 2015 by a year. Finance Minister Wes Sheridan told The Guardian last month he would have to cut an additional $30 million spending this year to meet the target.
This is the second time Sheridan has pushed back the date on which the province's budget will return to balance.
Government has also spent the last year cutting back its expenditures in every department but health by three to five per cent and has been raising fees for virtually every permit, license and service it provides.
Sheridan has stated repeatedly these measures have been necessary in order to bring the province out of its current $79 million deficit.
"The fact of the matter is, there's a new fiscal reality in the province," Sheridan told The Guardian in August.
But unless government makes a move to stop it, MLAs will automatically receive a boost in their pay on April 1, as decisions by the Indemnities and Allowances Commission are binding.
NDP Leader Mike Redmond says this is the wrong time for members of the legislature to give themselves a raise.
"In fact I believe their salaries should be tied to the budget," Redmond said.
"If they do a good job they receive an increase in pay, but if they don't and are asking the public or NGOs or whomever to cut three cent, then they should be held to the same standards."
"If they do a good job they receive an increase in pay, but if they don't and are asking the public or NGOs or whomever to cut three cent, then they should be held to the same standards," - NDP Leader Mike Redmond
Such a measure has been floated in the United States, where a U.S. congressman introduced legislation last month proposing to lower congress's salaries if government spending increases.
Redmond believes a measure such as this would help to make government and Opposition members more accountable to the public.
"It's certainly something an NDP government would be pushing for," he said.
The Indemnities and Allowances Commission recommended a two per cent salary increase for MLAs last year, but Premier Robert Ghiz introduced legislation last spring stopping this raise from taking effect. He had frozen it for two years previously and members of the legislative assembly have been paid the same amount since 2009.
The current base salary for MLAs is currently $65,344. This would be raised to $67,400 if the recommended one per cent increase goes ahead.
This would still not change the fact P.E.I. has the lowest rate of remuneration for members of the legislature in the country. The next lowest salaries are in New Brunswick, where an MLA's base annual pay is $85,000.
No one from government or Opposition was willing to provide comment on this story.
Recommended salary for MLAs
MLA base salary - 67,400
Premier - $140,600
Cabinet ministers - $114,500
Speaker - $107,000
Deputy Speaker - $87,200
Opposition Leader - $114,500
Government House Leader - $80,100
Opposition House Leader - $71,800
Government Whip & Opposition Whip - $71,100
Non-ministerial members of executive council committees - $73,600
Leader of a third party - $86,200