P.E.I. MLAs quietly got a two per cent pay raise in January, despite the fact the Liberal government announced in April it was halting this salary increase granted by the Indemnities and Allowances Commission last year.
The pay hike went ahead because the legislation brought in last spring to stop it only applied until Jan. 1, 2013. After this date, MLAs began making two per cent more.
No one noticed this detail at the time the legislation was tabled, and neither the premier nor Finance Minister Wes Sheridan mentioned it when speaking publicly about it.
Sheridan told The Guardian last April the Liberal caucus decided freezing their pay was the right thing to do given the province's economic situation.
"It is a tough budget coming forward so we decided we will put it off and we will not accept the recommendation of the commission at this time," Sheridan said on April 10, 2012.
"It's a tough one and the commission is arm's-length and they put together a solid recommendation on this and it was fully debated ... but it's very difficult to continue to get the quality and the individuals that we need in the house and we need to take that into consideration each time, so we need to keep that in mind when we look at the long haul."
On Monday, The Guardian reported MLAs had not received a pay increase since 2009 – this was true only until the first of January. The Guardian also reported the newest decision of the Indemnities and Allowances Commission recommended a further one per cent increase to take effect on April 1. That means if this additional raise is not halted by government, MLAs will have received a total three per cent salary increase for 2013.
• MLA base salary before Jan. 1 - $65,344 • MLA base salary since Jan. 1 - $66,700 • MLA base salary to be applied April 1 - $67,400 Note: Government could halt the increase slated to take effect April 1. -
Opposition Leader Steven Myers says he believes government members purposely tried to get away with raising their pay without telling the public.
“I think the wool was pulled over a lot of people’s eyes on this one,” Myers said.
“I feel like the government is playing a shell game… it’s a shame that this is what they’re spending their time doing. If they were only so creative when it came to the finances of this province, we wouldn’t be in such a jam.”
Myers said he plans to bring in legislation in the spring proposing to freeze MLA wages for the next three years. That way, members of the legislature would not receive a raise until after the budget is balanced.
“We’re going to lead by example,” Myers said.
“If we freeze it for three years we won’t have to worry about constantly going back to talk about this. It’s frozen, let’s get on with the business of governing Prince Edward Island.”
As for the two per cent raise that has already been applied, Myers said it needs to be ‘dealt with.’
“I think it was unfair the way that they did it, I think it was unfair to everybody involved. They should be ashamed of themselves for doing it in such a deceitful manner.”
No one from government was made available for comment on this story.