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Keep politics out of judges' pay: lawyer

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A lawyer representing provincial court judges asked a legislative committee Tuesday to guard against making judicial pay a political issue.

Susan Dawes, counsel for the Provincial Judges Association of Manitoba, argued legislators should accept the recommendations of the impartial Judicial Compensation Committee (JCC).

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In July, it recommended provincial court judges' pay increases in 2012 and 2013 be based on the annual percentage increase in average weekly earnings in Manitoba for the previous calendar year.

For 2011, the JCC set a base pay of $218,000, an increase of 2.9 per cent over the previous year. That pay increase was binding under Manitoba law because it kept judges' salaries here below the average in three prescribed provinces (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan).

Under the JCC formula, Manitoba provincial judges would see their pay climb by 2.77 per cent, effective April 1, 2012. Wage data are not available yet to calculate judges' pay effective April 1, 2013.

The 2.77 per cent increase the JCC recommended for 2012 would boost provincial court judges' salaries to $224,039. The new rate is subject to approval by the Manitoba legislature because it's slightly higher than the benchmark three-province average, although still well below the average for all provinces.

In a submission to the JCC, the province had recommended pay increases of 0, 0 and 2.9 per cent for the years 2011-2013 -- in line with offers to public servants.

Dawes, the lawyer representing provincial court judges, said the three-member JCC took into account the province's financial plight in making its unanimous recommendation.

"At the end of the day, we're talking about 40 or 41 judges," she told MLAs from all three parties Tuesday. "Any variance to these recommendations is not going to impact the province's bottom line."

The legislative committee did not make a decision on Tuesday. It said it would reconvene at a later date.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 30, 2013 A4

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