Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Pay hikes coming for Manitoba MLAs

Will be first increase since NDP imposed wage freeze five years ago

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Manitoba's MLAs -- some of the lowest-paid politicians in Canada -- are getting a pay raise, but only if the NDP doesn't vote itself another wage freeze.

And the 4.6 per cent pay hike they will get doesn't take effect until April 1, 2014.

That's the finding of lawyer Michael Werier, the province's independent commissioner appointed to decide MLA salaries, allowances and retirement benefits.

"You have to offer a certain level of salary to attract qualified people to run without hurting the public purse," Werier said. "Salaries should be at a certain level to attract good people, talented people, capable people, from different walks of life."

Werier's recommendations were filed with Speaker Daryl Reid on Wednesday. Werier's decisions are binding on all MLAs as they do not vote themselves pay raises. Werier said the pay of Manitoba's 57 MLAs should be set at $89,500, an increase of 4.6 per cent, effective April 1, 2014. It would be the first pay raise for MLAs in five years.

That's the date five years of self-imposed wage freezes end, brought in as part of the Selinger government's plan to run multiple deficit budgets before being back in the black in early 2014.

Cabinet ministers also took a 20 per cent reduction in their pay.

"By the time the freeze ends, it'll have been five years where there hasn't been any increase at all," Werier said. "I don't believe anyone (in the public sector) has gone zero, zero, zero, zero and zero for five years."

Also effective April 1, 2014, Werier set the additional pay for cabinet ministers at $49,000 and the premier's additional pay at $75,000. These would also be the first pay raises for Premier Greg Selinger and his cabinet in five years.

Werier said in determining MLA pay he looked at pay rates of MLAs in other provinces, comparisons to civil servants, the economic health of the province, relationships to pay rates in the public and private sectors in Manitoba and general cost-of-living increases.

He said pay for Manitoba's MLAs rank eighth among the 10 provinces. With the 20 per cent reduction in cabinet pay, Manitoba's premier and cabinet ministers have the lowest additional compensation in Canada.

Werier added pay rates for premiers and provincial politicians vary across Canada. For example, Alberta recently approved the increase of the basic annual salary for its politicians to $134,000. Alberta's premier gets an additional $83,750.

"The gap is significant," Werier said of the comparison to pay in Manitoba. "You've got a huge difference between being premier in Alberta and premier of Manitoba."

Werier also said based on the workload involved and on comparisons with other provinces, a 10 per cent increase should be applied for 2012 to special positions such as caucus chair, house leader, whip, committee chair and deputy chair and legislative assistant.

Werier's report also hikes MLA allowances, such as travel for southern MLAs, constituency office rent, constituency assistant salaries and moving expenses, beginning this year. These allowances are reimbursement for expenses incurred in the course of an MLA's duties.

bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca

PAY SCALE: Salaries of other Canadian politicians

 

$125,912

Mayor Sam Katz (2011)

 

$157,731

MP (2012)

 

$315,462

Prime minister

 

$233,247

Federal cabinet ministers

 

$132,300

Senator

 

$155,494

Premier Greg Selinger (frozen in 2009)

 

$131,495

Provincial cabinet ministers (20 per cent rollback in 2009)

 

$85,564

MLA (frozen in April 2009)

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 6, 2012 A4

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