Nfld. & Labrador

Provincial court judges to get pay raise denied by government

A court ruling released Friday will put about $32,000 a year more into the pay packets of provincial court judges.

Independent tribunal recommended raise in 2016, but Liberal government said it couldn't afford it

Jacqueline Brazil is one of 25 provincial court judges who will benefit from the ruling on salaries. (Glenn Payette/CBC)

The Newfoundland and Labrador government has been ordered to pay provincial court judges a pay raise that it said it can't afford.

The raise was recommended by an independent tribunal in 2016 and will mean about $32,000 more a year for each judge, with portions of the raise retroactive to 2013.

In rejecting the tribunal's report, the Dwight Ball government pointed to an uncontrolled growth in expenditures, and a dramatic fall in revenues from oil production.

"The province must take action or provincial debt will be increased to unsupportable levels," it said at the time.

But a ruling released Friday by Supreme Court Justice Alphonsus Faour orders the government to pay up.

Faour agreed with the association of provincial court judges, which filed an appeal on behalf of 25 members.

Wage parity with Maritimes

The independent tribunal considered the need to attract qualified people to serve on the bench, and the comparable salaries paid to judges in the Maritime provinces.

While the tribunal took into account the fiscal capacity of government, it recommended an overall salary increase of 14 per cent to $247,545 as of 2016, saying that was comparable to raises given civil servants between 2013 and 2016.

Alphonsus Faour is a Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador Justice. He criticized the government in his ruling, for turning the judges salary issue into a political football. (CBC)

Faour said government failed to treat the judges either rationally or impartially, since it approved a significant increase for medical interns and residents within two weeks of saying no to the judges, citing parity with Atlantic Provinces.

"Most egregiously, it has permitted debate in the House of Assembly, with the complicity of the Opposition, to use judicial remuneration as a political football where judges' salaries are pitted against other expenditures on public services," Faour wrote.

He ordered the raises approved for 2013 to 2017 and that government take steps to appoint a new tribunal as soon as possible.

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About the Author

Marilyn Boone is a producer who works with the CBC bureau in St. John's.