Strategic Thoughts

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June 22 , 2009

4 Lonely Campbell Liberals

Of the 49 MLAs in the Liberal caucus, only 4 are likely to receive "only" the base salary of $98,000 (plus indexing); the rest will get additional pay according to their position.

A table in section 4 of the Members' Remuneration and Pensions Act shows that the Premier receives an additional 90% of base pay, a cabinet minister with portfolio 50%, the Speaker 50%, a cabinet minister without portfolio and the Deputy Speaker 35%, the Whip and the caucus chair 20% , the Deputy Whip, parliamentary secretaries and the chairs of select, select standing or special committees 15% and deputy chairs 10%. In the last legislature there were 9 legislative committees. With the Premier, 20 full cabinet ministers, 4 ministers of state, 6 parliamentary secretaries and various functionaries, there's extra lolly for almost all of the government caucus. The four who are left out must wonder why!

Some members of the Opposition also reap extra rewards: the Leader 50%, the Assistant Deputy Speaker 35%, the House Leader, Whip and caucus chair 20%, Deputy Whip and chair of Public Accounts 15%, deputy chair of legislative committees 10%. If there are 8 legislative committees, in addition to Public Accounts, this means that 15 of the 35 members of the Opposition get extra pay.

The legislation that gave MLAs a 29% pay increase, and the Premier 54%, provided for basic compensation of $98,000 per year effective April 1, 2007 and automatic indexing effective every April Fools' Day thereafter "by the percentage increase of the consumer price index, if any, for the 12-month period ending on December 31 of the previous year." The MLA's pay is supposed to be made available on the legislative website, but it merely provides a link to the Public Accounts (always out of date). The Campbell government undermined even the disclosure provisions in the legislation (section 2(4)), by referencing Public Accounts rather than providing the updated "basic compensation". The Canada CPI for December 2007 was 112.0, and for December 2008 it was 113.3, so effective April 1, 2009, MLAs basic compensation increased to $99,137.

The number of legislative committees is theoretically up to the legislature, but in reality, like everything else in government, it is dictated by the Premier. B.C.'s 39th Parliament will sit for the first time on August 25th; sometime after that we will learn how many legislative committees Premier Campbell will allow the legislature to establish and what terms of reference will be granted to each. If past practice is any indication, there will be as many committees as is necessary to keep the backbench occupied and out of trouble, without granting MLAs any real authority.

Subject to the number of committees increasing or decreasing from its previous base, it looks like independent Vicki Huntington will be joined by just four government MLAs and 20 New Democrats in receiving no more than the base salary of just under $100,000. That "base" is a lot more than the typical family incomes of those the MLAs represent.


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