N.S. legislature opens emergency summer session to block pay raise for politicians

·2 min read

HALIFAX — Nova Scotia’s Progressive Conservative government introduced legislation Tuesday that would rescind a recommended 12.6 per cent pay raise for members of the legislature.

The House of Assembly opened for an emergency session to cancel the binding recommendations made earlier this month by an independent review panel.

Under the legislation, Premier Tim Houston would take an $11,246 cut in his current annual salary, dropping to $190,754.

Education Minister Becky Druhan introduced the bill to amend the House of Assembly Act and said politicians' salaries should not be increasing when Nova Scotians are suffering financially due to inflation.

“This is not the time to increase compensation for MLAs,” said Druhan. “Steep wage increases for politicians are simply not acceptable for Nova Scotians at this time.”

Each member of the legislature makes an annual base salary of $89,234 — a figure that has not changed since 2013.

The Tories are looking for a short sitting, but both the Liberals and NDP have said they plan to use their time in the house to highlight problems such as the high cost of living and continuing problems in the health-care system.

Both parties have panned the idea that the pay increase constitutes an emergency.

“I will remind the premier that the previous government froze MLA salaries, and not once did it require an emergency sitting of the legislature to do so,” said Liberal Leader Zach Churchill during question period. “We are here in this house doing a dog-and-pony show .… When will this government take action on the emergencies that are facing Nova Scotians, particularly around the cost of living?”

Meanwhile, Houston told reporters that he wanted to permanently change the rules of attendance in the legislature to give all members the option of attending virtually if such things as health reasons prevent them from attending in person.

The issue was raised after NDP member Kendra Coombes, who gave birth two weeks ago, was granted virtual access to proceedings through a motion in the house after initially being denied.

Houston told reporters that the world has changed because of technology and issues such as COVID-19, and that should be reflected in the options members have in representing their constituents.

“Virtual meetings are an option,” he said. “We want to make sure that the rules that we establish in this house apply to all members.”

Churchill said he supports the idea, but NDP Leader Claudia Chender said more discussion is needed.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 26, 2022.

Keith Doucette, The Canadian Press

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