Nova Scotia's MLAs poised to block planned pay raise for themselves

Nova Scotia MLAs were back at Province House on Tuesday. (Michael Gorman/CBC - image credit)
Nova Scotia MLAs were back at Province House on Tuesday. (Michael Gorman/CBC - image credit)

Members of all three political parties at Nova Scotia's Province House and the Independent MLA signalled Tuesday that they will support a government bill blocking planned pay raises.

An independent panel released a report earlier this month calling for a 12.6 per cent raise for MLAs retroactive to September. The increase would be the first in a decade and amount to about $11,000 a year.

On Tuesday, the governing Tories tabled a bill that blocks that raise and prevents any possible increase until after the next provincial election in 2025.

Education Minister Becky Druhan, who tabled the bill, said it's the right thing to do at a time when inflation continues to push up the cost of living for people in the province.

'Step of solidarity'

"Nova Scotians face high inflation and the province has important challenges to address," she told reporters. "Steep wage increases for politicians are simply not acceptable to Nova Scotians at this time and we are listening. We are taking action."

The Tory bill also includes a pay cut for the position of premier, lowering it by $11, 246.01. Druhan called the decision to take a paycut "a step of solidarity" by Premier Tim Houston.

Susan Leblanc, the NDP House leader, said her party supports the bill, but she's concerned it doesn't touch on any of the non-binding recommendations the independent panel made.

Those include exploring a childcare fund for MLAs and a renewed effort to fill a seat at the legislature dedicated to a person from a Mi'kmaw community. The panel said both measures are intended to make Province House more diverse and equitable.

"There's lots about the report that I'm afraid is going to go missing," she told reporters.

Leblanc said the paycut for the position of premier is appropriate, given that it's the third highest in the country, but she said the suggestion the move is a step in solidarity "is a bit much."

"I don't think that's why that's happening. I think it's a bit of political grandstanding."

Fred Tilley, the Liberal's economic development critic,  said MLAs won't support a salary increase when so many people are struggling to put food on the table and gas in their cars.

"That's the real emergency here in Nova Scotia," he said.

Cape Breton MLA able to attend online

Independent MLA Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin said she, too, supports blocking the pay raise.

Tuesday's sitting opened with all MLAs supporting a resolution by the NDP that allows Cape Breton Centre-Whitney Pier MLA Kendra Coombes to participate virtually in the proceedings.

Coombes recently gave birth and is unable to travel. The resolution was necessary because a secret ballot among MLAs to allow Coombes to participate virtually did not receive unanimous support.

Debate on the bill to block pay raises continues through the week. Opposition parties have already tabled other legislation they're hoping to debate, including bills related to the cost of living and health care.