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Provincial court judges to receive raise after N.S. government accepts tribunal's advice

The Nova Scotia government has accepted the recommendations of an indepenent tribunal on salaries for provincial court judges. (Robert Short/CBC - image credit)
The Nova Scotia government has accepted the recommendations of an indepenent tribunal on salaries for provincial court judges. (Robert Short/CBC - image credit)

Nova Scotia's Department of Justice will return to the traditional way of setting salaries for provincial court judges after rejecting the confrontational approach used by the previous Liberal government that landed it in court.

The Tory government announced through an order in council posted Wednesday that it is accepting the salary recommendation of the Nova Scotia Provincial Judges' Salaries and Benefits Tribunal.

The tribunal, comprised of Scott Sterns, Ron Pink and John MacPherson, recommended that judges be paid 80 per cent of the salary that a federally appointed justice receives. The raise takes effect on April 1 and runs through March 31, 2026.

"This decision reflects government's respect for judicial independence and establishes a salary that can continue to attract excellent candidates to the bench," department spokesperson Peter McLaughlin said in an email.

"This brings Nova Scotia judges in line with the compensation model for New Brunswick judges."

Liberal government imposed contracts

It's also a marked departure from the actions of the former Liberal government under then-premier Stephen McNeil, which amended legislation in 2016 so that the tribunal's recommendations would no longer be binding.

McNeil's government rejected salary recommendations from the tribunal in 2017, saying they were too expensive and imposed a contract on judges. The Liberals rejected a subsequent recommendation by the tribunal in 2020.

Legal representatives for the judges then took the Liberals to court.

Last year, Supreme Court Justice Ann Smith ruled the Liberals politicized what was supposed to be a non-political process for the sake of trying to keep wage increases in line with those of other public sector workers.

Family leave established

The imposed contract was quashed and Smith ordered the current Tory government to take another crack at setting the salaries.

The annual salary for provincial court judges in Nova Scotia is almost $283,000. Their new salary will be determined after the federal government announces its salaries for the coming fiscal year, McLaughlin said.

Along with the salary increase, family leave benefits will be established for judges.

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