Canada’s senior judges want 10% raise, citing workload

Note: It is interesting to note how everyone has a different perspective on the income of others. This proves we are all special. :-) even judges.

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Janice Tibbetts ,  Canwest News Service

Published: Tuesday, April 08, 2008

OTTAWA – Canada’s senior judges are seeking a 10-per-cent pay raise from the federal treasury, asserting that the Canadian economy remains strong, despite the downturn in the United States sparked by the subprime mortgage crisis.

The 1,050 judges say they deserve the increase because they are working harder than ever; are increasingly called upon to rule on contentious issues that governments leave to the courts, and need to keep pace with senior bureaucrats and private-sector lawyers.

The requested raise, spread over four years, would be in addition to automatic annual cost-of-living increases, bringing the salary for the vast majority of federally appointed judges to $307,170. Chief justices and the nine judges on the Supreme Court of Canada would earn more.

Canada's senior judges are seeking a 10-per-cent pay raise, asserting that the Canadian economy remains strong.

Canada’s senior judges are seeking a 10-per-cent pay raise, asserting that the Canadian economy remains strong.

Yoon Kyoung Wook/Bloomberg News

 

The judges claim that the country is awash in cash, so there is no financial impediment to handing out an increase.

“Robust economic growth and federal budget surpluses are expected to continue for the foreseeable future,” the Canadian Superior Court Judges Association and the Canadian Judicial Council say in a submission to a federally appointed commission examining judicial remuneration.

The organizations also point out that The Economist magazine has predicted Canada should successfully weather a recession in the United states, should one occur.

The judges’ last four-year pay and benefits package expired last week, setting the stage for the latest round in an ongoing battle between the judiciary and legislators.

The government, noting that federal judges have enjoyed a 48-per-cent pay hike since 1999, is offering five per cent over four years, in addition to annual cost-of-living increase, a proposal that would cost an estimated $30 million.

“There can be no serious suggestion that judicial salaries have fallen below an acceptable minimum,” says a government submission to the commission. Government lawyers also warn that although the economy is robust, developments in the United States and the rapid appreciation of the Canadian dollar have created uncertainty.

The government also contends there are many other demands on the federal surplus, including tax cuts, environmental preservation, health care, and supporting Canadian troops and farmers.

The commission, consisting of Toronto lawyer Sheila Block; former Privy Council clerk Paul Tellier, and retired Ottawa bureaucrat Wayne McCutcheon, must make its recommendation by the end of May. Justice Minister Rob Nicholson is required by law to make a decision by the end of November.

It was only 16 months ago that the Conservative government settled a protracted remuneration saga with federal judges by giving them giving them a 7.25-per-cent pay hike, plus cost-of-living increases, retroactive to April 1, 2004.

Judges are still bruised by the government’s rejection of the commission’s recommendation of a pay increase of more than 10 per cent, a move they say amounts to political interference in the process and one they say threatens the independence of the judiciary.

The judges also argue they must keep pace with senior deputy ministers. According to the judicial organizations, senior deputies earned an average of $260,730, plus $30,505 in bonuses last fiscal year.

The government counters the salaries cannot be compared, since judges are eligible for a lucrative retirement package, worth two-thirds of their salaries, after serving on the bench for as little as 15 years.

Deputy ministers, on the other hand, have no job security and can be discarded at the will of the government in

The government also rejects the judges’ contention that they should keep pace with senior private-practice lawyers in order to attract the best candidates. Federal lawyers argue there is no problem either recruiting or retaining judges at the current salary level.

The judges’ salary request is considerably more modest than the previous two times around. The judges asked the commission – set up in 2003 – for a 17 per cent raise, and in 1999, they sought 26 per cent, both exclusive of cost of living increases.

The commission, in both cases, adopted a middle ground, meeting the judges and the government halfway.

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