BC Liberal MLA Trevor Halford (Surrey-White Rock) said he isn’t buying the rationale for cabinet pay hikes in the ‘fine print’ of the BC government’s latest budget.
He’s among Opposition MLAs who claim the New Democrat government’s budget – introduced on Feb. 22 – includes a proposed amendment to the Balanced Budget and Ministerial Accountability Act that would give cabinet ministers an extra 10 per cent on their salaries that’s normally withheld when the provincial government posts a deficit budget.
Finance Minister Selina Robinson defended the proposal, saying the customary 10-per-cent holdback could be viewed as a deterrent to fund programs and policies that affect the budget.
“This measure… sent the wrong message,” she said during debate on Feb. 23.
“It prioritizes austerity and cuts over investment.”
But Halford said the measure is designed specifically to “ensure that government meets its targets and keeps within budgets.”
“For the minister to say that cabinet members will impose cutbacks to meet their budgets is not showing a lot of confidence in her colleagues,” he said.
“If that’s what they’re going to do to meet their budgets, they’re likely in the wrong profession.”
Halford said Premier John Horgan and his cabinet are sending the wrong message – that “they are putting themselves first.”
“I don’t think anyone has seen any appetite among the public for a pay rise for the premier and his cabinet – it’s completely wrong and really bad optics at a time when ordinary people are suffering,” he said.
“What does this say to the single mom going to the grocery store and wondering whether her credit card is going to be declined and she won’t be able to feed her children?” he added.
“This is a government that twice campaigned on giving a renters’ rebate of $400,” he noted.
“We haven’t seen that. What we are seeing – in the small print (of the legislation) – is that they’re giving themselves a pay raise.”
Horgan’s annual salary is about $211,000 a year, while cabinet ministers are paid about $167,000, but the 10 per cent that is withheld is only on the portion of their incomes that relate to their cabinet positions.
Horgan gets about $100,000 on top of the $111,000 salary paid to members of the legislature, while cabinet ministers get about $56,000.
Liberal house leader Todd Stone also slammed Premier John Horgan and his cabinet during debate in the legislature.
“Fighting unaffordability is not one of the priorities of this budget,” Stone said
“What was one of the priorities (is) making life more affordable for the premier and for NDP cabinet ministers.”
– with files from Canadian Press