A tribunal has awarded provincial and family court judges three per cent raises for last year and directed that their pensions increase at a different rate — likely to be higher — than other public service plan members.
In a December 2011 report just made public this week, the tribunal bumped judges’ pay to $214,000 for 2011-12.
The three-person tribunal, appointed every three years, rejected the provincial government’s argument to limit raises to one per cent each year from 2011-12 to 2013-14.
It also turned down the Nova Scotia Provincial Judges Association’s wish to get to the national average, which the report pegged at $227,000 as of April 1, 2011.
The tribunal settled on the three per cent increase for 2011-12 and raises equal to the increase in the Nova Scotia industrial aggregate index, an average of all goods and services producing industries surveyed by Statistics Canada, according to the provincial Finance Department.
In setting the pay, it considered several factors, including salaries in other provinces, the unique nature of a judge’s role and economic conditions in the province. Prior to the increase, the salary was $207,577.
The report also outlines the judges’ concern with changes to the Public Service Superannuation Plan, made by the government in 2010 to get the plan on solid footing.
The benefits that were trimmed included limiting indexing to 1.25 per cent a year from 2011 to 2016, and tying increases to the plan’s health after that.
The tribunal instead set increases for the judges’ pensions at 75 per cent of the Canadian consumer price index, to a maximum of five per cent. If inflation was at three per cent, the increase would be 2.25 per cent, a percentage point higher than other plan members.
The report says salaries and pensions have to be at a level to ensure judges’ independence and make the job attractive.
“Judicial salaries must be such as to place judges in a financial situation where they will not be corrupted by the temptation to curry favour among certain litigants in order to gain financial advantage,” the report said.
“This principle, of course, operates in a context where, to maintain independence, judges are forbidden from engaging in any other occupation or ‘sideline’ for financial gain.”
The Provincial Court Act says the province is obliged to implement the tribunal’s recommendations.
There are 34 provincial and family court judges in the province, plus several part-time judges, according to the Courts of Nova Scotia website.