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Pay hike proposal for provincial court judges rejected by Alberta government

The sign at the Calgary Courts Centre in Calgary is shown on Friday, Jan. 5, 2018.
The sign at the Calgary Courts Centre in Calgary is shown on Friday, Jan. 5, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Bill Graveland

The Alberta government is rejecting a recommendation to hike salaries for provincial court judges by about eight per cent over four years.

Instead, the province says it will keep the salaries where they are at almost $294,000 a year until at least the spring of 2021.

READ MORE: Heated committee meeting sees Alberta cut MLA pay by 5% and 10% for premier

Premier Jason Kenney’s cabinet, in an order in council, took issue with a 2017 independent panel that urged the salaries of judges and Queen’s Bench masters in chambers be bumped up over four
years to $318,000.

Kenney’s cabinet says the pay hike proposal was based on an optimistic assessment of Alberta’s financial outlook that has not borne out.

READ MORE: 6 new provincial court judges appointed in Alberta

Cabinet also stated that Alberta’s judges were the highest paid in Canada in 2017 and, without a pay hike, will likely remain among the highest paid by 2021.

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Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer says Alberta is in tough times with its budget, and paying judges more right now flies in the face of that reality.

“Alberta appreciates the work of the Judicial Compensation Commission and has thoroughly reviewed and considered its recommendations,” Schweitzer said in a statement.

“(But) increasing judicial salaries from their current level of almost $300,000 a year fails to adequately reflect the serious fiscal challenges facing the province.”

READ MORE: Alberta finance minister hopes to balance budget by 2023 but nothing confirmed

Kenney’s United Conservatives have promised to balance the budget over the next four years, following years of sluggish oil prices and multibillion-dollar deficits under the former NDP government.

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