Ontario’s Finance Minister will introduce legislation to prevent MPPs from receiving a hefty raise next year, after the government announced a surprise budget surplus and a “temporary” elimination of the deficit.
The Ford government unveiled a $2.1-billion budget surplus for the 2021-22 fiscal year as the province benefited from inflation driving up the cost of goods and services, delivering higher tax revenues to the government’s coffers.
The unexpected surplus also means Ontario MPPs stand to receive a significant bump in pay for the first time in 14 years, when the former Liberal government froze MPP salaries at $116,550 amid an economic downturn.
By balancing the budget, however, the Ford government inadvertently struck down a portion of Ontario’s laws dictating how much MPPs can earn.
The Ministry of Finance told Global News Ontario politicians could soon receive $142,125 a year — or 75 per cent of a federal MP’s yearly salary.
Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy said he plans to introduce legislation to “freeze” MPPs’ salaries amid the pressures of high inflation and rising interest rates on the entire province.
“While people are struggling due to increasing costs, politicians should not be getting raises,” the government said in a news release.
While the move might prove to be politically popular, it comes at a time when the government is being urged to eliminate the freeze altogether.
In a yearly report, Ontario’s Integrity Commissioner called the current laws “problematic” and urged the legislature to overhaul compensation laws.
“During my meetings with MPPs to review their financial disclosure some MPPs mention their concern over the continuing static nature of their income,” Commissioner J. David Wake said in his report. “Continuing to tie the lifting of the freeze to achieving a balanced budget is problematic for all MPPs.”
While the Finance Minister is limiting the salary increases of all MPPs, members of the Ford government still receive thousands of dollars in top-ups for additional responsibilities.
The salary for those in Premier Doug Ford’s 30-member cabinet is $165,000 a year, while 43 PC MPPs earn nearly $140,000 a year for serving as Parliamentary Assistants.
In total, 73 of the 83-member Ontario PC caucus already receive between 19 to 42 per cent above base salary.
Other MPPs, such as the leader of the Official Opposition, committee chairs and the Speaker of the Legislature also receive a salary top-up.
The government is unlikely to receive pushback from the NDP who acknowledged the six-figure salary is well above the average Ontario income.
“I think that most people would agree that somebody who makes $116,000 a year — it is a good salary,” said the NDP’s Catherine Fife.
The Ontario legislature returns on Oct. 25.