Quebec premier defends politicians’ salary increase

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Base pay would go from $101,561 to $131,766

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SHERBROOKE, Que. — Courage was necessary to move forward on raising the salaries of provincial politicians by $30,000, Quebec Premier Francois Legault said on May 13 as unions demonstrated outside his party’s convention to demand a raise, too.

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“It’s a file you have to have the courage to deal with to attract all people (to politics), not just people who have made money before,” Legault said as the Coalition Avenir Quebec’s party convention got underway in Sherbrooke, Que., about 150 kilometers east of Montreal.

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About 850 members attended the convention to discuss party policy and to debate 32 proposals, many having to do with energy files like building more hydroelectric dams.

But the pay bump was among the distractions as 1,000 members of four public sector unions protested outside the convention, dissatisfied with the progress of negotiations as the collective agreement of about 600,000 provincial employees expired on March 31.

Quebec has made an offer that works out to be a 13 per cent pay increase over five years, a lump sum of $1,000 and an additional 2.5 per cent increase for “government priorities.”

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The unions are seeking a $100 per week increase or the consumer price index (CPI) plus two per cent in year one, which ever is more advantageous, followed by a three and four per cent increase in subsequent years. The unions said they want to make the CPI figure permanent to avoid the loss of purchasing power of government workers against inflation.

“They are going to give themselves $582 in increase per week and they tell us that the $100 is too much,” lamented Francois Enault, first vice-president of the Confederation des syndicats nationaux (CSN).

Raise base pay

Legault’s government tabled a bill this week that would raise the base pay for elected officials from $101,561 to $131,766, making it the highest among Canadian provincial politicians. Alberta legislature members currently have the highest base salary among their provincial peers — $120,936 a year.

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Legault told reporters on May 13 the debate on the salaries of elected members of the national assembly had dragged on for too long and it was necessary to have the courage to increase their base pay.

Legault defended not bringing up the issue during the 2022 election campaign.

“It’s always a delicate file,” Legault said.

The governing party’s caucus is unanimous in supporting the considerable increase, which was recommended by a committee earlier this year to attract strong candidates. The Liberal official Opposition said it supports the bill, while Quebec solidaire opposes it and the Parti Quebecois has expressed its discomfort.

Most of the 125 elected members of the legislature already earn substantially more than base salary because of other duties, but everyone will see an increase including the premier and cabinet ministers. For example, cabinet ministers will see their pay rise to $230,591 from $177,732.

Legault also faced a confidence vote at the convention on May 14, his first since 2014 when he received 97.2 per cent support. He received 98.61 per cent support.

Despite turmoil since the government’s decision to backtrack on a promise to allow cars in a proposed tunnel linking Quebec City with its south shore, party members say reneging on a major election promise for voters in the capital region shouldn’t be an issue for the confidence vote.

— with files from Caroline Plante in Sherbrooke, Que.

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