Provincial court judges in British Columbia are set for a second round in their fight with the government for higher pay.
The B.C. attorney general had applied for an order to strike a petition for judicial review filed by the Provincial Court Judges’ Association of British Columbia.
A judicial review is now expected to proceed with implications for other counsel and judges in the province.
According to court documents. there are about 111 full-time and 35 part-time provincial court judges in British Columbia.
A 2010 report by the judges compensation commission said the judges earned about $231,000 a year. That gives them the second-highest salaries for provincial court judges in Canada after Ontario.
The commission made 15 recommendations to the government regarding provincial court judges’ pay.
They included freezing pay in 2011-12 and 2012-13 but increasing 2013-14 salaries by the accumulated increase in the B.C. consumer price index over the preceding three years.
Court documents say this would amount to a 6.121-per-cent increase.
The government rejected six of the 15 recommendations, saying pay would be frozen in 2013-14 as part of attempts to control public spending.
However, the Provincial Court Judges’ Association of B.C. won a judicial review last July ordering the government to reconsider.
In March 2013, the government again rejected six of the recommendations but agreed to a 1.5-per-cent increase in 2013-14.
This prompted the association to file for a second judicial review, which the attorney general tried and failed to have struck down.
The July 22, 2013, decision in Provincial Court Judges’ Association of British Columbia v. British Columbia (Attorney General) says the association was “flabbergasted” by the government’s most recent response.
“It was almost completely the same response with only some new wrapping paper, a couple of different tweaks, and some new reasons or reasons which ought to have been known in 2011 for rejecting six of the recommendations,” the decision says.
The judges are seeking an order to quash the government’s latest resolution.
They also want it said that the government failed to conform to legislative standards embodied in the constitutional principle of judicial independence.
Lastly, they ask for a “direction to the attorney general of British Columbia as to the content of a new motion to be placed before the Legislative Assembly.”
The association was unavailable for immediate comment.
There are several other groups whose salaries are linked to judges’ pay by statute or negotiated agreement, including Crown and legal counsel, officers of the legislature, and masters of the Supreme Court.
A B.C. Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said the judge in the most recent ruling “did not make a decision about the merits of the case.”
She added: “The case will proceed and the next steps involve government filing a response to the association’s petition. Counsel for the province will prepare a response and then the case will be set for argument at a later date.”