B.C. government sent back to drawing board in latest provincial court judges’ compensation battle

A B.C. Supreme Court judge has ordered the provincial government to scrap its three-year pay hike program for B.C. provincial court judges.

In the latest in a series of legal disputes over salaries, the court was asked to assess the remuneration and associated benefits for judges of the Provincial Court of British Columbia for the third time in four years.

In Provincial Court Judges’ Association of British Columbia v. British Columbia (Attorney General), the government proposed raises of 1 per cent, 1 per cent and then 1.5 per cent over the three-year period of 2014-17, which was less than what the Judicial Compensation Commission, an independent body that oversees judges’ remuneration, had recommended. The JCC proposed raises of 2.9 per cent, 1.5 per cent and 2 per cent over the same three years.

In his ruling, Justice Christopher Grauer said the government’s counter-proposed, lower increases “failed to meet the test of rationality in concluding that the JCC’s recommendations were unfair and unreasonable.”

Grauer did not, however, go so far as to accept the association’s request he implement the JCC’s proposed rates.

“It is not for me to set salaries. It is not for me to assess competing priorities for public funds. That . . . is the government’s responsibility, for which it is answerable to the electorate,” he said, adding, “the process is key.”

Under the Judicial Compensation Act, the JCC is tasked with reviewing provincial court judges’ salaries every three years.

As Legal Feeds reported in March 2015, the recommendations from the 2010 JCC report were implemented after the B.C. Court of Appeal ruled that provincial court judges are entitled to raises based on the consumer price index. In the fall of 2015, the dispute was settled for good after the Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear the provincial government’s case for overturning the appeal court ruling.

At that time, the current disagreements over the JCC’s more recent recommendations for 2013 increases had already begun.

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