This date in history
In the harbour
1. Give judges a big raise or they’ll take bribes
Yesterday, when I woke up at 5:30 to write Morning File, I checked all the usual government websites and and saw that late Friday afternoon the province had posted an Order in Council approving a new salary framework for judges as recommended by the Nova Scotia Provincial Judges’ Salary and Benefits Tribunal (2014-2017).
“Orders in Council” are typically cryptic announcements (you can search them here, just place a year in the pull-down menu) made by the premier’s cabinet. It would make immense sense and be helpful to democracy if the attachments and schedules to the OICs — the documents that spell out the specifics — were likewise posted on the internet, so that’s why they’re not. Instead, we reporters have to play this game of calling around to find someone with authorization to release the documents so we can tell you what’s what. Eventually, Communications Nova Scotia writes a long script putting the issue in government-friendly “context” and explaining why the OIC is for the best of humanity, and that all you reporters are assholes for asking questions. That’s how we do democracy in Nova Scotia.
Anyway, I went through that rigamarole yesterday to find out about the judges’ salaries. The very moment government offices opened I called and got the PR person’s voice mail saying she was out of the office — on Friday. Was she gone on Monday, too? I didn’t know. I tried a few more PR people and eventually found out the first PR person was in fact in the office, just not answering her phone, so mid-morning I emailed her. When I was on the bus to a noon meeting, I finally got an email back with the documentation attached, but by then I was in a series of afternoon meetings and so couldn’t write the story and CBC beat me to the punch.
Yeah, first world problems.
Anyway, here’s what the ceeb reported:
The tribunal set a base salary of $231,500 for the province’s 42 family and provincial court judges. It’ll go up with a cost-of-living adjustment each year. The plan runs from April 2014 to March 2017.
The government had asked the panel to not increase the salary as it said even the previous amount put judges in the top one per cent of provincial taxpayers.
I’ve posted the Tribunal’s entire report here. I found one explanation for giving judges a big raise, found on page 6, er, interesting:
It is also common ground [among those making submissions to the Tribunal] that the current salaries, benefits, working conditions and institutional arrangements for Nova Scotia’s provincial judges are generally such as to protect judicial independence, in relation to the executive branch of government and in relation to the private litigants who appear before our judges. These are the main concerns with respect to the capacity of the Province’s judges to maintain their neutrality and objectivity when dealing with those who come before them, so as to sustain and promote the rule of law in our corner of Canada’s constitutional democracy.
In short, if we don’t give judges a big raise, they’ll take bribes.
Under the Provincial Court Act, the Tribunal’s recommendations are binding. Nova Scotia is the only province to have such a system.
For what it’s worth, the McNeil government argued against giving judges a raise. It’s not like they can simply change the law and legislate a wage freeze…. oh, wait.
Funny how that works, eh? When it comes to the 75,000 working stiffs under provincial employ, the McNeil government can keep the legislature in session for 72 hours straight, spit in the eye of anyone who objects, including a hapless deaf man, and say to hell with decades’ worth of labour law, they’re passing emergency legislation to impose a wage freeze. But when it comes restraining the salaries of 42 highly paid provincial judges, what are you going to do?
I wonder which of those 42 judges will hear the lawsuit unions file against Bill 148, and if the learned judge will be conscious of the irony of the moment.
Don’t get me wrong. While judges are on the upper end of the 1%, and while they don’t even have to worry about buying expensive wardrobes (the same little black dress every day, stylish and inexpensive, and oh so sexy), I think judges should be paid well — not because if they aren’t they’ll start taking bribes, but rather because the administration of justice is serious business, requiring lots of hard work, research, deep thinking, and the skills and experience that come along with same. And, I’ve found, most judges take the job seriously and do good work. I don’t begrudge them a raise in the abstract, just in the context of screwing over their lesser working brethren.
A side note to the judges’ raise is that one of the three lawyers who comprised the Judges’ Salary and Benefits Tribunal is Ron Pink, who also was the negotiator for the teacher’s union in their contract talks with the government. Pink and the NSTU executive recommended that teachers accept a two-year wage freeze, a recommendation that was soundly rejected by the union membership.
Is it contradictory or hypocritical that Pink first recommended that teachers accept a wage freeze, then recommended that judges get a big raise? Not necessarily. In the first situation (teachers), Pink was making a recommendation based on what he thought he would be the best offer coming from a government that he had little ability to influence; in the second situation (judges) there was no counter-negotiator, and Pink and his two colleagues could get what they wanted — it didn’t matter what the government wanted. Arguably, in both cases Pink advocated for what he thought was best for workers.
That said, all this happened in a political context: it was simply understood that the government would not legislate a wage freeze for judges. Such a scenario was impossible to envision, the government never suggested it, and Pink knew a wage freeze wouldn’t be imposed. The game is rigged for the 1%, and that’s the way it goes.
Still, the attack on workers sullies everyone who’s touched by it.
“Mayor Mike Savage said he’ll make a decision in the New Year, but “there’s a very good likelihood” he’ll be reoffering in next year’s mayoral election,” reports Metro:
“I like the job, and there’s a very good chance that I will offer for mayor again,” Savage said.
Savage is being coy. No one starts a mayor election campaign, even a mayoral reelection campaign, less than a year before the election. It takes planning, kissing donors’ butts, putting the machine in motion. Savage is running, and he’s been organizing for it for a while.
1. Cranky letter of the day
Recently we have been hearing that there is a shortage of butter. For years the experts have been telling us, “butter bad, margarine good.” Now all of a sudden, butter is good for us and margarine is rather “iffy.” Same experts or is it a new lot?
Not hard to tell why there might be a shortage. Awhile back, when one saw a herd of dairy cattle, there were usually some Jerseys or Guernseys to keep the milk fat up to the required standard.
Now when one sees a dairy herd, all I see are Holsteins. As I remember it, their milk fat (cream) content was not high enough to meet the standard of the day.
There was a huge surplus of butter, so I wonder if the experts didn’t change the standard somewhere along the line and now it is coming back to haunt us. Of course, there are all these coffee shops using a lot more cream than was required not too many years ago.
Just as an aside, my grandmother lived to be 111 years old and some of her favourite foods were sugar, salt and butter, as much as she could get. Her only medication was a few ASA pills for her arthritis.
Gotta watch out for those health hazards.
Ralph Pick, Truro Heights
No public meetings.
This date in history
On December 22, 1821, Thomas McCulloch started publishing the first of his Letters of Mephibosheth Stepsure in the Halifax newspaper the Acadian Reporter. I really wanted to write a bunch about this, but time is getting away from me. A good backgrounder on the Stepsure letters is found in Northrop Frye on Canada. Promise, I’ll explain all this by December 22, 2016.
Redditer tbpHFX points us to this still from last Saturday’s COPS TV show:
In the harbour
Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro cargo, St. John’s to Pier 42
Atlantic Conveyor sailed this morning for Liverpool, England
Hollandia sails to sea
No copy editor this morning. Be kind.
I’m really glad we don’t have a Mephibosheth Street in Halifax.
“…the administration of justice is serious business, requiring lots of hard work, research, deep thinking, and the skills and experience that come along with same. And, I’ve found, most judges take the job seriously and do good work.”
Several lawyers have told me that family court outcomes depend not on the evidence or the law, but a) which judge you get, b) whether or not they enjoyed their breakfast, and c) what cases they have already heard today.
I agree that not all judges are qualified or consistently do good work. That’s an article for another day… but most are good.
Judging requires Latin : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Grg5tULy0tY
The supposed «BUTTER SHORTAGE» like the «GASOLINE SHORTAGE» is the product of both skulduggery and incompetence. In Canada we have a DAIRY BOARD whose mandate (supposedly) is to regulate milk and milk products to «ensure a healthy industry».
The Dairy Board is responsible for the INSANE situation where hundreds of tons of Canadian Butter is stored to the point of spoilage obstensibly to «support a FAIR [sic.] price». Amazingly, as a holder of a «Butter License» I had the privilege (for a short while) of bargain priced bulk butter — from NEW ZEALAND! When I discovered that the price had been SECRETLY hiked to MORE than nicely-wrapped one-pound bricks at the grocery store and complained, I was informed quite officiously: «…you don’t understand; we are a signatory to NAFTA and we MUST [sic.] charge the same price as the prevailing average in the USA…» Meanwhile hundreds of tons of CANADIAN butter sat degrading in storage.
POINT2: the DAIRY BOARD like most Federal appendages is replete with POLITICAL TROUGHERS so, logically, how much COMPETENCE can we expect? And, being troughers, how much INDEPENDENCE from WorldCorp dictates can we expect them to have?
Space doesn’t permit the discussion of the MANY ridiculous situation that single Government agency was capable of initiating. Safe to say that this current «BUTTER SHORTAGE» is about as genuine as a three-dollar bill.
But not very innovative Tim.
Hope your 2016 is full of innovation.
There’s a SIMPLE, ELEGANT, and F-A-I-R solution to the constant one-upmanship game which sees the «connected» get their already-egregiously rich emoluments topped-up automatically while Government beats down its front-line grunts with what amounts to salary CUTS. ALL Provincially paid salaries no matter what dodging name (i.e.: «personal service contract») is applied to skirt the law, should be administered by a SINGLE BOARD of people drawn from the REAL workforce — out there on civvy street. Their mandate being simply to review ALL salaries and benefits to ensure that they are FAIR for ALL Provincial Employees regardless of «influence». That would include politicians, judges, the typical cadre of troughers, and groups such as teachers who, although technically paid by School Boards, have their salaries determined by the Province.
The METHOD would be SIMPLE, and FAIR: All salaries deemed to be worth more than the currently-legislated Minimum Wage would be FIXED at a percentage premium over that wage. So, if the privileged cadre getting several times more than the Minimum Wage felt a RAISE was in order, it would be effected by raising the Minimum Wage by whatever percentage point was determined.
This system would attenuate the absolutely IMMORAL gap between the dispossessed at the bottom and the truoghers at the top. It would also remove the ridiculous huge lifetime pensions of politicians after scant years of service. Even better, it would also remove many of the troughers from the system because they wouldn’t «lower themselves» to accept a FAIR remuneration devoid of the fat top-ups they demand to support the lush lifestyle to which they believe they are entitled — a lifestyle only dreamed about by the people they currently slap down..
I’d LOVE to hear the bleating protestations of those whose egregious emoluments would be cut-back by such a FAIR scheme. I’d LOVE even more to see it implemented by the Government whose leader is constantly chanting his disingenuous mantra of «levelling then playing field».
Judges are on the lower end of the 1%. The entry point is north of $200,000, and the average income of the 1% is close to $400,000. Crack $700,000 and you’re getting close to the 0.1%.
Whether judges’ salaries are reasonable is a valid question, but they’re certainly not at the “upper end of the 1%.”
Someone in finance, Krista I think, told me the 1% starts at $160,000 in NS. And of course most of the 1% would be close to the bottom edge of it.