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B.C. provincial court judges to receive 28.4% pay increase over four years

The increase bumps the judges’ annual salary to $343,000 retroactive to April 1, 2023.
B.C. Attorney General Niki Sharma pauses while responding to questions outside B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver on Monday, Nov. 27, 2023. Sharma says the government agrees that the raises given to provincial court judges and Crown prosecutors “is too much.” DARRYL DYCK, THE CANADIAN PRESS

B.C.’s provincial court judges will receive a 28.4 per cent salary increase over the next four years.

The province’s 131 full-time provincial court judges are now being paid $343,000, up from the $288,500 annual salary they had earned since April 1, 2022, the Ministry of the Attorney General confirmed this week.

The increase is retroactive to April 1, 2023, and the 131 full-time provincial court judges will also receive interest on that retroactive increase, the ministry said.

Although the province recommended smaller increases amounting to about 16 per cent over the next four years, the province did not challenge the 28.4 increase recommended by the 2022 Judicial Compensation Commission for the period April 1, 2023, to March 31, 2027. This means the recommendations from the final report of the commission, tabled in the legislature on Nov. 28, have come into force.

The government has rejected the commission’s recommendations four times in the past — in 2010, 2013, 2016 and 2019 — resulting in legal action. The province is in court right now appealing the most recent court ruling setting out the limits on the province’s ability to alter decisions made by the commission.

“We agree that it’s too much. We made submissions to have lower increases that were rejected by the commission,” Attorney General Niki Sharma said Thursday.

“Given the state of law on this issue, the province did not want to risk even more public money tied up in expensive lawsuits that were unlikely to succeed. This is an old process that has been in place for a long time. It’s clearly not working for people. The province will be taking a look at the way judges’ salaries are set in B.C. to ensure it meets people’s expectations.”

Crown counsel will also receive a 28.4 per cent increase over the next four years under their collective agreement. Senior Crown prosecutors are now making $291,000, an increase from $244,000 last year.

The commission also recommended that judicial justices receive a 37.7 per cent increase over the next four years. Judicial justices, who preside over search warrants, traffic and ticket violations and bail hearings outside court hours, now receive an annual salary of $172,000 which will increase to $187,000 in 2026-27.

In April, the B.C. General Employees’ Union announced its members would received an increase of 6.75 per cent.

B.C. Supreme Court judges also receive $343,000 per year. However, they are appointed and paid for by the federal government and have a different process for compensation.

In its 100-page report, the 2022 Judicial Compensation Committee, found “a startling low level of interest” in the provincial court with fewer people applying to be provincial court judges.

“There is serious difficulty in filling judicial vacancies outside the Lower Mainland,” the report said.

The commission described judges’ salaries in B.C. as “unreasonably low,” more than $25,000 below the national average.

For 2022-23, the average salary of federal and provincial judges across Canada, excluding B.C., was $314,204. The average salary of judges in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario, excluding federal judges, is $343,238, the report said.

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