The commission that decides MLA salaries is looking for input from the public about how much Islanders believe their elected representatives should be paid.
The Indemnities and Allowances Commission has issued a call for written submissions as part of its annual review of remuneration and benefits paid to MLAs, the speaker, premier and Opposition.
But Opposition Leader Steven Myers believes the commission’s work should be put on hold.
He believes his and all MLAs’ pay should be frozen until the provincial budget is balanced.
“We’re digging so deep into Islanders’ pockets to try to get more money,” he said, referencing the HST, which was introduced in P.E.I. this spring.
“I don’t think it’s right that we should be looking for any raise at this point, I think we should be getting our province’s spending under control.”
Earlier this year, the issue of MLA pay sparked controversy after the assembly members received a three per cent pay hike.
Initially they were only granted a one per cent increase by the Indemnities and Allowances Commission for the 2013 fiscal year, but the previous year’s two-per-cent increase, which had been frozen, later came into effect granting the MLAs a total three per cent increase.
After public outcry, Premier Robert Ghiz then floated the idea of scrapping the commission altogether and tie future MLA pay raises to the average civil servant pay increases.
This raised concerns of conflict of interest from the president of the Union of Public Sector Employees, the Opposition and others.
Myers then introduced a private members bill in the legislature that aimed to roll back the increase and then freeze MLA salaries indefinitely.
It was quickly defeated and Ghiz backpedaled on scrapping the commission, leaving everything at status quo.
Myers says he still believes he and his colleagues should not be receiving pay increases at a time when many in the province are struggling to meet their basic needs.
He also pointed to the province’s spring operating budget – largely an austerity budget that saw spending frozen in most departments with only a few small increases in health, community services and tourism.
Also, despite tens of millions in new HST revenues, a deficit of just under $59 million is expected this year.
“It’s really a poor time to be looking for a raise,” Myers said.
“When you ask about raising the personal exemption for Islanders, the (Finance Minister) Wes Sheridan says, ‘We can’t do that until we balance the books,’ yet we can give MLAs raises? It doesn’t seem fair to a regular Islander.”
The Indemnities and Allowances Commission is accepting written submissions until Oct. 18. It will present its binding report on MLA remuneration to the speaker Dec. 1.