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JUDGES - Compensation - Independence of judiciary - Financial security - Provincial court judges

Tuesday, August 31, 2021 @ 5:36 AM  

Appeal by the Attorney General from a decision that allowed in part the Provincial Court Judges’ Association’s judicial review application. The government response rejected the salary recommendations contained in the Judicial Compensation Commission’s 2016 report and proposed lower salaries. After hearing from the Attorney General and the justice critic, who made inaccurate comments, the Legislative Assembly accepted the government’s recommended salary figures. The Provincial Court Judges’ Association sought judicial review of the government’s response and the Legislative Assembly’s decision to depart from the recommendations of the Commission. The chambers judge found the government’s response and the resolutions of the Legislative Assembly did not conform to the standard set out in the Judicial Compensation Act. He quashed the motions of the Assembly that related to the Commission’s report and remitted the response back to the government for reconsideration.

HELD: Appeal allowed. The government explained why it disagreed with the Commission’s weighing of the factors in s. 5(5)(d) and 5(5)(f) of the Act. Its criticisms were not without foundation. Applying the standard of rationality, the chambers judge erred in finding the government failed to justify its departure from the Commission’s recommendations or to explain why it assigned greater weight to changes in the compensation of others paid from the public purse or the current and expected financial position of the government over the following three years. The government gave a rational and legitimate response. The government response recognized the unique position of judges and their entitlement to have their compensation treated differently from members of the public service. Absent bad faith, it would be speculative to attribute the justice critic’s unfortunate comments to the government in the face of the formal response. The government’s response indicated it had engaged in a meaningful way with the process and gave a rational answer to the Commission’s recommendations. The judicial review application was dismissed. The provincial court judges were entitled to receive the salaries accepted by the Legislative Assembly.

Provincial Court Judges’ Association of British Columbia v. British Columbia (Attorney General), [2021] B.C.J. No. 1636, British Columbia Court of Appeal, M.V. Newbury, P.M. Willcock and S.A. Griffin JJ.A., July 29, 2021. Digest No. TLD-August302021003