BRITISH COLUMBIA

B.C. premier rescinds post-elections staff raises, says they send wrong message

06/19/2013 04:22 EDT | Updated 08/19/2013 05:12 EDT
VICTORIA - Premier Christy Clark says approving pay hikes for her top political staff just days after her election win last month was a mistake and she's ordered the raises rescinded.

Clark said Wednesday the pay increases sent the wrong message to British Columbians who heard during the recent election campaign that the Liberals want to rein in government spending and balance the budget.

But a June 3 cabinet order that boosted the maximum salary of her chief of staff by 18 per cent up to $230,000 a year and some ministerial assistants from $94,000 to $105,000 had the Opposition New Democrats calling Clark's newly elected government "out of touch and tone deaf."

Clark, who is campaigning to win a July 10 byelection in Kelowna after losing her Vancouver seat on May 14, said she's been hearing from B.C. residents that the increases are not in step with a government that wants to find ways to reduce spending.

"The message isn't consistent with my determination to control government spending," she said. "I said during the election we're going to control spending and we're going to try and make government smaller if we can, and that's going to mean tightening our belts."

Clark's recent cabinet shuffle included appointing Bill Bennett, the minister responsible for a government-wide core review of programs, services and spending.

Prior to Clark's decision, the Liberals insisted the total budget for staff in ministerial offices decreased with restructuring to $5.711 million from $5.741 million.

Opposition New Democrat Leader Adrian Dix said the raises exposed the true colour of Clark's Liberals by looking to reward their party insiders following the election.

"The decision as their first item to jack up the salaries of political staff just shows them to be out of touch," he said. "This is what they do when they are not held to account."

The NDP used government cabinet documents signed by Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon to make the salary issue public.