11/29/2013 17:39 EST | Updated 01/29/2014 05:59 EST

Boost base salaries of Quebec politicians, committee recommends

A committee recommends the annual base salary of Quebec’s provincial politicians should be boosted by about $50,000, while bonuses and discretionary allowances be eliminated.

Retired judge Claire L'Heureux-Dubé, who chaired the independent committee that examined the remuneration of Quebec MNAs, said Quebec politicians need to be more transparent about how much they get paid.

Right now, MNAs in Quebec get a base salary of just over $88,000.

But they also get bonuses — like a tax-free discretionary allowance of $16,000 per year — to spend as they see fit.

L'Heureux-Dubé said Friday that it’s time to get rid of all those hidden costs to make the system more transparent.

“They are afraid of the response of their constituents if they raise their salaries. So they use all kinds of techniques to do the same thing, but it's not transparent,” said L'Heureux-Dubé, whose recommendations come a day after the finance minister announced Quebec will end the year with a $2.5 billion deficit.

Recommendations would mean big salaries for some

The independent committee suggests that MNAs’ annual base salary be bumped up to $136,000, while bonuses be eliminated.

This plan will see major salary hikes for high-ranking politicians who hold important positions:

- Quebec Premier Pauline Marois: from $181,000 up to $272,000 a year

- Cabinet Ministers: from $154,000 to $218,000 a year

- Committee Chairs: from $110,000 to $163,000 a year

No extra cost for taxpayers

The committee insists the changes to the salary system won't cost taxpayers more — it says the higher base salaries would be paid for by the increased income taxes on MNAs' paycheques, and by the elimination of bonuses for those who leave office before the end of their mandates.

“We need to read it thoroughly,” said PQ Minister Bernard Drainville, adding that it could be some time before anyone decides what to do with the recommendations.

“Don't ask me whether we should be getting a better pay than the one we are getting. This is not a question I am comfortable to answer.”