Toronto Sun

Wednesday, September 15, 1999

Judges handed big, fat raises

Gay benefits, too

By JEFF HARDER, QUEEN'S PARK BUREAU
The Toronto Sun

Ontario's provincial court judges are receiving $40,000 wage hikes and full homosexual recognition for their benefit packages. The same sex spousal acknowledgement was approved Aug. 18 by Management Board Chairman Chris Hodgson, who opposed the extension of employment benefits to gay and lesbian couples during his successful 1994 byelection campaign. After getting elected, he voted against a law that mirrored the cabinet order he endorsed last month. The new benefit and salary schedules for Ontario's 260 provincial court judges, which boost their pay to $170,000 a year from about $130,000, guarantee spousal benefit coverage for homosexual members of the judiciary.

"In this part, spouse means: either of two persons of the opposite sex, or the same sex, who live in a conjugal relationship outside marriage," states the cabinet order, bearing Hodgson's signature. "It is sweet irony for the gay and lesbian community that Hodgson would have to sign off on it," Liberal chief whip Dominic Agostino said. "Especially, by a man who got elected by exploiting the issue. But it is the right decision. You have to give credit where credit is due."

In 1994, Hodgson's election strategy was based, in part, on the condemnation of NDP plans to extend homosexual rights. Hodgson's cabinet decree now extends a full array of benefits to homosexual judicial couples. Those perqs, recommended in June by the judges remuneration commission, include subsidies for dentures, dental work, hearing aids, glasses, disability, parental leave and death benefits. The judges also receive cash for gowns, briefcases, books and travel expenses.

"It's a tad excessive," said Walter Robinson of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

Besides assisting judges, Hodgson has augmented the pay scale for Tory political staff at Queen's Park. Some of them will receive 30% pay hikes, or an $18,000 bump.

Copyright © 1999, Quebecor New Media Limited Partnership.