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Alberta Politics

more on alberta mla extra pay and the privileges & elections committee.

2012-03-11 Alberta Politics MLA Committee Pay
Alberta MLA's at a meeting of the Privileges and Elections Committee.

More information has been relvealed about controversial $1,000 monthly payments made to Alberta MLA’s for being members of a committee that has not met for three years. Retiring Edmonton-Gold Bar Liberal MLA Hugh MacDonald revealed late last week that Premier Alison Redford was briefly a member of the committee while she served as Minister of Justice & Attorney General (though Premier Redford has no recollection). It was also revealed that Liberal leader Raj Sherman sat on the committee and collected the extra pay while he was a Progressive Conservative MLA.

Alberta MLA’s are allowed to collect extra pay for a maximum of $3,500. Some opposition MLA’s, like Edmonton-Strathcona NDP MLA Rachel Notley, sit on four or five committees (and are only paid for three). Premier Redford told the Edmonton Sun that it would be up to individual MLA’s to choose whether they would return the extra pay.

Transcript of a meeting of the Privileges and Elections Committee from Monday, November 17, 2008 includes some interesting comments about the committee’s work by a three MLA’s who found themselves sitting in different political positions four years ago. Two-term Liberal MLA Bridget Pastoor (now a PC MLA) questioned the need for the committee, five-term PC MLA Heather Forsyth (now a Wildrose Party MLA) defended the committee’s work, and rookie-PC MLA Dr. Sherman (now leader of the Liberal Party) expressed honour for being invited to join the committee.

Ms Pastoor: I think I just want to get on the record with a couple of comments. This committee hadn’t met for almost 20 years, and now we’ve met two or three times and probably won’t meet again. I just feel that a lot of the work that we did – and I’m not saying that it’s not good – in committee really was probably the responsibility of the two House leaders. Prior to this, I think both our House leaders and the leader of the third party as a part of that really did a fine job, so I’m still not exactly sure why we had the large meeting when, in fact, it was the responsibility of the House leaders.

Mrs. Forsyth: Just a comment to Bridget. I’ve been here since 1993, and this committee has been around, and I always questioned what it did. I felt the whole process very worth while. I liked the idea of the people who put together the new standing orders, et cetera, giving us, even though we didn’t win some of the battles, like I did, the opportunity to debate it and say why we support it. For example, I’ll go back. I thought it would be a good idea to have sessions in the morning. I got overwhelmingly defeated on that particular motion, but for me it was an extremely valuable process to be able to say that I was part of a committee that had the opportunity after 20 years to be able to set new rules in what’s going to be the future, hopefully for – I’m not going to say 20 years because I don’t assume that that’s going to happen. I mean, we all age.

People change. Things change.

….

Dr. Sherman: Thank you, Mr. Chair. As a new member it’s a good opportunity for the new members to learn, to see how the process works, and to sit across the table from our other colleagues. This is part of us working together. It’s been an honour for me to be here. Thank you, Mr. Chair. You’ve done a good job.

20 replies on “more on alberta mla extra pay and the privileges & elections committee.”

Sure, a person could read that as Raj saying its an honor to be an elected official. But no, instead I think you’ve got the smoking gun: you’ve done a great job breaking the scandal that Raj Sherman has manners.

The four important questions right now:

When will Alberta Party MLA give back the $1000/month he got for sitting on this committee?

When will the NDP MLA give back the $500/month she got for sitting on this committee?

When will the Wildrose MLAs give back the $1000/month they each got for sitting on this committee?

When will the PC MLAs give back the $1000/month they each got for sitting on this committee?

The oxygen is so thin on that highest of high roads which you Liberals walk, I don’t think I have the lung capacity to vote for you guys.

FWG: thanks for the comment. It’s not a scandal, but I do think it’s worth pointing out the different statements made by those politicians at the time (especially considering what positions they hold now).

You seem to have missed one floor crosser that sits on this committee, Dave. Has Dave Taylor said anything on the record?

Interesting post, Dave.

The Alberta Liberal Party tackled this a month ago in the launch of our platform. We call for a new, simplified MLA pay structure. Between the committee pay, the tax free allowances, etc. the actual MLA compensation structure is currently a confusing mess.

I also want to point out that Raj Sherman himself was the individual who reminded the media he was on that committee, and Raj did the right thing by giving the money back and apologized for not doing it sooner. David Swann, the other Liberal member on the committee has been donating the money from this committee to charity for some time.

I do hope other MLAs follow Raj and David’s lead. This is the sort of thing that makes all politicians look bad.

Casual Observer, I’m not sure we want to get into the game of hanging parties for the comments of their supporters.

This committee became controversial because it wasn’t having any meetings, but people were getting paid for it anyway.

Back when this transcript took place, the committee obviously was meeting, so it shouldn’t be too surprising that more members supported its existence.

If getting tens of thousands of dollars for doing nothing isn’t a “scandal”, Daveberta, I’m curious to know how you define one.

This “scandalette” has legs. It does taint all of them, but far and away the biggest taint is on the PCs and Redford. This has not been a good few days for the Premier – first she denied knowledge about it, then when it was revealed she was actually on it, she dismissed it by suggesting she wasn’t paid to be on it (presumably only because she was already maxing out by being on other committees). She then proclaimed she was upset about it, but other than urging members to do the right thing, there was nothing more she could do. In a few short days, she’s left us with the following conclusions:

1. She’s a liar;
2. She’s not a liar, but she’s scatter-brained;
3. She’s an agent of change that is nonetheless powerless.

Better fire up a few more of those negative ads.

DontGive: I meant that the comments made at the 2008 meeting were not scandalous. The extra pay that some MLA’s are collecting for this committee is, simply, scandalous.

Corey: David Swann has been donating this extra pay to charity for some time, which is honourable and honest. Raj Sherman suddenly returning the money he collected for sitting on this committee is great, but he did not come forward until this became an issue in the media. Would he still be collecting the funds if this hadn’t become a public issue?

It seems like MLA’s from all the parties have a share of the guilt on this issue.

I don’t see the need to dissolve the committee not do I believe MLA’s should resign from it either. While the committee meets very infrequently, it does serve a purpose – to deal with serious referred matters from the Assembly such as Points of Privilege. It doesn’t happen very often, but when it does I am sure that all the parties will demand a voice at this committee table. The issue is the extra pay that MLAs are collecting. There is a need to standardize MLA pay and eliminate these extravagant perks.

No one has the moral high ground on this.

Writing a cheque to return the money now is tantamount to being the kid who shoplifted at the candy store and only gave the candy back after he was caught.

Government of Alberta media release:

Premier Redford statement on MLA committee pay

Edmonton… Premier Redford issued the following statement today on MLA committee pay.

“During the leadership contest, I stated my clear preference for a single, transparent pay structure for MLAs. For the last several days, Albertans have expressed their concerns about MLAs receiving pay for sitting on a committee that did not hold meetings. Albertans are right on this issue.
Accordingly, I will request that the Speaker review the pay of all committees of the Legislature and suspend all Legislative Committee pay. In addition, my government has decided that effective immediately, our MLAs will refuse to accept the stipend for sitting on committees of the Legislature.

“I have also suspended pay for all government members on government committees effective immediately. All of this will be done pending the outcome of retired Supreme Court Justice John Major’s review of MLA compensation and benefits.

“Last year, I followed through on my promise to establish an independent review of MLA compensation and benefits because of my concerns that MLA pay had become too complicated and fell short of the openness and transparency demanded by Albertans. While Justice Major’s review is currently underway, it does not change my opinion that MLAs should have one, easy-to-understand pay package. My government will review the recommendations of the independent review carefully but it is my commitment that we will simplify MLA pay into one, fully-taxable salary so that Albertans know exactly what their elected representatives are earning and why.”

-30-

Raj hasn’t been on the committee since becoming leader of the Alberta Liberal Party/joining the Alberta Liberal Caucus. The funds he is returning are funds he got when he was on the committee previously.

So now we have conclusion 4:

4. Flip Flopper (yesterday I said I couldn’t do anything, today I can).

As for a “fully taxable” salary, that’s kinda up to the feds, since the tax-free portion of an elected officials salary is established by federal law, i.e. the Income Tax Act. I’m sure Redford assumes this small detail won’t curtail the political mileage she hopes to get out of this statement.

If anything MLA pay needs to be increased. Outside of Edmonton they travel a significant amount and I’ve never seen an MLA who doesn’t work hard (of any party).

And I’m a Wildrose supporter.

“The province can change the way they pay MLAs, so that all of their income falls into the “taxable” categories.”

Defining taxable income is wholly within the parameters of the Income Tax Act. Redford would need to request the federal Finance department enact an exception for Alberta MLAs to the 1/3 tax-free rule that applies to all elected offices country-wide. She may do this. Alternatively, given the attention to detail she’s displayed thus far in her tenure as premier, she could continue to promote herself as a fiscal hawk on the strength of promises like this, then proclaim ignorance when it is ultimately established (hopefully after she’s been re-elected) that she can’t fulfill them.

Dave, a fact that media seems not to have found or have chosen to ignore is that PC MLA’s can earn up to just short of $4,000. per month in addition for sitting on Cabinet Policy Committees and/or Executive Council. There is no public accessible records of if or when these committees meet. The funding comes straight out of Ministry budgets.

Brian, I would venture to say that more politicians earn more in office and after leaving then they did before being elected. MLAs from outside Edmonton receive generous allowances for travel and for being in Edmonton for the piddly amount of time that the Legislature sits. Also check the government air fleet flight logs and you will see that many government MLAs aren’t burning up the highway. I never thought to check before, but Cabinet Ministers are provided with government vehicles but I don’t believe that the travel reimbursement recognizes that. MLAs get about 7% less per mile than the government pays, but then on top of that all fuel, vehicle maintenance and repairs are paid. Gevernment employees are paid only the mileage.

DontGive. If I am not mistaken, Alberta is one of very few provinces that still has a non-taxable portion of salary. It’t can’t be that onerous to get that changed.

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