Scrambling to balance damage control with party unity on the eve of an election call, MLA’s in Premier Alison Redford‘s Tory caucus are returning pay earned over the past six months from the Standing Committee on Privileges and Elections. The committee has not met since 2008, yet MLAs serving on the committee have collected $1,000 per month over that period of time.
The move highlights how big a political problem this issue has become for the governing party. Last week, members of the caucus were directed by Premier Redford to take significant pay cuts, which the Tories hoped would help quash the issue. Despite attempts quash the issue, fifteen Tory MLAs are now having to write cheques for the past six months of this committee pay. Rather than repay the full amount collected, six months may be the best that Premier Redford could afford to ask for (I can imagine more than a few Tory MLA’s are feeling a some angst and hostility about how this issue was handled).
Some Opposition MLAs pledged to return the pay after the committee’s absence became public weeks ago. After briefly taking a stand defending the most unpopular position he could under the circumstances, Calgary-Glenmore Wildrose Party MLA Paul Hinman agreed to repay the funds, as did Calgary-Fish Creek Wildrose MLA Heather Forsyth. Liberal leader Raj Sherman cut a cheque for $44,000 to return funds collected from his time as a PC MLA on the committee. Only one opposition MLA, Calgary-Mountain View Liberal David Swann, refused the pay from the beginning, donating it to charity instead.
The end of publicly funded religious education? Amen.
Grande Prairie and District Catholic School chairman Ralph Wohlgemuth calls the new Education Act the beginning of the demise of Catholic education in Alberta, according to the Grande Prairie Daily Herald Tribune. The Act would allow for the creation of blended school boards, in which both public and Catholic trustees would sit. In an attempt to address crowded schools in many districts across the province, the new Act would give school districts the ability to share space.
Earlier this week, thousands of parents pulled their home-schooled children away from their kitchen tables to protest in front of the Assembly against changes included in the new Education Act.
Meet Ken Hughes dot com
In Calgary-West, Wildrose candidate Andrew Constantinidis is attacking PC candidate Ken Hughes with a new website MeetKenHughes.com. The attack website includes some particularly nasty accusations against the former Conservative Member of Parliament and Alberta Health Services chairman. The emergence of these ads suggests that some Wildrose Party candidates may go to great lengths, and into great depths of negativity, in their campaign against the PCs in the upcoming election.
UPDATE: The videos attacking Mr. Hughes appear to have been taken down from Mr. Constantinidis’ website, likely due to copyright infringement because they used video taken from network television news.