He once told Albertans that he would “die in office” rather than retire and collect his gold plated severance package, but this week Speaker Ken Kowalski opted for retirement instead of the afterlife. The long-time MLA announced yesterday in a letter to the Progressive Conservative Party that he would not be seeking re-election in the Spring 2012 provincial election. He was in August 2011.
Speaker Kowalski is the longest serving MLA in the Assembly and was first elected in a 1979 by-election in the Barrhead constituency. His absence will undoubtably lead to a hotly contested PC nomination in Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock. Hoping to capture the seat from the Tories is Wildrose candidate and former Alberta Report publisher Link Byfield, who has been on the hustings for more than a year.
Upon his retirement, Speaker Kowalski is expected to collect $1,271,600 in transition allowance, and it is suspected that he may also collect $54,000 per year from the now-defunct MLA pension that was dissolved in 1992. His retirement announcement takes place before a review of MLA salaries and benefits, led by retired Justice John Major, can take place.
This MLA pay review initiated by Premier Alison Redford may succeed in forcing generational change in the PC caucus by prompting the retirement of a number of stodgy former Tory cabinet ministers, including Sherwood Park MLA Iris Evans, Grande Prairie-Smoky MLA Mel Knight, Vermilion-Lloydminster MLA Lloyd Snelgrove, Banff-Cochrance MLA Janis Tarchuk, and current Finance Minister and Calgary-West MLA Ron Liepert.