Recently, the Progressive and allegedly conservative (PC) government of Alberta gave some food for thought after a Members’ Services Committee meeting on Oct. 19. The Members’ Services committee is an all-party committee which meets to discuss and bring forward policy regarding MLA benefits and services.
PC whip Steve Young, the guy in charge of making sure PC MLAs carry out the Premier’s wishes, brought forward a motion to do exactly the opposite of what the party campaigned on six months ago in the provincial election. Young and five PC cohorts, who form the majority of the committee, passed a motion that will see taxpayers pay 100 per cent of MLA contributions to RRSP funds. This doubles from the current contribution of government and is a pay raise on the backs of taxpayers, for a total of
$23,000 each year.
Even worse, the PCs decided to support a new version of the taxpayer-despised transition allowance. Premier Alison Redford campaigned against the transition allowance, which paid MLAs three months pay for every year of service. In committee, PC MLAs acknowledged being unable to reintroduce the same old “transition allowance,” but they jumped eagerly at the chance of instituting a new “departure allowance,” based on one month’s pay per year of service.
Wildrose and NDP members voted against the transition pay and RRSP plan, and the Liberals abstained, making the PCs the sole supporters of the new policy. As Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith said, not a single PC MLA would have been elected if they told their constituents they planned on giving themselves an $11,500 a year raise!
In an interview the day after the committee decision, Premier Redford said a transition pay was off the table, and made the implausible claim to not know about the RRSP decision.
Since then, both Premier Redford and Young have not been able to speak straight on how this decision could have passed, considering the PC promises made during the election.
Such statements make one wonder just what the Premier does with her time if not provide leadership to her caucus. It is unfathomable that such a motion would even get to the committee table without the explicit approval of the premier, even more so because it was her whip that brought the motion forward and spoke so strongly in favour of it. Remember: The whip is a senior position, serving at the pleasure of the premier, and enforces the premier’s will over caucus.
That Redford is trying to distance herself makes one wonder if the PCs actually thought they could get away with this kind of cash grab without getting called out by the Wildrose Official Opposition and the media.
This kind of disregard for taxpayers so soon after the election, where the opposite was promised, has offered us a glimpse of what the PC government will try to get away with over the next four years. As a Wildrose Official Opposition MLA, I will hold this government to account for the decision PC members made at the Members’ Services Committee meeting and look forward to the committee motion being debated in the legislature.
MLA Pat Stier, Livingstone-Macleod Constituency