MLA payout package 'obscene'

Premier critical of severance deal that could hit $30 million

EDMONTON - Twenty-two Alberta MLAs not planning to run in the upcoming spring election will walk away with $10.6 million to help them adjust to life outside politics.

Representatives of all parties, including Premier Alison Redford, have criticized a platinum-plated severance package that will see Speaker Ken Kowalski, first elected in 1979, walk off with $1.2 million, and former premier Ed Stelmach leave with $991,000.

Departing MLAs Cindy Ady and Ray Prins will take away $784,000 between them, according to estimates Thursday from the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

The spending watchdog says the total cost to Albertans if all 83 MLAs quit or were voted out of office would be almost $30 million.

"It's been a travesty," said Wildrose MLA Rob Anderson.

"It's a joke, and everyone knows it's a joke."

The governing Tories, who gave themselves 30-per-cent raises after the last election, haven't addressed the issue because it would divide their caucus, he said.

Critics say the lucrative severance package - called MLA transition pay - likely won't sit well with Albertans already angry over revelations 21 members of a legislature all-party committee were each paid at least $1,000 a month while serving on a committee that hasn't met since 2008.

Redford said she hasn't heard from Albertans on the issue, but she expects it will be addressed in an MLA compensation review she appointed former justice John Major to undertake early this year.

"I always presumed that it would be," she said. "I would be surprised if it wasn't."

Redford told reporters she didn't think the current method of paying MLAs was a good system or very transparent.

"All of the benefits that MLAs receive need to be clarified," she said. "They need to be put together in a way Albertans can understand, and I think that has to be part of it."

The premier didn't know when Major will deliver his report. His office said it won't likely be until the end of April, which could put off its public release until after the coming election.

Liberal Leader Raj Sherman called the transition allowance "obscene."

His party wants it reduced to one month per year of service - instead of the current three months - with a maximum payout of eight years.

New Democrat MLA Rachel Notley called it "the most egregious payment out there.

"I would rather see all MLAs have access to some sort of pension fund - not some ridiculous gold-plated rich one, but something Albertans think is fair."

Edmonton Journal, Fri Mar 23 2012
Byline: Darcy Henton with files from Kelly Cryderman

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