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Ralph Klein has gone and it is time to retire Ralph's World. Thanks to all of you who have supported this venture by contributing material and through your comments. It has been fun.

Should we get another blog underway? Let me know your thoughts by e-mailing me at johnnyslow@gmail.com.

John Slow
January 1, 2007

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Freddie's Diary - Article 13 

UNDERWORKED MLAs DON'T DESERVE GENEROUS PAY PACKAGE
Never mind that MLAs haven't sat in the legislature for five months and may only reconvenes for a few weeks before year's end. Lets overlook the fact that most of the Tory types in this bloated legislature have committee pay perks or sit as $44 700 ministers in one of the country's largest cabinets.

Lets not debate the justification for having one third of their $57 502 MLA paycheque as a tax free expense allowance even though they pocket "subsistence" funds to cover job expenses. In their bid to be just like everybody else on the government payroll, MLAs deserve to have their 5%pay cut restored.

Their paycheques were the first to get hit by the deficit-slashing axe and they are the last to pocket the deficit-elimination dividend. So bravo! Good show and all that, and might I add that Ken Kowalski - former bureaucrat, cabinet minister, deputy premier, demoted backbencher and now Speaker--should add bargaining agent to his resume.

The Mighty K scoured the country for information to create a hard-luck case for Alberta MLAs that make it practically impossible for the legislative member service's committee NOT to approve his recommendation. His fellow MLAs rank seventh from the top in remuneration among elected provincial officials in Canada. They are the only ones denied a pension and they've been left in the dust of booming private-sector salary hikes. It was enough to make you weep at the injustice of it all.

After a two-hour discussion, the committee did much more than give MLAs their 1993 salaries back. The 10 MLAs on this cozy little all-party committee decreed that every April Fool's Day from now on will be MLA Pay Hike Day. That's the day when MLAs will automatically pocket a pay increase equal to Alberta's "average weekly earnings" increase as tracked by Statistics Canada.

Now that's not the way severely normal Albertans get a raise, which is why it may cause more problems than it cures. Under this formula, MLAs would have automatically received a 4% pay hike last year and 4.2% the year before--raises that were double the provincial cost of living increase. The MLA hike will automatically become the opening demand of all public service unions. MLAs who cut their pay to lead by example will quickly discover they have legislated a leadership role for themselves in the pay increase field.

Then there's the severance or resettlement or transition allowance increase the committee approved Monday--call it what you will but it's still a surrogate pension. The new deal doubles the kissoff. When MLAs leave or get fired by the voters to two months pay for every year of elected service up to a maximum of 12 years.

Frankly two years' salary is a lot of hang time for any MLA on the hunt for a clover landing while strapped into a golden government parachute. Any MLA worth his/her salt will find a job in less time than it takes to elect a replacement. Most line up a soft landing long before they decide not to seek re-election. Fact is, being an MLA is part-time work anyway. There is absolutely nothing to prevent a backbencher from working toward a private-sector retirement while on the public payroll, particularly in Legislature Light Alberta. Besides, there's reason it’s call public service. It shouldn't require a payoff of up to $115 000 (at 1998 salary levels) to push then out of the plane.

The bottom line is that MLAs reclaimed their pay cut to be like everybody else in public service and immediately gave themselves a sweetheart deal denied to everybody else. If voters were negotiating this deal instead of Kowalski and his fellow beneficiaries, MLA raises would match the year's lowest public sector settlement and there'd be NO severance package. Why? Well, people who quit voluntarily in the real world don't get severance packages. And anyone dumped by the voters was fired with cause and shouldn't qualify for a golden parachute. Those who don't like these terms can elect to do the honorable thing and refuse to seek the job from us, the employers. Don Martin, Oct. 9, 98, Calgary Herald.

It appears that none of the Progressive Conservative persons elected in the last elections understands why we, the public, elected them. We expected them to take care of the interests of the population and the province. Instead they spend 90% of their time planning on how they could get themselves a nice raise as well as take care of their retirement. Do we need a change. I believe Albertans need a break. Please exercise your vote.

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