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Danielle In QP, October 23: MLA Remuneration
Ms Smith: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Delighted to be back.
Mr. Speaker, I believe people are only as good as their word. During the last election the Premier promised – promised – to end gold-plated transition allowances for MLAs, but just this past Friday PCs on the Members’ Services Committee did the opposite. They recommended not only giving themselves a transition allowance but also a richer payment to RRSPs as well.
The Premier says it’s not her fault. She says she was caught by surprise and that she never told her caucus whip to slip this latest cash grab through the committee. Can the Premier explain to Albertans why her caucus is ready to break another election promise?
The Speaker: Hon. members, I’d like to just add that no report from the Members’ Services Committee has yet come to this Chamber. I’ll leave it up to the Premier, however, if she wishes to make a general comment.
Ms Redford: Well, thank you, Mr. Speaker. I think your comment is quite specific. This is a committee of the Legislative Assembly. Members who sit on that committee are fully able to explore the work that they do, as I understand it. My understanding is that the work of that committee was to review the recommendations of the Major report. I understand that that’s what they did, and I don’t understand that it’s my role to direct the members of the committee to do anything.
Ms Smith: Mr. Speaker, the PC members of the committee want taxpayers to cover 100 per cent of their RRSPs. That means, in effect, that MLAs would get an 8 per cent, or nearly a thousand dollars a month, pay increase. Now, of course, a thousand dollars a month: that sounds kind of familiar as a number. Is this replacement money for the no-meet committee?
The Speaker: Again, hon. members, I would caution you about going down this line. No report has yet come forward from this committee; neither has any recommendation formally surfaced just yet.
Hon. Premier, I’ll leave it to you if you wish to comment. If not, I’ll invite the hon. leader to go on to the third question.
Ms Redford: Answered.
Ms Smith: I think, Mr. Speaker, that we’re going to see a lot of that this session.
As angry as Albertans were about the no-meet committee and the payments to a few MLAs, this thousand dollars a month would end up going to all 87 MLAs. Can the Premier put an end to the immediate game playing and order her members to do the right thing and give Alberta taxpayers a break?
The Speaker: Hon. member, I hope I don’t have to remind the Assembly or any future questioners again. There is no report yetthat has come forward to this Assembly. There is a process. Let’s try and stick to it.
Hon. Premier, if you wish to comment, I’ll leave it up to you. If not, I’ll move to the Leader of the Official Opposition for her second main set of questions, please.
Ms Smith: Mr. Speaker, in the most recent fiscal update we learned that the deficit is $3 billion. This is exactly where we warned that this government was headed even though throughout the election they said that we were wrong. On Friday, once again, the PCs on the Members’ Services Committee voted themselves an 8 per cent pay raise – that’s 8 per cent – about $1,000 per month, by having taxpayers fill up their RRSPs. Will the Premier stop grabbing taxpayer money and commit to getting spending under control?
The Speaker: I think this is a similar vein of questioning, hon. leader, so please revisit the question, but I’ll invite whoever on the government side wishes to make a comment to please do so.
Mr. Horner: Mr. Speaker, it’s been a very interesting summer. It’s been a very interesting September and October. In fact, I’ve had the opportunity to do budget consultations with Albertans across this province. We had open public consultations which we invited members of the opposition and members of this side of the House to attend. I want to commend the Member for Cypress- Medicine Hat for attending one of those. He was the only one that did.
It was very apparent in those consultations, Mr. Speaker, that spending wisely is very important to Albertans. That’s where results-based budgeting will be a true effort by this government to get value for money.
The Speaker: The hon. Leader of the Opposition.
Ms Smith: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. If the Premier is committed to an 8 per cent pay increase for her MLAs, should we expect that government employees are also going to be getting an 8 per cent pay increase this year?
Ms Redford: Mr. Speaker, as you have so rightly said – and I’m sure eventually the Leader of the Official Opposition will understand – this is not a committee of the government. This is a committee of the Legislature that at some point will make a decision that we as MLAs will consider.
We made it very clear as a government and have stood by the fact that we do not support a transition allowance. We will not support a transition allowance. We have made no commitment in any way as a government to any increase with respect to MLAs, nor should we. That’s why we have a Members’ Services Committee. It is the job of MLAs, not the government.
The Speaker: Hon. members, I would also remind you that questions ought not be speculative in nature. Bearing that in mind, please proceed.
Ms Smith: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The idea of employees – and, yes, we do actually work for Albertans – deviously getting taxpayers to cover 100 per cent of RRSP contributions is just something that would not happen in the real world. Would the Premier now admit that having her people raise this in the
Members’ Services Committee was wrong?
The Speaker: Hon. members, let me say for the third or the fourth time, please: don’t deal in speculation, don’t deal in something that is hypothetical, something that has not yet come forward in the proper process way. So let us move on to the next question, please.
Leader of the Official Opposition, your third main set of questions, please.