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Saturday, May 31, 2008

you say: order-in-council. i say: why are you so afraid of public debate?

An very abbreviated look at recent closed-door decision making in Alberta. With only 11 opposition MLAs in the 83 member Legislative Assembly, one has to wonder why the 37-year governing Alberta Tories are so afraid of being open and transparent with these decisions.

March 2007 - Premier Ed Stelmach introduces new conflict-of-interest legislation into the Alberta Legislature.

February 4, 2008 - In a closed-door cabinet meeting hours before calling an election, Ed Stelmach and his cabinet amend conflict-of-interest rules so that they won't apply to retiring or defeated Progressive Conservative Ministers and MLAs.

April 2008 - All MLA salaries are increased by 4.5% through a publicly indexed formula.

May 2008 - In a closed-door cabinet meeting, Ed Stelmach and his cabinet voted to give themselves nearly one million dollars worth of raises. payraise. Stelmach gives himself a 34% boost, increasing his salary by 54,000, to $213,450 from $159,450. Tory Ministers will now make $184,000, up from $142,050.

Kevin Liben described the salary increase issue well on his National Post blog:

Mr. Stelmach told reporters yesterday that the salary raise was justified to attract talented people to politics. “It’s something that we had to do and will continue doing in terms of attracting good people,” he said. But voters will be left to wonder why the current salary grid didn’t stop hundreds of Albertans from fighting tooth and nail first for a nomination and then a seat in the legislature just months ago, including some pretty impressive talents such as Allison Redford, the rookie attorney general, a renowned human rights lawyer who helped administer Afghanistan’s elections for the UN, and Arthur Kent, the former NBC celebrity reporter (he lost). Salaries never surfaced as an issue during the election among candidates, or voters.

Which is why many Albertans are probably more than a little skeptical of the Premier’s version of things, and are more likely to see this as just a convenient and juicy perk that he and his cabinet decided to award themselves after winning a landslide vote and demolishing the opposition. And judging by the size of the hike and way that it was snuck in, without the inconvenience of independent assessment or public consultation, they’re probably right.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Why do you deserve to know what goes on in these behind-closed-doors decisions?

The people of Alberta ELECTED these ministers and TRUST them to come to fair and conservative decisions. There's a reason why we said NO to you Liberals -- we don't trust you guys to make decisions behind closed doors. I FIRMLY and FULLY trust Ed Stelmach, Ron Liepert, and the rest of the BRILLIANT Tory cabinet to make honest, well-thought decisions.

The results speak for themselves.

Anonymous said...

I do not have a problem with the increase as I believe that we should pay our elected representatives well but I do have an issue with how the decision was made (in a closed door meeting). Because of cabinet confidentiality Albertans will never know who supported or opposed this. Nor will Albertans know how the cabinet ministers decided to reach the pay raise number they did.

chris said...

Orders-in-Council are a streamlined and efficient way of decision making. My question is why do we still elect MLAs? Why not merge Alberta ridings into 24 districts in which Cabinet Members will be elected. It would save a lot of money from having to pay 83 MLAs and fund the Legislative Assembly.

Under this system decisions get made quicker and more efficiently and it will exclude third-party interferences like "Albertans for Change" from undue influence on the governing process.

Mark Francis said...

My comment: ***CENSORED***

Unbelievable.

Anonymous said...

I think someone should talk about how, at the Members' Services meeting that approved the hike in committee compensation for MLAs, the Liberals voted against it, then a few minutes later made a presentation asking for an extra $300,000 in caucus funding for a caucus that was just cut in half. Included is an increase in their Leaders Allowance... that would be the same Leader who just spent 2 weeks in Greece in the middle of session.

Anonymous said...

Er, anonymous 7:16 can't seem to tell the difference between opposing pay raises for MLAs and asking for more money for research staff. They're entirely separate issues.

kail said...

Payhikes and opposition funding are two very different categories. Under the current legislature formula the official opposition has enough funding for 5 researchers to cover 24 ministries. The PC caucus has over 20 researchers and policy analysts (as well as the entire resources of the 120 staffed public relations bureau).

The opposition should be allowed to have the resources from the assembly in order to do their job for Albertans.

Anonymous said...

As inflation increases, salaries should be adjusted. They work long hours and put a lot of effort in. I personally think MLAs deserve a raise now and then.

Anonymous said...

kali,

The PC caucus has 8 researchers, not 20. They also have 4 communications staffers.

The Liberal caucus has 7 researchers, not 5. They also have 5 communications staffers.

If the PC caucus was staffed at the same ratio as the Liberal caucus, there would be 109 staffers working for the PC's 49 Private Members'. There are currently 40.

The opposition has enough money to do its job. Their problem is that they just don't do their job well.

Anonymous said...

Researchers don't matter if the decisions are being made behind closed doors and not on the floor of the legislature.