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Saturday, December 05, 2009

not so tough economic times for some.

Tough economic times are all the talk, but Alberta's Progressive Conservative MLAs are still collecting up to $35,000 in extra pay annually for work done in closed-door caucus committee meetings.  

In May 2008, government MLAs started receiving $12,000 a year for serving on cabinet policy committees which are supposed to advise government in five areas: community services, economy, health, public safety and services and resources and the environment.

Previously, only the committee chairpersons were paid for the work, but now all government MLAs except the speaker and the premier, get paid.

Cabinet ministers get more than $35,000 a year for their committee duties. The difference in cost is a tenfold increase from $140,000 to $1.4 million.

"We have no record of their work, no record of their attendance and they're making mega-bucks on these committees," Liberal MLA Hugh MacDonald said.

He added that in addition to being paid to meet, the Conservative-only committees also overspent their $653,000 budget by $503,000 or 77 per cent.
Battle River-Wainwright MLA Doug Griffiths deserves credit for being the first and singular PC MLA noble enough to publicly reject the private perk. Humility is a virtue that we do not often see from our elected leaders in our Legislative Assembly.

The same day that the private PC perks were made public, our provincial Health Care Authority, Alberta Health Services, announced that they had borrowed $220 million through a private line of credit from the Royal Bank of Canada.

Earlier last week, when members of AHS executive declared that they would run out of money by February 2010, Premier Ed Stelmach said that taxpayers would fund any shortfall in the Health Care budget. On Thursday, Paula Simons pointed out that this was a key justification used by the PC government when they unilaterally dissolved the regional health authorities in favour of a province-wide superboard two years ago.
Is Alberta Health Services so colossally badly managed, so inefficient and bureaucratic, that it has plunged our health-care system into crushing, massive debt in just two years?
I am not aware of any laws prohibiting a government agency like AHS from taking on debt from a private bank, but I cannot think of any other organization like AHS that has done so. Alberta taxpayers have the right to ask some fair questions about the prime + 0.5% line of credit that AHS has taken out.

How does a government agency like AHS expect to repay a line of credit this large? As Don Braid has pointed out, is this not why the $13 billion Sustainability Fund exists? Why did AHS choose a Toronto-based bank over the Edmonton-based and Albertan-owned Alberta Treasury Branches? And the question that piques my curiosity: what has AHS listed as collateral for the private line of credit? The Royal Alexandra Hospital? The Alberta Children's Hospital in Calgary? If you are looking for answers to these questions, you have already missed the deadline to ask Ed.

While our elected government officials would like Albertans to believe that these contextually historic normal economic times are actually a hurricane of tough economic times for essential public services like Health Care and Education, Albertans should ask what PC MLAs have done to deserve financial shelter from the storm they want us to believe they are guiding us through?


k.w.m said...

maybe they are selling off Alberta, after all Canada is a corporation thanks to Trudeu, as is every province in Canada, Canada became Canada Inc , check the stock exchange

Anonymous said...

70 PC MLA's and only one has the common sense to agree with 3.5 million Albertans that paying MLA's for secret meetings is a bad idea. Why isn't Doug Griffiths the Premier?!?!?!

Aden said...

Can we start referring to the "Fiscal One" now?

Ian said...

I think I got out just in time. Good luck Dave, you're going to need it.

Anonymous said...

Does this mean that Stephen Duckett will get $220 million deducted from his bonus pay?

Unknown said...

I am just waiting for someone to say "let them eat cake".

Anonymous said...

I fail to see what the problem is here. Private sector companies pay people for private meetings. This is a $30 billion+ annual operation.

Let me be clear, I'm a Wildrose supporter - but once again this is nothing more than hyperpartisanship on the part of Dave Cournoyer, who has a "hate on" for anything PC.

Anonymous said...

Actually it's a reasonable complaint and one the Wild Rose has been the chief complainers about. Accusing Dave of "hyperpartisanship" on this issue shows you don't even know what that word means. How does a blogger who's not currently part of any party display hyperpartisanship anyways?

Getting paid by the public to formulate PC policy is ridiculous. The fact that the PCs seem to lack any coherent policy just adds salt to the wound. Did we get ANY value for money here?

Anonymous said...

What I don't understand is how the financial planners for the medical services systems could be so far out in their expense-for-the-year estimates. It's as though they pretend that the medical system for Albertans requires $XX instead of $yy. The TRUTH was $2+ billion more than the fantasy. So tell the truth! It's as if I pretend that my mortgage is $100 instead of $200 and wonder why I don't have enough money for groceries. It shouldn't be AHS's decision to BORROW money for Albertans to pay back. That's the government's responsibility. AHS is the GOVERNMENT.

Anonymous said...

A person doesn't have to be a member of a party to be "hyerpartisan". Look at the double standard applied by this blog to the Tories versus other parties. Writing's on the wall - there's no objectivity here at all.

Mark said...

@Anonymous @10:75

So, the other parties have secret taxpayer funded committees?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 10:47am. Here is the definition of hyperpartisan, none of which applies to Dave.


1. Extremely partisan; extremely biased in favor of a political party.
2. Sharply polarized by political parties in fierce disagreement with each other.

Anonymous said...

Q: How much extra cash do the Liberals and NDP get paid for their caucus meetings?

A: None. This is a pure private PC perk.

Anonymous said...

Exactly. They're not in the executive, running the government's business. The tories were elected, and this is perfectly appropriate for them or whoever would replace them.

Anonymous said...

Also, anon 11:16 proved the point of this blog fitting the A #1 definition as hyperpartisan.

Biased in favour also applies to biased against.

Anonymous said...

No actually, biased in favour and biased against are two completely different concepts. So you can't even understand a definition when it's read from the dictionary to you?

Who are these people that defend the PCs at this point? Is that you David Sands? God knows I don't meet many ordinary folks that would go to bat for that party. The grassroots have left, some (anti-bill 44 types) for the Libs and/or some as-yet undefined option, and the rest went to the Wild Rose Alliance.

Ed needs to enact a major shake-up if he wants to get back on top before the next election. He needs a big cabinet shuffle with a reduction in positions. He needs a few new "big ideas" that resonate with people. And he needs to stop pissing money away on storing inert gasses in empty wells.

Ed, notice how the rest of the world is backing off global warming now that we know much of the science was questionable at best? Time to stop wasting our money on pipe dreams. Do the right things, build roads, hospitals, schools, etc.

Berry Farmer said...


Who's backing off the science of climate change? CORUS radio listeners, perhaps, but the rest of the world is not.

The rest of the world understands the basic science behind 30 years of world-wide, multi-institutional research is not drastically changed by the manipulative use of a handful of private emails sent between scientists.

Though the judgement the language used in the correspondence of those at East Anglia can be questioned when they are read out of context, there is very little new reason to question the veracity of the vast body of research done in the climatic sciences.

The British Met Office stands behind the research and has urged every other Met Office in the world to release data kept for nearly 100 years to prove global climate records point undeniably to drastic warming.

Get in touch with the science. This hacking of private emails was criminal and manipulative and done at a very suspect time to implant doubt in the minds of the billions of people who have not read... nor can understand the science.

The rest of the world is NOT about to change direction... though the crime of hacking and sending out arrows of doubt based upon selective, out-of-context emails was a good try.

Less Rutherford and Adler and more critical thinking would benefit us all.


Anonymous said...

Definitions are subjective. Anon at 12:32 is right.

Being hyperpartisan for a party is just the same as being hyperpartisan against one. This blog easily fits into that narrow definition. Nothing wrong with that, either - just view this partisan blog in that context.

Denny said...

Does anyone know if any other province has a system similar to this?

Anonymous said...


Sorry but you're just plain wrong on climate change. The CRU still continue to hold on to their data, refusing to allow the public the proper scrutiny their warming claims require. And the CRU, who were hacked, are the UN's number one source for info into the IPCC.

The world has shifted since the release of those emails. Read up on the unrest amongst conservative opposition groups in Australia and elsewhere. Or go read about how several nations are altering their goals for the Copenhagen summit.

No one can account for the cooling over the last decade. The scientists don't have the whole picture yet, and we shouldn't be rushing to bankrupt first world nations in the name of an unproven environmental theory.

Anonymous said...

Hay Dave, quit being so hyperpartisan against Doug Griffiths!

Jonathan Denis for Premier! Keep the $35000 raises coming!

Anonymous said...

Guess this thread just shows you what a red herring the "hyperpartisan" label is. Dave has his biases, good for him and there's nothing wrong with it. It's a democracy. We all have our perspectives.

Aden said...

The comment board tittering over 'hyper-partisanship' is annoying and more than a little narrowly focused. Can one of our anonymous commenters point out some more objective and trustworthy sources? The Edmonton Sun? Gary Lamphier? Rutherford?
Hell, even The Economist is biased in its own way. The difference is that it declares its biases very clearly and openly. And despite this, the paper looks at both sides of issues and is willing to acknowledge points contrary to its preferred position.
This isn't rocket science. Be fair, look at both sides of an issue, and give credit where it's due, even if you dislike the person/party acknowledging. Every journalist, blogger and citizen should be able to respect this, and while Dave isn't perfect, I find that he does a good job at it.

Anonymous said...

The last commenter is true excecpt for the last sentence.

Anonymous said...

Psssst, everyone. Calling Dave hyperpartisan is just a lame way to deflect attention and debate away from the legitimate points he made.

I sit on various committees at work but don't get extra pay for it because IT'S PART OF MY JOB. Same should go for MLAs.

Anonymous said...

These committees are a make work project for too many government MLSs. Remember the Alberta-Idaho border issues committee?

Anonymous said...

Without commenting on Alberta policy, etc., I think you're being unnecessarily glib and dismissive of the "tough economic times". They are. - Roman

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