MLA compensation issues will be fixed under her watch, pledged Premier Alison Redford in a campaign stop in Red Deer on Monday afternoon.
Redford said she was the first politician to talk about pay issues when she ran for leader and later backed that up by ordering a review of how MLAs are paid last November.
“It’s easy to stand up and say the system’s broken — and I did say that — but now we’re fixing the system, and that’s the important thing,” said Redford, following a brief tour of GenTex Oilfield Manufacturing Inc., owned by longtime Progressive Conservative supporter Garett Cupples and located just west of the city.
Local MLAs Mary Anne Jablonski and Cal Dallas joined the premier during the half-hour stopover, hours after Redford announced the April 23 provincial election.
Government compensation for MLAs came under scrutiny earlier this month when it was revealed that 21 members of a legislature all-party committee were each paid at least $1,000 a month while sitting on a committee that hasn’t met since 2008.
Committee members paid back all or part of the money and Redford suspended extra pay for committee work for Tories pending the completion of the review.
Last week, committee chairman and Lacombe-Ponoka MLA Ray Prins made a surprise announcement that he wasn’t running again, citing the controversy over the payments and ensuing attacks on his integrity.
Also last week, Liberal Leader Raj Sherman labelled as “obscene” an MLA transition allowance that will pay out an estimated $10.6 million to 22 MLAs not running this election.
Redford, who also made stops in Ponoka and Innisfail on her way to Calgary, said she plans to make the campaign about defining the province’s future.
“It’s about economic development and diversification and talking about the issues that matter to families.
“It’s going to be about education. It’s going to be about health care.”
Redford said Alberta has a strong economy that is the envy of North America, if not the world.
“But the question becomes: what do we do with all of that and make it even better?”
Redford said the province is expected to draw another million people over the next decade and “that means we have a tremendous opportunity to think about what we want to have our lives look like.”
Both Red Deer MLAs say they are ready to go and plan to campaign hard.
Red Deer North’s Jablonski said former premier Ralph Klein liked to say you have to run like you’re the last horse in the race.
“I have run the last four elections exactly like that and this one will be no different.”
Jablonski said she and Dallas will campaign on their records and their success in ensuring the community gets the facilities it needs, citing success in landing cancer and continuing care centres and three new schools.
Dallas credited Redford for addressing tough issues like MLA compensation.
“I think the change in leadership has brought about a premier that’s clearly willing to look at the issues that matter to Albertans (and) engage in change.
“She’s addressed this decisively in my mind.”
The PCs, NDP and Wildrose are the only parties with announced candidates in all seven Central Alberta ridings as of Monday.
Lacombe Mayor Steve Christie has taken Prins’s spot in that riding.
In many ridings, five parties will be represented, including candidates for the Liberals and Alberta Party.
Central Alberta ridings are: Drumheller-Stettler, Innisfail-Sylvan Lake, Lacombe-Ponoka, Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills, Red Deer-North, Red Deer-South, and Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre.
As of the election call, there were 67 PCs in the Alberta legislature, eight Liberals, four Wildrose and two NDP. There was a lone Alberta Party MLA and one independent. This election, with a new seat distribution, there will be four extra seats up for grabs, bring the total to 87.
The winner needs 44 seats to hold a majority.