EDMONTON — Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach and his cabinet are taking a pay cut.
A government release says Stelmach is cutting his premier’s allowance by 15 per cent, or just over $12,000 a year, effective immediately.
Ministers are having their cabinet wages cut by 10 per cent, which amounts to almost $6,400 annually.
“I met with cabinet … and I asked them to join me in terms of the salary reductions … and they all agreed,” Stelmach told a Calgary radio call-in show on CHQR Thursday.
Stelmach’s chief of staff, as well as the head of the provincial civil service, are also taking a 10 per cent cut.
The province is facing a $7-billion deficit this year.
Members of the legislature voted to freeze their salaries in 2009-10, but only after an increase last year that boosted their annual pay between $36,000 and $39,000.
The announcement came the morning after the premier’s televised address in which he said his Progressive Conservative government was freezing the wages of about 6,500 senior civil servants for the next two years. He also suggested teachers, doctors, nurses and other public sector workers voluntarily forego increases for the next 24 months.
When asked Thursday whether the wage freeze will be imposed or negotiated at the bargaining table, Stelmach replied that he wants an open approach.
“But at the end of the day I’m going to be very firm,” he said. “We rolled out a three-year fiscal plan and I’m committed to that, so we will do what we have to do to reach those targets.
“But I believe we’re going to get a buy-in.”
Stelmach’s provincewide broadcast warned Albertans of coming budget cuts and belt-tightening measures, but was short on specifics on how the premier will fulfil a promise to eliminate the record deficit in three years without raising taxes.
“We’ll limit government spending and live within our means,” he said in the pre-taped message. “This plan will not increase taxes.
“You cannot tax your way out of recession. That would only hurt the fragile recovery that’s starting to emerge.”
Economist Mike Percy, who is also dean of the business school at the University of Alberta, said there are several factors working against the government as it tries to pull its finances out of a fiscal tailspin.
Natural gas prices are much lower than expected and the Canadian dollar is much higher than the government forecast, which means billions of dollars in lost revenues, said Percy.
“I think the forecast of being out of deficit within three years is going to require luck with regard to the exchange rate and gas prices.”