Author of report backs pay raises for politicians

EDMONTON — The man who recommended Alberta Premier Alison Redford receive a nearly 60 per cent pay increase over three years stood by his recommendation Thursday even after the premier said she wouldn’t accept it.

EDMONTON — The man who recommended Alberta Premier Alison Redford receive a nearly 60 per cent pay increase over three years stood by his recommendation Thursday even after the premier said she wouldn’t accept it.

“I was not asked to write a report that I thought the premier would accept,” said retired Supreme Court justice John Major.

“I wrote a report on what I thought the premier’s job was worth. If the premier doesn’t see her job as being worth what I recommended, she’s perfectly free to not accept it.

“I didn’t write this report with any eye on what the politicians thought of it.”

Few seemed to think much of what Major wrote.

Liberal Leader Raj Sherman and Wildrose justice critic Shane Saskiw denounced his suggestion for a defined-benefit pension as well as the continuation of a tax-free allowance for members of the legislative assembly. Sherman went further and insisted that Redford should roll back her salary to what it was before politicians voted themselves a 30 per cent increase in 2008.

Both men also criticized keeping a portion of MLA pay tax-free, a provision in the federal tax code that saves Albertans about $2 million a year in federal taxes their would go to Ottawa.

“We believe everyone should pay taxes,” said Sherman. “It’s a matter of principle.”

Major’s report also recommended significant changes to how Alberta’s politicians are paid.

He pointed out the premier earns less than a low-ranking judge and less than many senior civil servants. He also concluded that the so-called “transition payments” departing politicians have received since the early 1990s in lieu of a pension are too rich.

In all, Major said, regular MLAs should receive a base wage of $134,000 a year — about the same as the average pay and benefits in the other provinces and territories.

Adding pension payments and other benefits would bring Alberta’s total pay packet to just under $160,000. That figure is about $17,000 less than the current amount.

But Major concluded the premier should be earning a base salary of $335,000 by 2015 — just shy of a 60 per cent increase over her current pay package of $211,000, already the highest among provincial premiers.

Redford said Wednesday she wouldn’t accept the increase.

Major explained his recommendations aren’t based on what politicians receive elsewhere in the country. Doing that only results in jursidictions “feeding off one another,” he said.

“I prefer to look at what the premier actually does.”

He said his recommendations are based on research by consultants with expertise in executive compensation.

Major suggested problems began in 1993 when then-premier Ralph Klein abolished the old pay structure, including MLA pensions that were considered too generous.

Major tried to add some perspective to the debate by pointing out that the total amount of all compensation paid to the province’s MLAs equals about .0146 per cent of the Alberta budget.

His report now goes before Redford’s cabinet, which must decide which parts of it to implement and which to modify or reject.

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