Alberta Liberals miss the boat on hot button issue

A Canadian taxpayers advocacy group is calling out the Alberta opposition parties for remaining silent during question period after the Ed Stelmach government awarded its own cabinet ministers a generous raise.

Last week a closed-door committee approved a salary hike that will see cabinet ministers and the premier earning between 30 to 34 per cent more annually. With the hike Stelmach’s salary will now be $213450 making him the highest paid premier in the country. MLAs will receive over $42000 more a year and will also be given bonuses for attending cabinet and committee meetings which were once considered part of their duties as public servants. It follows a mandatory 4.6 per cent raise MLAs received earlier this year. Liberal MLAs on the committee voted against it and have spoken to the media on it but have yet to press the government

“Question Period is the only time opposition parties get to question the government for decisions they make and they have now gone two straight days without even mentioning the secret pay raises cabinet granted themselves last week” says Scott Hennig Alberta director for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. “It’s a major issue and Albertans are rightfully outraged about this. I have yet to meet an individual who approved of the amount and the manner in which it was done.”

According to Hennig the opposition parties are squandering the opportunity to question the government on an issue that has been front page news for a week and has raised the ire of the public. “Right now they’re asking questions about all kinds of issues few of which are as timely and as supported by as many people as the pay raise issue” he says. “The Liberals have had 18 questions [to ask during question period] and this didn’t make their top 18. But other things like land title examiner pay scale changes rank higher on their priority list than a massive secret pay raise given by cabinet.”

“Basically our members respond to things that other elected officials say not somebody who’s the head of an organization” says Liberal spokesperson Larry Johnscrude. “Our members voted against the pay raise and we think our actions speak for themselves.”

According to Johnscrude the Liberals’ position is well known as they’ve voted against the pay raise and addressed the issue in the media and doesn’t see the purpose of questioning the government in the legislature. “We ask questions where we think we’re going to get answers” says Johncrude. “What would we ask? You use question period to get information. I don’t know what kind of information we could get out of that.”

Hennig says he is not shocked that the NDP is not making a fuss about the raise having voted for it but he finds it hard to swallow that the Liberals are not holding the government’s feet to the fire. “The Liberals are right on this issue but their silence now is disappointing and it starts raising the question whether or not they’re really upset by this or they’re paying lip service to it” says Hennig. “They’re certainly not winning any votes by avoiding the issue.” (TH)