Bell: Redford “proud” of so-called MLA pay and perks cutbacks

By ,QMI Agency

First posted: | Updated:

She speaks. She speaks.Premier Redford says she is “proud of the decision we made.”

The decision she’s talking about is a scheme where taxpayers will now kick in about $11,000 a year more in the RRSP accounts of every provincial politician earning a base pay of $134,000.

Before this week, taxpayers gave every MLA $11,485 for their RRSP. Total MLA pay and perks, around $145,000.

As of now, the Redford Tories pushed through a plan, despite opposition from the Wildrose and NDP, where taxpayers are on the hook for $22,311 while the individual MLA puts in $4,891. Total MLA pay and perks, around $156,000.

It’s a nice 8% hike and it is the second biggest scoop of total dollars for provincial politicians after Quebec.

The Tories, with Redford’s sidekick Thomas (The Hair) Lukaszuk leading the charge, insist it’s really a cut because it’s less than the sweetheart deal MLAs had before the election where they could walk off with hundreds of thousands in bye-bye bucks when they left the trough.

In the legislature Thursday, Wildrose leader Danielle Smith says “the PCs are trying to argue up is down and left is right and black is white and more is less.”

Smith double dog dares the Tories to eliminate the 8% increase. Redford won’t answer. Lukaszuk does. He says the premier made a commitment to lower MLA pay and she’s delivered.

“Albertans know what is right and they showed what is right in the last election,” fires back Lukaszuk.

Redford didn’t campaign on scrapping severance and then doubling RRSP payouts from taxpayers.

Later, to the newshounds, Redford expresses her pride in the decision and goes further.

“Did I direct this to happen? I didn’t.

“People can speculate and call me a liar if they want but I didn’t.”

Redford says she left the creation of the scheme up to the Tory members on the MLA pay and perks committee and once they were comfortable they brought it to a meeting of all Tory MLAs.

That happened this past Monday, says Redford. Tory MLAs gave the thumbs-up.

No mention is made of last month when Tory MLAs on the committee came forward with the doubling of RRSPs AND severance pay, reportedly with the green light from Redford’s HQ.

The next day, Redford sent the Tories back to the drawing board. Please note: I am not calling the premier a liar.

To her credit, the premier says politicians don’t need a pension.

Redford adds she doesn’t like severance. Alas, we probably will never know why the Tories brought it forward with approval only to have it pulled by the premier after the disgust hit the fan.

The next bit is funny.

“I do think it’s appropriate to have an RRSP contribution and I think its appropriate an employer make a contribution to that and an employee,” says Redford.

“And so that’s what’s we’ve ended up with.”

Well, under the system in place until a few days ago, the politician put in $11,485 and the taxpayer put in $11,485. One of their dollars to one of our dollars.

Now the politician puts in $4,891 and the taxpayer puts in $22,311. One of their dollars to $4.56 from us. Nice.

It’s been a rough few weeks for the Tories. Redford is grilled on why she hands off to others so many questions directed to her.

Redford says questions are supposed to be about the policies of the government. She doesn’t appreciate the puzzlers coming her way.

“There are certainly a lot of legislatures where the debate has deteriorated into something else and quite frankly I think that’s sort of where we are right now,” she says, then heading back to this past spring’s ballot battle.

“I will remind people that during that election other political parties sometimes wouldn’t let their candidates speak, sometimes put gag orders on their candidates, asked their candidates to put down $1,000 bonds and, in some places, sent campaign organizers and party officials to speak on behalf of party policy.”

You can almost hear her inner voice say: Take that, Wildrose.

Redford gets back to the original question saying she lets her inner circle answer for the departments they run.

Then why does The Hair answer questions on the new MLA pay deal? It’s not his area.

“I will not simply accept the fact that every time an MLA stands up and says: This is a question for you, premier, that it therefore requires me to answer that question.” Understood.

Before we leave, Redford tells us she’s “very disappointed” kids can opt out of Remembrance Day services. “I believe as a Canadian it is our duty to respect and honour everyone who has made that sacrifice,” says Redford.

One problem. Allowing opting out is her government’s law.