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article imageOp-Ed: Alberta-Redford to freeeze pay and MLA allowances ahead of budget

By Karl Gotthardt     Feb 7, 2013 in Politics
Edmonton - Alberta Premier Alison Redford announced this morning via twitter, using the hashtag bitumenbubble, that she would pass legislation that would freeze MLA pay, COL and housing allowances, which were due for an increase of four percent on April 1.
Redford's announcement comes ahead of a what is widely anticipated to be a tough budget, due to a revenue shortfall from oil revenues, which is anticipated to be approximately $6 billion.
Announcing her decision to pass the legislation during the next session of the legislature, Redford tweeted:
Proud of my #pcaa team for leading by example: PCs will freeze MLA pay and housing allowances today. #BitumenBubble #ableg
The announcement was made ahead of the so-called independent committee vote. Obviously Ms Redford influenced the vote, which opposition members say was an anonymous vote by Progressive Conservative party members.
Ironically the announcement came one day after Danielle Smith addressed the issue of MLA pay and allowances during an interview on Global TV Edmonton. Coincidence or a reaction? You be the judge.
Redford had, what she depicted as a conversation with Albertans, a discussion addressing her challenges with the current budget, which currently is netting about $6 billion less in royalties due to lower than estimated per barrel oil prices. Her current budget deficit runs approximately $3 billion.
During the past weeks Redford has had a public fight with doctors, who she claims make far more than the national average. The doctors are in salary negotiations and consider this as interference. While the salary increase sought by physicians amount to approximately $27 million, health care premiums which were cancelled under the Stelmach government provided a revenue stream of approximately $1 billion. Redford had said that she had to chose between salary increases for doctors or reintroducing health care premiums.
The Albert Teachers Federation (ATF) is also seeking an salary increase. Redford has threatened to pass legislation to settle the issue. There is no question that Redford and Finance Minister Dough Horner are faced with some difficult decisions. It could be considered a self-inflicted wound, caused by her pre-election budget.
According to Sun News,
Doug Horner finished a one on one with a tax payer warrior Derek Hildebrandt. Hildebrandt presented Horner with a few ideas on how to solve his budget woes.
The taxpayer document says provincial civil servants earn an average $102,000 yearly in salaries and benefits.
Reduce the number of civil servants by 5%.
Cut corporate welfare by $170 million.
Extend the province's five-y ear building plan to six years.
There is pain, says the plan, but it is not apocalypse now.
The taxpayer group feel too much cheque-writing in years past means "more muscular action" is needed.
If not now, it will just get worse.
So goes the logic.
Oh yes, the budget blueprint calls for citizens to vote on any tax hikes or new taxes not just a sales tax.
As for Horner holding spending increases in the upcoming budget to below the growth in population and inflation, Fildebrandt says it's too late to play that card.
"After a decade of massive spending increases and only now holding the line on spending to below population growth plus inflation is like saying after chugging a 40-ouncer of rye you're
The Tories say that they will put the brakes on the increases to MLA pay and allowances by using their majority to put a stop to MLA pay and lead by example. Unfortunately it was the same Tories that voted for that increase in first place.
While it may be good politics to be seen to lead by example, the savings will not reduce the budget shortfall by much. It is a sign of the cuts to come in Redford's 2013 budget. Albertans should brace themselves.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
More about Alberta government, Canadian Politics, MLA pay and allowances, Redford, Smith
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