November 25th, 2020

Pay cut not enough, says lobby group

By GILLIAN SLADE on October 24, 2020.

Premier Jason Kenney’s decision to cut the salaries of political staff is to be applauded but the government needs to address government employees in general and the salaries of elected officials, says the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

Effective Oct. 19, the government reduced the pay of UCP staff by seven per cent, shaving close to $1 million. The reduced salaries apply to positions such as chiefs of staff, press secretaries, advisors and staff in the premier’s office.

“The political staff salary cut was a good step to show Albertans that the government is willing to tighten its belt. But it doesn’t go far enough and the United Conservatives need to keep looking for more savings, whether that’s through letting some political staff go or further salary reductions, which should include reductions to MLA pay,” said Franco Terrazzano, CTF Alberta director.

Drew Barnes, MLA for Cypress-Medicine Hat, says he’s in favour of an MLA pay cut under certain conditions.

“I am in favour of further cuts to MLA pay provided the overall size and cost of government also comes down to provide incentive and opportunity for free enterprise and growth,” said Barnes.

Terrazzano says Kenney needs to take another look at salaries of Alberta Health Services management. More than 900 AHS management are on the sunshine list, which discloses compensation for government employees making more than $132,000 per year. A 10 per cent pay cut would be $36 million.

“The top AHS bureaucrats – the president and vice presidents – are making significantly more than their counterparts in Saskatchewan, for example,” said Terrazzano.

Barnes says Alberta is more than $100 billion in debt and that is not sustainable.

“Not only should Jason Kenney reduce political staffers wages, but he should cut the size of his political offices by at least the same seven percent,” said Barnes.

CTF has called for the Alberta government to cut the pay of Alberta’s top bureaucrats by 20 per cent. The average annual compensation for a deputy minister is $317,297, which is 30 per cent more that the same position in Ontario-West.

Earlier this month media reported that Kenney had hired Ben Harper, 24, (son of Stephen Harper, former prime minister) as a policy adviser in Kenney’s office. His salary is not being revealed because it is below the $111,395 threshold that requires public disclosure. Ben has a Bachelor of Arts (Economics), Bachelor of Commerce and is pursuing his Masters of Economics at Columbia University.

Between 2014 and 2019 the Alberta government’s labour costs have grown by 15 per cent while Albertans in the private sector have seen a five per cent decline.

Kenney has previously taken a 10 per cent reduction in salary and MLAs five per cent.

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