MLA Salaries

When I promised no more political posts two days ago?  I apparently lied.

I read the judge’s report today.  I want to address three things: premier’s salary, pension/transition payments, overall pay rate.

One of the biggest criticisms of the report is the suggested big pay increase for the Premier.  In the report the judge justifies this by pointing out that the Premier is currently paid less than many of her advisors and the people reporting to her.  In this I fully agree.  I realize it is not a political statement to make, but I do not think we can really pay our Premier too much. The Premier is a whole thing.  It is more than just a job and large measures different than even such cabinet positions as Health or Education Minister.  The giant pay jump is still well below what similar responsibilities would pay in the private sector.

Pay the Premier.

The judge reduced the transition allowance from unlimited down to a maximum of a year’s transition pay (2 months/year of service, maximum of 12 months).  He has good arguments for transition pay being necessary.  Good move, but I’m still not convinced that saving for transition cannot be done out of the base salary.  Essentially we are giving 8 months of severance to anyone voted out or leaving office.  The report says that the average MLA years of service is 8.  So prepare for 4 years and hope for 8 and plan accordingly.  Anything further is a bonus.

The judge also recommends reinstituting pensions.  Personally I have no problems with pensions.  The general trend is towards employee maintained programs with employer contributions (what is called Defined Contribution Programs (DCP) in the report)  rather than a traditional pensions.  Currently the MLAs have RRSP contributions made which would certainly count as a DCP.  The judge recommends moving to a full pension (Defined Benefits Programs (DBP)).

Should the MLA be given something to prepare for retirement?  Sure – they are out of the normal workforce for 8 years (average).  That is a substantial part of a work career.  The argument for a DCP and against a DBP is about the liability it places towards the government – an unfunded liability.  My pension plan as a civil servant is a much larger liability to Albertans…There is way more of us than MLAs and many get paid more.  (Not that that is an argument for or against.)

Many Albertans get no retirement benefit – DCP or DBP.  I can see why they’d be opposed.  But in a position to which we are trying to attract the best people, I’m for having something in place.  But I don’t see why we have to go back to the liability of the DBP.

Finally, I get that people hate politicians.  It isn’t fair, but I get that.  But I think we need to attract the best people to the job.  That doesn’t mean that politicians should be comparable with the private sector.  The judge makes a case for there not really being a comparable private sector job.  But it means that people should be willing to leave the private sector to serve.

A long time ago, I once had an argument with someone who believed that public service should essentially be public indenture.  Politicians should receive minimal to no compensation in return for the privilege of serving their province.    I couldn’t win that argument – I was too stunned to find a starting point to argue.  Hopefully that isn’t the position of my five readers.

Others believe that an MLA does mostly nothing.  A four year ticket to do nothing.  No meet committees do not aid that perception.  Brief stints in the fall and spring at the legislature when they do nothing but bicker with one another.  And the rest of the year getting invited to free suppers in their constituency.

To that I say, don’t vote that tool in.  Or vote them out after four years.  This is within our control.  A good MLA does a bunch.  They should receive appropriate compensation.

Is $134,000 appropriate?  It is a job with no education or prior experience required, but a ton of work and responsibility if done right.  I dunno, but it seems OK to me.

I think.  Who knows?

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