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MLA approves of wage freeze, but critical of government's fiscal policy

Dec 10, 2013 11:15 am | Sam Macdonald

The Government of Alberta has implemented a wage freeze for all MLAs that started at the end of November.

“The premier was very pleased that it was passed by committee. It’s important that MLAs lead by example, living within their means,” says Neala Barton, a spokesperson from the office of Premier Allison Redford.

“As the government continues to move forward with spending and its efforts, we as a province should be working to live within our means, and we as a province are challenging every dollar we spend,” Barton add.

Barton says that the government asked public sector workers to freeze their wages, and achieved a multi-year freeze. “We asked them to help us, as a province, live within our means. We want to make sure money goes towards what Albertans want and need most.”

She adds, “Things that Albertans and communities are saying they need are schools, roads, and hospitals, for instance. We want to make sure we can continue to do all of those things, and at the same time, budget responsibly and keep the economy strong.”

Barton explains that the Alberta has comparatively low taxes to other provinces, and the government is striving to make the province an even more attractive place to work and live, also saying,

“By budgeting responsibly, and being focused on making sure that we’re investing wisely, we can ensure that. MLAs have to lead by example, according to Premier Redford, and that’s why we moved forward with the wage freeze.”

Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills Wildrose MLA Shayne Saskiw approves of the wage freeze, but is critical of the government’s fiscal responsibility, saying his party pushed for pay freezes for MLAs not long after the election.

“We support it, but it’s completely disingenuous. At the time of the election, the PC government gave MLAs an eight per cent raise,” says Saskiw. He explains the Wildrose didn’t accept the eight per cent pay raise for MLAs given by the provincial government, instead paying it to charities.

“This the same government that gave cabinet ministers a four per cent pay raise, the same government that gave MLAs a thousand dollars a month for being on committees that never met, the same government that racked up thousands and thousands of dollars in expenses on things like entertainment and alcohol.”

Saskiw says that before the Wildrose became the official opposition, “cabinet minsters were allowed to use expenses on alcohol and other types of entertainment. They’d rack up the bills for transportation using government planes for travelling.”

He adds, “When you see these types of wasteful spending of taxpayer dollars, it’s disingenuous for them all of a sudden to decide they want to look fiscally responsible, when indications are they go through a lot of taxpayer money.”

Saskiw says that if the government wants credibility, “they would roll back the 34 per cent pay raise they gave to their cabinet ministers a couple of years ago.”

Saskiw suggests wage freezes and the push for fiscal responsibility is going to be used to justify an attack on wages and pensions for frontline workers, “while at the same time, boosting pay and pensions for high-level executives who are friends with the PC party.”

He adds, “I believe that’s the rationale, this one instance in which they’ve actually frozen pay.”


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