Danyluk's hefty golden handshake could be thing of the past
Report recommends capping MLA severance at one year among other changes
Defeated local MLA Ray Danyluk will be walking away from his 11 years in the public eye with over half a million dollars in severance pay – but new provincial politicians won’t be getting nearly as big a golden handshake if new recommendations for MLA compensation are passed.
The MLA Compensation Review – Alberta May 2012 report was released last week and recommended, among other changes, that the transition allowance for MLAs be capped at 12 months. The current transition allowance, which was created in 1993 after the Klein government abolished MLA pensions, allows for three months pay for every year in office with no maximum.
Danyluk, with 11 years as the Lac La Biche-St Paul-Two Hills MLA, is estimated to get $526,000 in severance after he was defeated by Wildrose candidate Shayne Saskiw in last month’s provincial election.
Retired Supreme Court of Canada Judge J. C. Major, who prepared the compensation review which was commissioned in January of this year, said the current transition allowance scheme was too lucrative – as evidenced by Danyluk’s payout, as well as outgoing speaker Ken Kowalski who is set to receive $1.2 million after 33 years in the legislature.
SEVERANCE HELPS OUTGOING MLAS
Major said the transition allowance is designed to help politicians return to the private sector after years in the spotlight.
“After an MLA is defeated, they go back to their constituency and we hear that they’ll cross the street because they think everyone hates them,” Major said in a news conference on May 3. “And then they go back to pick up the business they left after eight years. If you’re a farmer, it’s a bit easier, but if you’re a teacher or a lawyer it can be extremely difficult to readjust.”
However, he said that the latest amounts being paid out to Danyluk and other outgoing MLAs are unreasonable and beyond what a politician would need to transition back to their old careers.
“These payouts were substantial amounts of capital,” Major said. “It was just too much.”
Major’s report also recommends a fixed base salary of $134,000 for MLAs, with no extra pay for serving on committees, the exception being for committee chairs who would receive a $200 stipend per meeting. The report states that the house speaker, ministers, and the leader of the official opposition should receive an extra $67,000, while the premier should receive an extra $134,000. Premier Alison Redford publicly turned down her proposed pay raise last week.
The report also recommends a modified return of MLA pensions, one that costs taxpayers less than the plan abolished in 1993. Taken together, Major said the new pay scheme would pay 87 MLAs for the cost of 83 – the four extra seats were added to Alberta in late 2010. It would also make Alberta MLAs the fourth-highest paid in the country, behind Quebec and the territories. The report says that MLA compensation only accounts for .043 per cent of the province’s $39 billion annual budget.
Major’s suggestions are non-binding, and it is up to the government whether or not to adapt the changes.
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