Monday, 9 April 2012

Alberta Election - Wildrose Announces Accountabilty Act and MLA Pay

The Alberta election campaign moves into its third week, with leaders unveiling more of their platforms.  Danielle Smith unveiled the Accountability Act and addressed salaries for Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs).   She opined that a $125,000 salary for MLAs, without extra bonuses for serving on committees was ample, since serving in the legislature is a public service.

The Wildrose Accountability Act addresses several issues, including  Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy (FOIP) laws, introducing new referendum rules, and the high-profile issue of MLA pay.

"I understand there is some debate about whether you pay more to get higher quality applicants, or whether you acknowledge that it is a public service, and it is a sacrifice, and you get people in there for the right reason."

MLAs recently passed a 33% pay raise, which was met by outcries from the public.  Smith's announcement addresses this issue.

 Raj Sherman, Liberal Leader is in agreement with Danielle Smith on the MLA pay issue, with his own plan to roll back MLA pay and put a cap on committee pay.

"I've found public service to be a labour of love, it shouldn't be the best paid job you've ever had."

He also pledged that a Liberal government would change the relationship with communities, since communities should not be treated as wards of the province.  He would establish  "Big City Charters for Edmonton and Calgary" and save $1.5 billion of surplus resource revenue into a municipality heritage fund every year.

Maybe that plan would get some of our country roads into a safe condition.   Of course this is all dependent on resource revenue remaining relatively high.  With health care being the top priority in Alberta and 40% of the budget already allocated to it, major changes will be needed to reduce emergency room waiting list and suitable elderly care.   Maybe giving a percentage would have been wiser than putting a dollar amount to it.  A dollar amount includes too many assumptions.

Alison Redford was touring rural Alberta today and promised to spend more money on agricultural research, offer bursaries for rural students and  refund tuition to doctors who agree to practice in rural communities.

"Our agricultural industry as it is, is more important than ever," she said. "But what comes next is just as exciting and we need policies that will continue to make communities vibrant and prosperous."

 “My government will ensure that good jobs, health and education services that support a desirable and successful lifestyle are available in rural areas."

 Redford said that her package would come to $47 Million in 2013-14, with some covered in current ministry budgets.  The plan is intended to  boost agricultural society funding by $2-million per year and spend $3-million on high-speed Internet infrastructure.

This is another commitment that would obviously require further clarification.  While the doctor tuition refund  is desireable, with Alberta hiring so many foreign doctors to fill the void, again no dollar value or goal for the number of doctors was given. 

Since high speed internet is still wanting in Alberta, this also requires clarification on how $3 Million will expand it.  Satellite internet is too restrictive, both in download quotas, with its fair use policy (250 MB for Xplornet) and its speed.  Cable is obviously out of the question, due to cost.  This leaves wireless internet and more towers or repeaters.

As the party leaders lead up to the debate on April 12th, there are a number of questions that need to be answered.  Redford passed a budget just prior to calling the election, it would be prudent for all leaders to be prepared to show a dollar amount for their promises and how they hope to pay for it.

Alison Redford's budget has been passed by the majority progressive conservative government, how much more will her additional promises cost?

Brian Mason's New Democrats will be making a health care announcement later today.

Stay Tuned.

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