Thursday, 3 May 2012

Alberta Premier Responds to Hwy 63 Concerns - Addresses MLA Compensation

 Highway 63 Priority

Since seven people were killed on what is touted Alberta's deadliest highway, there have been facebook groups and petitions urging the Alberta government to make Highway 63 a priority.   During the recent Alberta election campaign MLA pay and compensation have come under scrutiny.  On Wednesday Premier Alison Redford publicly spoke on the concerns of the highway, calling it a "unique road" and acknowledged safety concerns.

"I have asked our department to take a look at what an accelerated schedule will look like," Redford said.

"In our current capital plan, we have always anticipated that at least 50 percent of that road would be twinned within three years. We need to act faster than that."

Earlier this week, Deputy Premier Doug Horner had said that the construction crews had to deal with marshlands, which had significantly slowed progress on the project.

"If you've got a bottomless bog, how do you fill that?" Horner said. "So they've got to do some interesting things there.
"You've got to make sure the highway is safe when it's complete too, because you don't want the bottom falling out of it."

Horner said that 33 km of the highway had been twinned and another 36 km should be completed by fall this year.

He said that the highway is a priority for the government and if the Premier could wave a magic wand and have it twinned it would be done.

 "If it was in the premier's power to wave her wand today and have it twinned, it would be done," Horner said. "That's not in her power, but it is a priority of this government."

According to Horner's assessment that will complete 70 km, of around 300 km,  of the highway by this fall. That is still a long way to go to the 50%.  Albertans need to see a plan to convince us.

Albertans have heard for years that the highway is a priority, yet only 33 km of the highway have been  completed in six years.  It would seem that someone has a plan, including an assessment of work required, environmental assessments, etc.  Those all should have been requirements if a proper tender process was in place.  It would be difficult for a contractor to submit a tender proposal, including costs, without such an assessment.

Albertans know that a magic wand won't twin the highway overnight, however the Alberta government should be in a position to provide a timeline for completion and a full cost assessment.  In other words there needs to transparency.   The Alberta government needs to get past the rhetoric and show some real progress on the construction of the highway.

Pay and Compensation for Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLA)

The much anticipated report by on MLA compensation, prepared by Justice John Major, was released on Wednesday and the Premier changed her approach, after initially stating that she would accept the report.

In the report, Justice Major said that the Premier should be paid more and Redford said she would not accept a raise.  The Premiers salary last year was $217,000 and Justice Major recommended that the salary be raised to $268,000 this year and to $335,000 in two years.  The President of the United States (POTUS) gets $400,000.

 "I found that premier salary recommendation quite surprising.  If at the end of the day by not accepting that salary recommendation, I'm criticized for not accepting an independent report, I'd rather have that criticism than being criticized for taking that kind of pay raise," Redford said.

Other recommendations in the report are:

Discontinue Transition Allowance,

A reduced allowance with a ‘precise maximum' being introduced for MLAs who don't win their seats in an election,

 Introduce a pension plan for MLAs, and

Keep the MLA salary at approximately $134,000, but make one third of that salary tax free.

Justice Major recommended that MLA pay be reviewed every four years by a three judge committee.  Currently MLAs set their own salaries and bonuses.

The PC government came under fire during the elections for a 33% increase they voted for themselves and a "Do Nothing Committee", which was paid $1000 per month for 39 month months without meeting.

There should be more details on the plan once Justice John Major speaks publicly today.  The Premier said she would study the report and give a full response in about a week.  

Alberta Members Services Orders

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