Alberta Premier Alison Redford's government has frozen MLA pay, her second symbolic cost-cutting move amid warnings of slumping economic fortunes and bitter contract battles with doctors and teachers.
The pay freeze, passed during a committee meeting Thursday, will save about $150,000 per year. It follows a move to shrink her cabinet by one spot, saving an estimated $30,000. Another motion to freeze perks, such as housing allowances, wasn't voted on before the meeting ended.
The measures come a month before the budget, which the Premier has warned will show a large deficit and could spur cuts. "We'll continue to do as much as we can to demonstrate that, particularly in our case, we're prepared to cut back and then freeze," Ms. Redford said.
The pay freeze puts off a cost-of-living adjustment that had been set to kick in April 1. It would have hiked pay for all 87 MLAs by 1.12 per cent.
It's the latest in a series of adjustments to politicians' pay in Alberta. Ms. Redford's government cut MLA pay early last year by eliminating lucrative committee bonuses and "transition allowances." The Premier also personally took a salary lower than recommended by a judge in an external review.
Later last year, though, the government then boosted RRSP contributions on MLAs' behalf – a de facto raise inching the total payment back up slightly. Under the complex changes, new MLAs are earning more than they did just after the spring election, while some veterans now take home less than they did a year ago.
Opponents say Ms. Redford's pay freeze would mean more had she not hiked pay a few months ago. "Having a freeze today, which we do support, doesn't cover up for the fact they made the wrong decision in the first place," Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith said.
The committee also voted down a Liberal proposal to have MLA pay set externally. "My principled view is we should not be setting the pay," Liberal Leader Raj Sherman said Thursday.
Ms. Redford has undertaken a publicity campaign to warn of falling revenues and "tough choices" ahead, though critics say she overestimated her revenue. She has floated the idea of cuts and tax hikes, and warned doctors and teachers – both in contract talks – that "we have no more money."