The economic outlook for the immediate future stinks so bad you and your other 69 blue shirts put on a hiring freeze for the civil service. Unless deemed essential, positions are remaining unfilled in an effort to reduce costs.
Your highly esteemed Minister of Education has tooled around the province telling school divisions that were frugal with their funding that the surpluses to give them back. The money, which the school divisions were planning on using for unforeseen expenses, could be better spent shoring up sagging general revenues, you said.
In the private sector, unemployment in the province has hit levels not seen in more than a decade.
But you want to have more MLAs.
In case you missed it, a multi-party boundaries commission has suggested the province once again redraw the constituency boundaries of the province. This time, though, instead of redistributing the existing MLAs, the commission recommends adding four new MLAs to the already bloated Legislature.
The argument favouring the jump is that several urban ridings are over populated, says the committee. Overpopulation leads to under representation, continues the argument, ergo the solution is to increase the number of MLAs in the overpopulated regions.
We need fewer MLAs, not more. Our under representation has nothing to do with an insufficient number of backsides in Edmonton other than they need to sit more often and travel more deeply into their ridings.
Let’s start with the economics.
Each MLA earns a base salary of $52,092. On top of that, each MLA receives a tax free allowance of $26,046, for a total of $78,138. A respectable wage in this province; not spectacular, but respectable, and if that was all we paid for MLAs, we’d shell out $312,552 a year for the new backsides. But that’s not all the compensation they get.
If the new MLA sits on a committee, he or she gets an additional $1,000 per month. They are allowed to sit on as many as three committees and draw from each committee. We’ll be less conservative this time. Each of the four sits on three committees, bumping up the taxpayers’ onus by $144,000 annually.
Suddenly, four new MLAs are costing the province just shy of half-a-million annually, just in wages.
Now throw in travel allowances, constituency staff and offices and the best guess is the four Legislative representatives will drain an additional $10 million out of government coffers over the course of four years.
That’s a lot of nurses or education funding.
The bigger – and more politically volatile – point is that we don’t need another MLA. We need fewer.
Government in Alberta is already ponderous enough as it is. If you want us to tighten our belts, Ed, it’s about time you did the same.
None of the ridings in the province are too big to travel. Sure, you might not be able to do it in a day, but there are a large number of Albertans who cover hundreds of kilometers a day for work. There’s no reason MLAs can’t do the same. Hit the road and stump more through the year, not just at election time or for photo ops and cake.
Sit more days, too. Make decisions in public, in the Leg where they show up in Hansard, not in caucus and then rubber stamp it.
If under representation is really an issue, change the electoral process. The problem isn’t that community X in Calgary has 45,000 people and one MLA; it’s that the 60 per cent who voted for candidates other than the winner feel they don’t have a voice.
Give your head a shake, man.
Find a better solution to the political malaise of this province than warming more seats in Edmonton.