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Alberta paid out $37 million to current and former MLAs last year

This is nearly $1.4 million less than the previous year.

Last week, the Alberta government released the most recent Report of Selected Payments.

The 110-page report outlines the various payments made to MLAs, including salary, benefits, and expense reimbursements, between 1 April 2020 and 31 March 2021.

I decided to go through the document, extract the data, and import it into a spreadsheet so I could compare amounts. You can see the spreadsheet here.

Current MLAs

First, here are the totals for the various payment categories for the 87 current MLAs. Let’s start with remuneration and benefits:

Compensation$10,521,432
Retirement$1,367,814
Fees$16,400
Statutory$1,500,574
Benefits$1,104,110
Total$14,510,330

Compensation is the base amount each MLA receives, which was $120,936.

Retirement is the retirement investment amount (equal to 13% of their indemnity allowance). For every current MLA, it was $15,722.

Fees are the amounts paid for serving on committees. Generally membership in a government committee is unpaid, but committee chairs are paid. Only 10 MLAs were paid fees.

Statutory salary is an added amount on top of the base salary, and is for those who hold additional offices, such as premier, leader of the official opposition, ministers, government whips, and so on.

And, of course, benefits include CPP, WCB, a health plan, and—if the MLA chooses to do so—a matching contribution to their personal RRSP account.

Now for expense reimbursements:

Travel (Minister)$162,281
Travel (MLA)$939,088
Travel (other)$271
Accommodation$1,207,587
Total$2,309,227

This is all pretty self-explanatory, but I should point out that accommodation includes not just accommodation expenses while travelling within the province on MLA business but also expenses incurred in maintaining a temporary residence to attend a legislative sitting or other MLA business.

Now let’s add them all up

Remuneration & benefits$14,510,330
Expense reimbursements$2,309,227
Other$67,581
Total payments$16,887,138

So, the Alberta government paid out over $17.6 million to current MLAs in salary, benefits, and expense reimbursements. (And “other”, but we’ll get to that in a bit.)

Former MLAs

The Alberta government also doles out payments each year to the Legislative Assembly Pension Plan for former members of the assembly or their spouses or beneficiaries. In total, there was nearly $3.3 million paid out during the 2020–2021 budget year to the pensions of 106 former MLAs.

Remuneration

Now that we know the numbers, let’s look at some of the specifics.

For example, the MLA with the highest total remuneration last year was Jason Kenney, which shouldn’t be that surprising. The premier gets the highest additional allowance, at a total of $65,244 per year. In total, he received $214,335 last year.

The next highest is Doug Schweitzer. Hee received $60,468 in statutory pay and total remuneration of $213,068.

There were actually another 19 MLAs who received over $200,000 last year:

Prasad PandaMinister, infrastructure$210,934
Rajan SawhneyMinister, community services$210,934
Kaycee MaduMinister, justice$210,736
Jason NixonMinister, environment$210,736
Tyler ShandroMinister, health$210,736
Josephine PonMinister, seniors$210,730
Leela AheerMinister, culture$210,556
Rebecca SchulzMinister, children’s services$210,519
Rick WilsonMinister, Indigenous relations$210,519
Ric McIverMinister, transport/mun. affairs$210,488
Nate GlubishMinister, Service Alberta$210,464
Nathan CooperSpeaker of the legislature$210,454
Sonya SavageMinister, energy$210,272
Adriana LaGrangeMinister, education$210,271
Devin DreeshenMinister, agriculture$208,741
Jason CoppingMinister, labour$208,649
Rachel NotleyOfficial opposition leader$208,428
Travis ToewsMinister, finance$207,554
Demetrios NicolaidesMinister, advanced education$207,538

All but 2 of those 19 are ministers, and each minister receives a $60,468 top up, the same amount as the leader of the opposition and the speaker of the legislature, who is Nathan Cooper, listed as 12th on the list and 14th highest overall.

The lowest paid MLA is Jackie Armstrong, a UCP member representing Fort Saskatchewan–Vegreville, who received $145,376 in remuneration (including benefits) last year.

There are 32 other MLAs who received under $150,000, 15 of whom are NDP members. The remaining MLAs received between $150,000 and $200,000; although, technically, only one of them received over $180,000.

Reimbursements

Next, let’s discuss travel expenses. These are expenses incurred while travelling as part of conducting business, either as a minister or as an MLA. This includes mileage for personal vehicle use, vehicle rentals, air fare, accommodation, meals, taxis, and parking.

Minister travel expenses

The minister claiming the most in travel expenses was Prasad Panda, who was paid $16,505 in travel reimbursements for work he did as premier. He also was reimbursed for $269 in MLA expenses.

The next highest travel expenses for a minister was for Rebecca Schulz, who received $10,419. Two others—Rajan Sawhney and Tracy
Allard—also received over $10,000 in travel expenses for minister work.

Martin Long received the lowest reimbursement for travel expenses as a current minister: $1,221. The next lowest were Devin Dreeshen and Sonya Savage, who received $1,221 and $1,320, respectively.

MLA travel expenses

As far as MLA travel expenses go, Dan Williams, UCP MLA for Peace River, came in at the highest, having been reimbursed $47,869 for travel expenses related to MLA work. The next highest was Nathan Cooper , UCP MLA for Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills, who was reimbursed for $35,841. The 10 highest amounts that were reimbursed were over $20,000.

Dan WilliamsUCPPeace River$47,869
Nathan CooperUCPOlds-Didsbury-Three Hills$35,841
Joseph SchowUCPCardston-Siksika$35,716
Jackie Armstrong-HomeniukUCPFort Saskatchewan-Vegreville$33,268
Jason NixonUCPRimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre$28,565
Nate HornerUCPDrumheller-Stettler$27,220
Ric McIverUCPCalgary-Hays$24,110
Michaela GlasgoUCPBrooks-Medicine Hat$22,580
Grant HunterUCPTaber-Warner$22,424
Martin LongUCPWest Yellowhead$22,152

Here are the 10 MLAs with the 10 lowest reimbursesments for MLA travel expenses:

Jon CarsonNDPEdmonton-West Henday$319
Christina GrayNDPEdmonton-Mill Woods$277
Prasad PandaUCPCalgary-Edgemont$269
Lorne DachNDPEdmonton-McClung$150
Richard FeehanNDPEdmonton-Rutherford$40
Adriana LaGrangeUCPRed Deer-North$0
Nate GlubishUCPStrathcona-Sherwood Park$0
Kaycee MaduUCPEdmonton-South West$0
Jason KenneyUCPCalgary-Lougheed$0
Rod LoyolaNDPEdmonton-Ellerslie$0

Keep in mind that 5 of those 10 claimed travel expenses while ministers or associate ministers over the last year.

Other travel expenses

There was also 1 MLA—Whitney Issik—who was reimbursed for what was labelled as “other” travel expenses, basically those incurred while serving on government boards, commissions, committees, or other bodies. Issik received $271.

Accommodations

Referred to technically as subsistence allowance, this consists of accommodation costs while travelling within the province on MLA business or maintaining a temporary residence to attend a legislative sitting or other MLA business.

The MLA who received the highest reimbursement in this area was Shannon Phillips, the NDP MLA for Lethbridge-West, at $24,025. The next highest was Dan Williams Aheer, UCP MLA for Peace River, who was reimbursed $23,864.

There were 40 MLAs who were each reimbursed for over $20,000 worth of subsistence expenses. Here are the 10 highest:

Shannon PhillipsNDPLethbridge-West$24,025
Dan WilliamsUCPPeace River$23,864
Martin LongUCPWest Yellowhead$23,778
Joseph SchowUCPCardston-Siksika$23,715
Richard GotfriedUCPCalgary-Fish Creek$23,694
Michaela GlasgoUCPBrooks-Medicine Hat$23,567
Grant HunterUCPTaber-Warner$23,543
David HansonUCPBonnyville-Cold Lake-St. Paul$23,401
Jackie Armstrong-HomeniukUCPFort Saskatchewan-Vegreville$23,380
Roger ReidUCPLivingstone-Macleod$23,352

There were 14 MLAs who claimed $0 in accommodation expenses:

Jon CarsonNDPEdmonton-West Henday
Lorne DachNDPEdmonton-McClung
Shane GetsonUCPLac Ste. Anne-Parkland
Nate GlubishUCPStrathcona-Sherwood Park
Nicole GoehringNDPEdmonton-Castle Downs
Christina GrayNDPEdmonton-Mill Woods
Sarah HoffmanNDPEdmonton-Glenora
Rod LoyolaNDPEdmonton-Ellerslie
Kaycee MaduUCPEdmonton-South West
Chris NielsenNDPEdmonton-Decore
Rakhi PancholiNDPEdmonton-Whitemud
Marie RenaudNDPSt. Albert
Marlin SchmidtNDPEdmonton-Gold Bar
Lori SigurdsonNDPEdmonton-Riverview

It shouldn’t be a surprise that these are all in the Edmonton area.

If we add all of the reimbursement amounts up, here are the 10 MLAs with the highest payouts:

Dan WilliamsUCPPeace River$71,733
Joseph SchowUCPCardston-Siksika$59,431
Nathan CooperUCPOlds-Didsbury-Three Hills$58,441
Jackie Armstrong-HomeniukUCPFort Saskatchewan-Vegreville$56,648
Jason NixonUCPRimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre$54,109
Grant HunterUCPTaber-Warner$54,049
Ric McIverUCPCalgary-Hays$50,650
Travis ToewsUCPGrande Prairie-Wapiti$47,911
Martin LongUCPWest Yellowhead$47,151
Michaela GlasgoUCPBrooks-Medicine Hat$46,147

What’s interesting is that of the remaining 9, only 3 are ministers: Nixon, Toews, and McIver. Nate Horner is the non-minister MLA with the highest total expense reimbursement payout.

Here are the 10 lowest for total reimbursements:

Jordan WalkerUCPSherwood Park$1,683
David EggenNDPEdmonton-North West$1,378
David ShepherdNDPEdmonton-City Centre$1,119
Rakhi PancholiNDPEdmonton-Whitemud$645
Lori SigurdsonNDPEdmonton-Riverview$624
Jon CarsonNDPEdmonton-West Henday$319
Christina GrayNDPEdmonton-Mill Woods$277
Richard FeehanNDPEdmonton-Rutherford$154
Lorne DachNDPEdmonton-McClung$150
Rod LoyolaNDPEdmonton-Ellerslie$0

Other

There were 5 MLAs who received payments that don’t fall into any of these other categories:

Jason LuanUCPCalgary–Foothills$55,919
Rick WilsonUCPMaskwacis-Wetaskiwin$7,100
Doug SchweitzerUCPCalgary-Elbow$2,340
Tanya FirUCPCalgary-Peigan$1,729
Adriana LaGrangeUCPRed Deer-North$493
Total$367,067

Here are what they’re for:

  • Luan: Pension benefits under the Local Authorities Pension Plan. Prior to being elected, Luan was a city planner with the City of Calgary for over 20 years.
  • Wilson: Blind trust fees paid by the Department of Indigenous Relations
  • Schweitzer: Membership fees to Law Society of Alberta paid by the Department of Jobs, Economy and Innovation
  • Fir: Blind trust fees paid by the Department of Jobs, Economy and Innovation
  • LaGrange: 2020 Agriculture Stability Benefit Assessment payment made by Agriculture Financial Services Corporation

Lethbridge

Since I live in Lethbridge, I’m taking some editorial liberty to highlight how the 2 local MLAs fared:

RemunerationNathan NeudorfShannon Phillips
Compensation$120,936$120,936
Retirement$15,722$15,722
Fees1$1,002$2,600
Statutory$0$0
Benefits$13,182$12,927
Total$151,240$152,185
1. Neudorf chairs the Standing Committee on Alberta’s Economic Future.
2. Phillips chairs the Standing Committee on Public Accounts, which is where the fee comes from. She was also environment minister for the first few weeks of the fiscal year, just prior to the election.
ReimbursementNathan NeudorfShannon Phillips
Travel (minister)$0$0
Travel (MLA)$18,132$12,239
Travel (other)$0$0
Accommodation$19,310$24,025
Total$37,442$36,264

So, Neudorf received a combined $188,682 (including reimbursements), and Phillips received a combined $449. Last year, they received $192,738 and $202,308, respectively (including reimbursement for expenses). The other years she’s been in office, she received $308,009 (2017–18), $294,477 (2016–17), and $260,628 (2015–16).

Finally, here’s a breakdown of what the government paid out last year and the previous year.

2019–20202020–2021Change
Compensation$10,460,769$10,521,432$60,663
Retirement$1,439,676$1,367,814-$71,862
Fees$14,600$16,400$1,800
Statutory$1,477,150$1,500,574$23,424
Benefits$1,167,031$1,104,110-$62,921
Remuneration & benefits$14,559,226$14,510,330-$48,896
Travel (Minister)$326,740$162,281-$164,459
Travel (MLA)$1,256,768$939,088-$317,680
Travel (other)$22,767$271-$22,496
Accommodation$1,112,143$1,207,587$95,444
Total reimbursements$2,718,418$2,309,227-$409,191
Other$367,067$67,581-$299,486
Former MLA pensions$3,453,332$3,287,261-$166,071
Total$38,375,687$36,993,956-$1,381,731

Support independent journalism

By Kim Siever

Kim Siever is an independent journalist based in Lethbridge, Alberta. He writes daily news stories, focusing on politics and labour.

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