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.
First, here are the totals for the various payment categories for the 87 current MLAs. Let’s start with remuneration and benefits:
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:
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|
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.)
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.
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 Panda||Minister, infrastructure||$210,934|
|Rajan Sawhney||Minister, community services||$210,934|
|Kaycee Madu||Minister, justice||$210,736|
|Jason Nixon||Minister, environment||$210,736|
|Tyler Shandro||Minister, health||$210,736|
|Josephine Pon||Minister, seniors||$210,730|
|Leela Aheer||Minister, culture||$210,556|
|Rebecca Schulz||Minister, children’s services||$210,519|
|Rick Wilson||Minister, Indigenous relations||$210,519|
|Ric McIver||Minister, transport/mun. affairs||$210,488|
|Nate Glubish||Minister, Service Alberta||$210,464|
|Nathan Cooper||Speaker of the legislature||$210,454|
|Sonya Savage||Minister, energy||$210,272|
|Adriana LaGrange||Minister, education||$210,271|
|Devin Dreeshen||Minister, agriculture||$208,741|
|Jason Copping||Minister, labour||$208,649|
|Rachel Notley||Official opposition leader||$208,428|
|Travis Toews||Minister, finance||$207,554|
|Demetrios Nicolaides||Minister, 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.
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 Williams||UCP||Peace River||$47,869|
|Nathan Cooper||UCP||Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills||$35,841|
|Jackie Armstrong-Homeniuk||UCP||Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville||$33,268|
|Jason Nixon||UCP||Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre||$28,565|
|Michaela Glasgo||UCP||Brooks-Medicine Hat||$22,580|
|Martin Long||UCP||West Yellowhead||$22,152|
Here are the 10 MLAs with the 10 lowest reimbursesments for MLA travel expenses:
|Jon Carson||NDP||Edmonton-West Henday||$319|
|Christina Gray||NDP||Edmonton-Mill Woods||$277|
|Adriana LaGrange||UCP||Red Deer-North||$0|
|Nate Glubish||UCP||Strathcona-Sherwood Park||$0|
|Kaycee Madu||UCP||Edmonton-South West||$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.
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:
|Dan Williams||UCP||Peace River||$23,864|
|Martin Long||UCP||West Yellowhead||$23,778|
|Richard Gotfried||UCP||Calgary-Fish Creek||$23,694|
|Michaela Glasgo||UCP||Brooks-Medicine Hat||$23,567|
|David Hanson||UCP||Bonnyville-Cold Lake-St. Paul||$23,401|
|Jackie Armstrong-Homeniuk||UCP||Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville||$23,380|
There were 14 MLAs who claimed $0 in accommodation expenses:
|Jon Carson||NDP||Edmonton-West Henday|
|Shane Getson||UCP||Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland|
|Nate Glubish||UCP||Strathcona-Sherwood Park|
|Nicole Goehring||NDP||Edmonton-Castle Downs|
|Christina Gray||NDP||Edmonton-Mill Woods|
|Kaycee Madu||UCP||Edmonton-South West|
|Marie Renaud||NDP||St. Albert|
|Marlin Schmidt||NDP||Edmonton-Gold Bar|
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 Williams||UCP||Peace River||$71,733|
|Nathan Cooper||UCP||Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills||$58,441|
|Jackie Armstrong-Homeniuk||UCP||Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville||$56,648|
|Jason Nixon||UCP||Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre||$54,109|
|Travis Toews||UCP||Grande Prairie-Wapiti||$47,911|
|Martin Long||UCP||West Yellowhead||$47,151|
|Michaela Glasgo||UCP||Brooks-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 Walker||UCP||Sherwood Park||$1,683|
|David Eggen||NDP||Edmonton-North West||$1,378|
|David Shepherd||NDP||Edmonton-City Centre||$1,119|
|Jon Carson||NDP||Edmonton-West Henday||$319|
|Christina Gray||NDP||Edmonton-Mill Woods||$277|
There were 5 MLAs who received payments that don’t fall into any of these other categories:
|Adriana LaGrange||UCP||Red Deer-North||$493|
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
Since I live in Lethbridge, I’m taking some editorial liberty to highlight how the 2 local MLAs fared:
|Remuneration||Nathan Neudorf||Shannon Phillips|
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.
|Reimbursement||Nathan Neudorf||Shannon Phillips|
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.
|Remuneration & benefits||$14,559,226||$14,510,330||-$48,896|
|Former MLA pensions||$3,453,332||$3,287,261||-$166,071|