Earlier this week, the Alberta government released the most recent Report of Selected Payments.
The 155-page report outlines the various payments made to MLAs, including salary, benefits, and expense reimbursements, between 1 April 2019 and 31 March 2020.
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. For anyone who was reelected, the amount was $123,143 last year, and it was $117,767 for those who were elected for the first time last April.
Retirement is the retirement investment amount (equal to 13% of their indemnity allowance). For every current MLA, it was $16,548.
Fees are the amounts paid for serving on committees. Generally membership in a government committee is unpaid, but committee chairs are paid.
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||$14,559,226|
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.)
However, that’s only for the ones who went on to be elected.
Because the last election occurred partway through the fiscal year, there were MLAs who didn’t get reelected but received a small amount in payments, well, small compared to the current MLAs. There were also some who didn’t seek reelection in 2019 but still received payments for the first few weeks.
Here’s what their remuneration information looks like for these 46 MLAs.
And here are their reimbursements:
Three of the MLAs also received a transition allowance, which is available for any MLA who ceased to be an MLA. Keep in mind that the transition allowance was cancelled in 2012, so only MLAs elected prior to 23 April 2012 are eligible for it.
It’s based on the highest rate of monthly base salary and expense allowance received by that MLA, multiplied by one month for each year of service prior to 20 March 1989 plus 3 months for each year of service subsequent to that date, based on the average monthly salary of the 3 calendar years in which the MLA received their highest salary.
Drydsale was elected as a PC MLA in 2008 for the electoral district of Grande Prairie–Wapiti. He served as minister of transportation under Jim Prentice, and announced in 2018 that he wouldn’t run in the 2019 election. He was appointed to the Municipal Government Board earlier this year.
Mason was elected in a 2000 byelection in what is now the Edmonton–Highlands–Norwood electoral district. Between 2004 and 2014, he served as leader of the Alberta NDP party. After Rachel Notley became party leader, Mason served as minister of infrastructure and minister of transportation, as well as government house leader. He also announced his retirement in 2018.
Finally, Swann was elected during the 2004 election to represent the Calgary–Mountain View electoral district. He served as leader of the Alberta Liberal Party between 2008 and 2011 and then as interim leader from 2015 to 2017. He also announced his retirement in 2018.
Plus, there were transition payments made to 7 other former MLAs, one who ceased to be an MLA in 2012 and the rest in 2015:
|Guy Boutilier||Wildrose||April 2012||$30,694|
|Heather Forsyth||Wildrose||May 2015||$68,397|
|Genia Leskiw||PC||May 2015||$29,393|
|Bridget Pastoor||PC||May 2015||$36,000|
|Raj Sherman||Liberal||May 2015||$43,123|
|George VanderBurg||PC||May 2015||$41,008|
|David Xiao||PC||May 2015||$24,757|
Now, let’s add them up:
|Remuneration & benefits||$365,004|
And if we add that to how much the government paid out to the still sitting MLAs, we’re left with a combined total of $19,344,565.
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. Plus, he received a bit for the few weeks he was official opposition leader. In total, he received $217,621 last year.
The next highest is also not that surprising: Rachel Notley. She received $62,898 in statutory pay and total remuneration of $213,791.
There were actually another 20 MLAs who received over $200,000 last year:
|Prasad Panda||Minister, infrastructure||$210,784|
|Leela Aheer||Minister, culture||$210,267|
|Jason Nixon||Minister, environment||$210,052|
|Ric McIver||Minister, transportation||$209,836|
|Doug Schweitzer||Minister, justice||$209,182|
|Devin Dreeshen||Minister, agriculture||$207,575|
|Rajan Sawhney||Minister, community services||$207,219|
|Nathan Cooper||Speaker of the legislature||$206,684|
|Josephine Pon||Minister, seniors||$206,551|
|Tyler Shandro||Minister, health||$206,520|
|Kaycee Madu||Minister, municipal affairs||$206,491|
|Nate Glubish||Minister, Service Alberta||$206,385|
|Rebecca Schulz||Minister, children’s services||$206,277|
|Rick Wilson||Minister, Indigenous relations||$206,276|
|Sonya Savage||Minister, energy||$206,038|
|Adriana LaGrange||Minister, education||$206,017|
|Jason Copping||Minister, labour||$205,215|
|Tanya Fir||Minister, economic development||$205,122|
|Travis Toews||Minister, finance||$204,959|
|Demetrios Nicolaides||Minister, advanced education||$203,659|
All but 1 of the 20 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 8th on the list and 10th highest overall.
The lowest paid MLA is Jackie Armstrong, a UCP member representing Fort Saskatchewan–Vegreville, who received $144,103 in remuneration (including benefits) last year. Only 2 other MLAs received under $145,000: Peter Singh and Muhammad Yaseen, both UCP members in Calgary.
There are 24 other MLAs who received under $150,000, 3 of whom are NDP members. The remaining 38 MLAs received between $150,000 and $200,000; although, technically, none 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 Jason Kenney, who was paid $41,077 in travel reimbursements for work he did as premier. He also was reimbursed for $8,778 in MLA expenses.
The next highest travel expenses for a minister was for Tanya Fir, who received $25,077. Two others—Dale Nally and Sonya Savage—also received over $20,000 in travel expenses for minister work.
Rebecca Schulz received the lowest reimbursement for travel expenses as a current minister: $5,955. The next lowest were Tyler Shandro and Josephine Pon, who received $6,726 and $6,853, respectively.
Associate ministers were also able to claim travel expenses related to their work as associate ministers. Here’s how those break down:
|Dale Nally||Natural gas & electricity||$21,610|
|Grant Hunter||Red tape reduction||$11,706|
|Jason Luan||Mental health & addictions||$7,754|
MLA travel expenses
As far as MLA travel expenses go, Nate Horner, UCP MLA for Drumheller–Stettler, came in at the highest, having been reimbursed $42,114 for travel expenses related to MLA work. The next highest was Dan Williams, UCP for Peace River, who was reimbursed for $41,299. The 10 highest amounts that were reimbursed were either over $30,000 or just under it.
|Dan Williams||UCP||Peace River||$41,299|
|Nathan Cooper||UCP||Olds–Didsbury–Three Hills||$35,559|
|Martin Long||UCP||West Yellowhead||$34,925|
|David Hanson||UCP||Bonnyville–Cold Lake–St. Paul||$34,298|
|Jackie Armstrong-Homeniuk||UCP||Fort Saskatchewan–Vegreville||$31,246|
|Todd Loewen||UCP||Central Peace–Notley||$29,409|
Here are the 10 MLAs with the 10 lowest reimbursesments for MLA travel expenses:
|Adriana LaGrange||UCP||Red Deer-North||$530|
|Kaycee Madu||UCP||Edmonton-South West||$617|
|Nate Glubish||UCP||Strathcona-Sherwood Park||$629|
|Dale Nally||UCP||Morinville-St. Albert||$1,830|
|Jon Carson||NDP||Edmonton-West Henday||$1,980|
Keep in mind that 6 of those 10 claimed travel expenses while ministers or associate ministers over the last year.
Other travel expenses
There were 6 MLAs who were reimbursed for what was labelled as “other” travel expenses, basically those incurred while serving on government boards, commissions, committees, or other bodies.
|Drew Barnes||Fair Deal Panel||$7,929|
|Tany Yao||Fair Deal Panel||$5,598|
|Miranda Rosin||Fair Deal Panel||$5,572|
|Richard Gotfried||Pacific Northwest Economic|
Region Annual Summit
|Laila Goodridge||Parliamentary secretary||$682|
|Nathan Neudorf||Accompanied environment minister |
on tour near Pincher Creek
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.
Only 1 MLA, Kaycee Madu, received no reimbursements for these expenses. Every other MLA, even those living in the Edmonton area, were reimbursed for subsistence expenses.
The MLA who received the highest reimbursement in this area was Joseph Schow, the UCP MLA for Cardston–Siksika, at $24,155. The next highest was Leela Aheer, UCP MLA for Chestermere-Strathmore, who was reimbursed for only $30 less than Schow.
There were 31 MLAs who were each reimbursed for over $20,000 worth of subsistence expenses. Here are the 10 highest:
|Tany Yao||UCP||Fort McMurray–Wood Buffalo||$24,024|
|Jason Nixon||UCP||Rimbey–Rocky Mountain|
|Travis Toews||UCP||Grande Prairie–Wapiti||$22,719|
|David Hanson||UCP||Bonnyville–Cold Lake–St. Paul||$22,707|
|Pat Rehn||UCP||Lesser Slave Lake||$22,342|
Here are the 10 lowest:
|Kaycee Madu||UCP||Edmonton–South West||$0|
|Nate Glubish||UCP||Strathcona–Sherwood Park||$213|
|Searle Turton||UCP||Spruce Grove–Stony Plain||$620|
|Marlin Schmidt||NDP||Edmonton–Gold Bar||$857|
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:
|Jason Nixon||UCP||Rimbey–Rocky Mountain |
|Drew Barnes||UCP||Cypress–Medicine Hat||$58,705|
|Dan Williams||UCP||Peace River||$57,513|
|Travis Toews||UCP||Grande Prairie–Wapiti||$57,286|
|David Hanson||UCP||Bonnyville–Cold Lake–St. Paul||$57,005|
It should be expected that Jason Kenney had the highest total payout for expense reimbursements. I’d think that the premier, regardless of party, would have the highest expense claims.
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:
|Jon Carson||NDP||Edmonton–West Henday||$3,174|
|David Eggen||NDP||Edmonton–North West||$4,164|
|David Shepherd||NDP||Edmonton–City Centre||$4,965|
|Marie Renaud||NDP||St. Albert||$7,161|
There were 5 MLAs who received payments that don’t fall into any of these other categories:
|Glenn van Dijken||UCP||Athabasca–Barrhead–Westlock||$82,855|
|Travis Toews||UCP||Grande Prairie–Wapiti||$34,884|
Here are what they’re for:
- Horner: 2019 Moisture Deficiency Assessment payment made by Agriculture Financial Services Corporation. Horner is a rancher.
- van Dijken: 2019 Crop Post Harvest Assessment payment made by Agriculture Financial Services Corporation. van Dijken is a farmer.
- Irwin: Pension benefits under the Management Employees Pension Plan. Prior to being elected, Irwin had been a senior manager with the Government of Alberta for several years before being elected.
- Toews: Settlement payment made by Agriculture Financial Services Corporation through the 2019 Western Cattle Price Insurance Program. Toews is a rancher.
- 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.
And finally, since I live in Lethbridge, here’s 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 $192,738 (including reimbursements), and Phillips received a combined $202,308. Last year, Phillips received $291,345 (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).
This was Neudorf’s first year in office.
Oh, one final thing. The provincial government also paid out nearly $3.5 million in pension payments (pp. 152–153) to former MLAs, their spouses, and other beneficiaries last year.
That money was paid out to 107 individuals.