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Alberta paid out nearly $20M to current and former MLAs last year

And that’s not counting the $3.5 million they paid out in pensions to former MLAs, their spouses, or other beneficiaries.

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.

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$10,460,769
Retirement$1,439,676
Fees$14,600
Statutory$1,477,150
Benefits$1,167,031
Total$14,559,226

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:

Travel (Minister)$326,740
Travel (MLA)$1,256,768
Travel (other)$22,767
Accommodation$1,112,143
Total$2,718,418

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
Expense reimbursements$2,718,418
Other$367,067
Total payments$17,644,711

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.)

Unelected MLAs

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.

Compensation$240,626
Retirement$1,675
Fees$0
Statutory$52,532
Benefits$70,171
Total$365,004

And here are their reimbursements:

Travel (Minister)$2,545
Travel (MLA)$37,834
Travel (other)$0
Accommodation$2,481
Total$42,860

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.

MLAPartyTransition
Wayne DrysdaleUCP$151,239
Brian MasonNDP$384,683
David SwannLiberal$220,518
Total$756,440

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:

MLAPartyCessation Transition
Guy BoutilierWildroseApril 2012$30,694
Heather ForsythWildroseMay 2015$68,397
Genia LeskiwPCMay 2015$29,393
Bridget PastoorPCMay 2015$36,000
Raj ShermanLiberalMay 2015$43,123
George VanderBurgPCMay 2015$41,008
David XiaoPCMay 2015$24,757
Total$273,372

Now, let’s add them up:

Remuneration & benefits$365,004
Expense reimbursements$42,860
Transition post-2015$756,440
Transition pre-2015$273,372
Other$262,178
Total payments$1,699,854

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.

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. 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 PandaMinister, infrastructure$210,784
Leela AheerMinister, culture$210,267
Jason NixonMinister, environment$210,052
Ric McIverMinister, transportation$209,836
Doug SchweitzerMinister, justice$209,182
Devin DreeshenMinister, agriculture$207,575
Rajan SawhneyMinister, community services$207,219
Nathan CooperSpeaker of the legislature$206,684
Josephine PonMinister, seniors$206,551
Tyler ShandroMinister, health$206,520
Kaycee MaduMinister, municipal affairs$206,491
Nate GlubishMinister, Service Alberta$206,385
Rebecca SchulzMinister, children’s services$206,277
Rick WilsonMinister, Indigenous relations$206,276
Sonya SavageMinister, energy$206,038
Adriana LaGrangeMinister, education$206,017
Jason CoppingMinister, labour$205,215
Tanya FirMinister, economic development$205,122
Travis ToewsMinister, finance$204,959
Demetrios NicolaidesMinister, 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.

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 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 NallyNatural gas & electricity$21,610
Grant HunterRed tape reduction$11,706
Jason LuanMental health & addictions$7,754
Total$41,070

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.

Nate HornerUCPDrumheller–Stettler$42,114
Dan WilliamsUCPPeace River$41,299
Nathan CooperUCPOlds–Didsbury–Three Hills$35,559
Martin LongUCPWest Yellowhead$34,925
David HansonUCPBonnyville–Cold Lake–St. Paul$34,298
Joseph SchowUCPCardston–Siksika$33,457
Roger ReidUCPLivingstone–Macleod$32,993
Jackie Armstrong-HomeniukUCPFort Saskatchewan–Vegreville$31,246
Todd LoewenUCPCentral Peace–Notley$29,409
Mickey AmeryUCPCalgary–Cross$29,250

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

Rod LoyolaNDPEdmonton-Ellerslie$227
Adriana LaGrangeUCPRed Deer-North$530
Kaycee MaduUCPEdmonton-South West$617
Nate GlubishUCPStrathcona-Sherwood Park$629
Dale NallyUCPMorinville-St. Albert$1,830
Jon CarsonNDPEdmonton-West Henday$1,980
Josephine PonUCPCalgary-Beddington$2,484
Janis IrwinNDPEdmonton-Highlands-Norwood$2,539
Richard FeehanNDPEdmonton-Rutherford$2,585
Tanya FirUCPCalgary-Peigan$2,932

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 BarnesFair Deal Panel$7,929
Tany YaoFair Deal Panel$5,598
Miranda RosinFair Deal Panel$5,572
Richard GotfriedPacific Northwest Economic
Region Annual Summit
$2,660
Laila GoodridgeParliamentary secretary$682
Nathan NeudorfAccompanied environment minister
on tour near Pincher Creek
$326

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.

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:

Joseph SchowUCPCardston–Siksika$24,155
Leela AheerUCPChestermere–Strathmore$24,125
Tany YaoUCPFort McMurray–Wood Buffalo$24,024
Nathan NeudorfUCPLethbridge–East$23,392
Irfan SabirNDPCalgary–McCall$22,985
Jason NixonUCPRimbey–Rocky Mountain
House–Sundre
$22,923
Shannon PhillipsNDPLethbridge–West$22,839
Travis ToewsUCPGrande Prairie–Wapiti$22,719
David HansonUCPBonnyville–Cold Lake–St. Paul$22,707
Josephine PonUCPCalgary–Beddington$22,470
Pat RehnUCPLesser Slave Lake$22,342

Here are the 10 lowest:

Kaycee MaduUCPEdmonton–South West$0
Nate GlubishUCPStrathcona–Sherwood Park$213
Searle TurtonUCPSpruce Grove–Stony Plain$620
Jasvir DeolNDPEdmonton–Meadows$769
Deron BilousNDPEdmonton–Beverly–Clareview$779
Rod LoyolaNDPEdmonton–Ellerslie$790
Marlin SchmidtNDPEdmonton–Gold Bar$857
Rachel NotleyNDPEdmonton–Strathcona$857
Chris NielsenNDPEdmonton–Decore$913
Brad RutherfordUCPLeduc–Beaumont$1,072

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 KenneyUCPCalgary–Lougheed$67,225
Jason NixonUCPRimbey–Rocky Mountain
House–Sundre
$62,664
Nate HornerUCPDrumheller–Stettler$61,365
Drew BarnesUCPCypress–Medicine Hat$58,705
Joseph SchowUCPCardston–Siksika$57,612
Dan WilliamsUCPPeace River$57,513
Travis ToewsUCPGrande Prairie–Wapiti$57,286
David HansonUCPBonnyville–Cold Lake–St. Paul$57,005
Roger ReidUCPLivingstone–Macleod$55,129
Ric McIverUCPCalgary–Hays$54,877

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:

Rod LoyolaNDPEdmonton–Ellerslie$1,017
Jon CarsonNDPEdmonton–West Henday$3,174
Janis IrwinNDPEdmonton–Highlands–Norwood$3,993
David EggenNDPEdmonton–North West$4,164
David ShepherdNDPEdmonton–City Centre$4,965
Richard FeehanNDPEdmonton–Rutherford$5,052
Rakhi PancholiNDPEdmonton–Whitemud$6,097
Lori SigurdsonNDPEdmonton–Riverview$6,200
Chris NielsenNDPEdmonton–Decore$6,223
Marie RenaudNDPSt. Albert$7,161

Other

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

Nate HornerUCPDrumheller–Stettler$147,808
Glenn van DijkenUCPAthabasca–Barrhead–Westlock$82,855
Janis IrwinNDPEdmonton–Highlands–Norwood$79,101
Travis ToewsUCPGrande Prairie–Wapiti$34,884
Jason LuanUCPCalgary–Foothills$22,419
Total$367,067

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.

Lethbridge

And finally, since I live in Lethbridge, here’s how the 2 local MLAs fared:

RemunerationNathan NeudorfShannon Phillips
Compensation$117,767$123,143
Retirement$16,548$16,548
Fees1$6002$2,000
Statutory$02$5,304
Benefits$14,446$11,539
Total$149,361$158,534
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)$19,659$20,935
Travel (other)$326.00$0
Accommodation$23,392$22,839
Total$43,377$43,774
Remember, Neudorf accompanies the environment minister on a tour of the Pincher Creek area.

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.

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By Kim Siever

I live in Lethbridge with my spouse and 4 of our 6 children. I’m a writer, focusing on political news, social issues, and the occasional poem. My politics are radically left. I am a political economy student at the University of Athabasca, working on my second undergrad degree.

I’m also dichotomally Mormon. And I’m a functional vegetarian: I have a blog post about that somewhere around here. My pronouns are he/him, and I’m queer.

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