February 19, 2016 7:59 pm
Updated: February 19, 2016 8:24 pm

Calgary MP’s transition allowance prompts outrage from riding association

WATCH: Calgary MP Len Webber received a $324,000 golden handshake when he left provincial politics for Parliament Hill in Ottawa. But now, members of his own riding association want Webber to pay back the money. Mike Le Couteur reports.

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Members of Len Webber’s riding association are resigning over his golden handshake from the Alberta legislature.

The member of Parliament for Calgary Confederation received $324,119 in transitional allowance when he stepped down as an MLA to run in the federation election. Webber has said he’s entitled to the money and that is what has enraged members of his electoral district association (EDA).

“I think should repay it”, said John Stewart, vice-president of membership.

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According to Stewart, roughly a third of the EDA’s executive are stepping down because of Webber’s sense of entitlement.

“When you’re transitioning into a higher paying job, I don’t see that it’s necessary to be taking a transition allowance that’s being paid for by the taxpayers,” he said.

Members of the EDA are also upset with Webber’s apparent attitude dating back to the election campaign.

“There was one incident (where) he was a little aggressive with somebody at the door when we were out door-knocking,” Stewart said.

He said the incident unfolded as the candidate was disagreeing with a voter over a foreign affairs policy and that “he (Webber) seems to take it a bit personally.”

Stewart also accuses Webber of being lazy on the campaign trail and that the MP’s refusal to refund the transitional allowance was the last straw.

Citizens’ advocacy groups say a mass resignation of the electoral district is cause for concern.

“It sends a clear message to voters across the riding and should hopefully really hurt his re-election chances,” said Duff Conacher, the head of Democracy Watch.

Webber has not responded to Global News’ requests for a comment on this story.

Accepting the money is well within the rules, however, the Alberta government phased out the practice in 2012.

The rule changes did not apply to members who were elected before that year.

READ MORE: Golden handshakes continued for Alberta politicians moving to Ottawa

In Webber’s affluent riding, opinion was split over whether or not he deserved to keep the cash.

“We can’t condemn him if he doesn’t give it back,” said voter Berteena Billinghurst. “And we can praise him if he shares.”

“It’s just a bitter bill to swallow when a lot of us are struggling to make ends meet and you hear about this sort of thing, and you think ‘why them and why not us’?” area resident David Bugden said.

READ MORE: Minister accepted $46K severance package from Edmonton city hall

Other MPs like Liberal Anthony Housefather, refused any sort of severance when he left Montreal municipal politics and Conservative MP Alain Rayes reportedly gave his amount, totalling $110,000, to community organizations in his riding.

“My gut told me not to take the cash,” Rayes said. “However, it’s up to others to make their own decision.”

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