Calgary MP taking heat for cashing transition allowance, but isn’t the first

Click to play video: 'Calgary MP taking heat for cashing transition allowance, but isn’t the first'
Calgary MP taking heat for cashing transition allowance, but isn’t the first
WATCH ABOVE: As Lisa MacGregor reports, MP Len Webber isn't the first politician to take the transition payout. – Feb 20, 2016

CALGARY – Local politician Len Webber is taking heat for collecting some cash when he transitioned from an MLA for Calgary-Foothills to his position as MP for Calgary-Confederation. But he isn’t the first to take the payout.

Transition allowance is a cushion of cash payed out by the Alberta government to politicians to make it easier for them to go from one job to the next. In some cases, it could be a long period of time before they start a different position.

Len Webber got $324,000 when he left provincial politics to run in the federal election, so his unemployment didn’t last long, but Webber says feels he deserves the money.

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

Webber served as a member of Alberta’s legislature for 10 years; he was the government whip under former premier Alison Redford. He quit his job the day after he won the nomination to run for the Conservatives, and was paid out sometime before March 31, 2015.

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He won the riding of Calgary-Confederation for the Conservative Party in October 2015.

WATCH BELOW: MP Len Webber defends $324,000 transition allowance

Click to play video: 'Raw: MP Len Webber defends $324,000 transition allowance'
Raw: MP Len Webber defends $324,000 transition allowance

Opinions vary on whether Webber was entitled to the payout, though several members of his Calgary riding disagree with it.

Ten members treated it as icing on the cake in criticism of the MP’s actions since the election, stepping down from their positions.

But why now? Some think there’s more to it within the riding, since Webber isn’t the first to cash in a transitional allowance.

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“Both Darshan Kang and Kent Hehr, who left as Liberal MLAs to run federally, took the transitional allowance and there was no guarantee that they were going to win,” Bratt said.

Veterans Affairs Minister Kent Hehr received up to $131,000 in transitional allowance after leaving the Alberta legislature.

A spokesperson from Minister Hehr’s office said, “like every outgoing member of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta, Mr. Hehr received a transition allowance.”

Mount Royal University political analyst Duane Bratt also said the controversy surrounding it, isn’t new.

“It became controversial when Ed Stelmach retired and Ken Kowalski retired, because they received over a million dollars each at that time and they were transitioning into retirement,” Bratt said.

Calgary-Confederation riding board member Chris Carlile said Provincially, the transitional allowance was put in place when the pension for MLAs was discontinued in the Alberta Legislature.

“That transitional allowance has since been discontinued but anyone who was serving while it was in effect – gets it,” said Carlile.

Len Webber was one of those politicians serving during that time.

READ MORE: Conservative Len Webber wins in Calgary Confederation

“Len didn’t break the rules taking the money, neither did any other MLA who took that money. That was part of what they signed up for with the job and they followed all of the rules.”

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Bratt thinks it just might be time to review the rules for a transitional allowance.

“I think a transition allowance is useful but maybe they want to put conditions on what transition means. Maybe they should put a cap on how large it can be or maybe this is just a one off and it’s going to be up to individuals to determine whether they’ll take it or not,” said Bratt.

Meantime, other members of the Len Webber’s Calgary riding told Global News that if Webber doesn’t return the money he should resign.

With files from Mike Le Couteur

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