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No transition allowance under any name: Redford

EDMONTON – Alberta Premier Alison Redford said Saturday she won’t support a “transition allowance” by any other name for politicians leaving office.

A Tory-dominated legislature committee looking into MLAs’ pay and benefits voted on Friday for an enriched RRSP benefit and reintroduced the notion of a transition payment for departing MLAs.

The members’ services committee decisions will become recommendations to the legislature as a whole, Redford said.

“You’ll remember that, during the provincial election, I very clearly said that I did not support a transition allowance and we will not support a transition allowance,” Redford told reporters Saturday.

“No matter what you call it, we won’t support a transition allowance.”

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Under the old system, departing MLAs got the transition payout that saw former speaker Ken Kowalski walk away with $1.2 million and former premier Ed Stelmach take home nearly $1 million. Public outrage prompted Redford to campaign during the provincial election to abolish such allowances, and the legislature did that in May.

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Former Supreme Court Justice Jack Major recommended a simplified salary system, much of which was implemented this year, but there has been disagreement about what retirement benefits to offer.

PC caucus whip Steve Young raised the idea of giving outgoing MLAs a “departing allowance” that would be much more modest than former transition allowance payments. It would give MLAs one month’s salary for each year of service, up to a maximum of 12 months. If that plan is eventually approved, backbenchers who serve 12 years or more would get an extra $134,000 and cabinet ministers would get a maximum of $201,000.

The committee did not vote on the departing-allowance proposal, but instead sent it to the legislature for debate this fall.

Speaker Gene Zwozdesky, who chairs the committee, said the idea appears to contravene the legislature decision from May.

Also Friday, the members’ services committee approved a plan for MLAs to have 100 per cent of their personal RRSP contributions covered by taxpayers. Currently the maximum RRSP contribution of $22,970 is covered on a 50-50 basis.

Redford said she didn’t have details about what the committee recommended around RRSPs.

“I won’t speculate on it … I imagine they’ve had an awful lot of discussions and we’ll just see where they go.”

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