A special vote has taken place in the Alberta legislature on the morning when most of the major cities in the province have their eyes on the municipal election.
Under other business on the special standing committee on members’ services agenda, MLA of Peace River Dan Williams introduced the motion to add numeration towards the deputy government house leader’s role for a total of $12,096.
Joseph Schow was given that role on July 8, prior to being named the deputy government whip when he was first elected in 2019 as UCP MLA for Cardston-Siksika.
The role of deputy government house leader usually doesn’t come with a pay bump as it’s typically given to someone within the cabinet.
Those who voted in favour of the motion include UCP MLA’s Mike Ellis, Dan Williams, R.J. Sigurdson, Martin Long and Nathan Neudorf.
NDP calls the raise ‘absurd’
MLA for Edmonton-South Thomas Dang who opposed the motion spoke with Global News after the special meeting and didn’t mince words.
“In a time when we can’t guarantee sick paid leave, basic leave for Albertans, at a time when we can’t guarantee commercial eviction bans, at a time when just last week over 60 Albertans were reported dead in just two days at the height of this pandemic, here the UCP is giving itself a pat on the back and a raise to one of their insiders,” Dang said.
“I don’t think it makes any sense. I think it’s absurd and I think it’s frankly insulting to Albertans and the workers who the UCP continue to attack.”
Dang said it’s “hypocritical” for the government to issue such a raise at the same time they’re asking front-line and public sector workers for a wage rollback.
The motion does not make note of an increase in pay for the Opposition’s version of the role. Dang noted he mirrors the same job but would have opposed the increase under any circumstance.
Those who also did not vote in favour include NDP MLA Nicole Goehring, Jasvir Deol and Irfan Sabir.
Independent MLA Todd Loewen attended the Monday meeting but does not sit on the committee or have a vote. He said it would have made more sense to give the role to a current cabinet member.
“When they made this decision, they should’ve accepted the fact that this position has never required extra pay,” he said.
In a statement, the office of the government house leader told Global News that the decision was in line with other provinces including Saskatchewan, Quebec and Nova Scotia.
They also noted that previously the whip received a pay top-up, but since the current whip is a minister, she is not receiving the separate pay bump.
“In effect, the government is simply using the unused chief government whip pay for the Deputy House Leader position. Today’s move is resulting in no extra costs for taxpayers.”
That remains true, as long as the chief government whip is a member of council or in cabinet.
— With files from Morgan Black, Global News