As an Albertan, when I was reviewing the winners of this years Teddies one in particular caught my interest for a number of reasons.... Here you go , courtesy of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (I love these guys)
21 Not-So-Angry Men - And Women
(Winner, In the Provincial Category)
Province of Alberta
The Standing Committee on Privileges and Elections, Standing Orders and Printing
Legislative Assembly of Alberta
Nominated For: Worst Ensemble Cast Performance
Production Cost: $261,000 (per year)
Hey, if your like me you have probably at some time in your life volunteered to sit on a committee or two. For most of us this tends to involve an organization or a business group that requires a little help to get things done, or maybe organize an event. Typically you put in the time, do the work, and at the end get a handshake or a pat on the back, and your name goes on the list of "potential volunteers " for next time. We've all been there.
However. when it comes to committees some of our politicians in Alberta have found a way to turn this thankless task into a personal profit center. The Standing Committee on Privileges and Elections, Standing Orders and Printing,(whew....that's a tongue twister) takes profiteering to a new height, even for politics.
This committee with 21 members is currently the largest one in the Alberta Legislature, and certainly the best paid (at least on an hourly rate). The MLA's sitting on this committee each receive a monthly flat rate of $1000 or $12,000 per annum, a guaranteed paycheck whether or not there is even a meeting held in any given month. A pay rate that was put in place back in 2008 when MLA's voted to overhaul the pay structure for the committee, moving from a small stipend paid for each meeting a committee member actually attended to this much more generous pay structure.
Unfortunately for taxpayers, the last time this committee actually met was just shortly after they restructured the pay rates in 2008. In fact its been 39 months since the committee last met, or in taxpayer terms about $39,000 in pay per MLA sitting on this almost none-existent committee. Please....send me in Coach!
But wait it just keeps getting better, for some MLA's on this committee the pie is even sweeter, with the Chair and the Deputy Chair receiving monthly paychecks of $1500 and $1250, respectively. I guess it only makes sense that the guys at the top of the heap receive higher pay for doing more of nothing....
This situation becomes even more interesting when you consider that this issue has never been raised in the Legislature by the opposition, the very same opposition parties (NDP, Liberal, Wild Rose) who literally stay awake at nights searching for instances of the government wasting or abusing taxpayer funds. The same parties who when they find even a hint of pork barreling or fiscal abuse on the part of the government are like a bulldog with its teeth in a mailman's leg, they just don't let it go. I wonder how they missed this one?
After reviewing a list of the committee members I have a theory about why this committee has managed to maintain such a low profile for so long and stay below the public radar. But I don't want to spoil all the fun so here is the list of the MLA's sitting on the committee and lets see what you come up with. (BTW, for simplicity I have color coded each committee members political party affiliation)
- Mr. Raymond Prins (Chair) Progressive Conservative
- Mr. Lloyd Snelgrove (Deputy Chair) Independent
- Mr. Moe Amery Progressive Conservative
- Mr. Guy Boutilier Wild Rose Party
- Ms. Pearl Calahasen Progressive Conservative
- Ms. Alana DeLong Progressive Conservative
- Mr. Arno Doerksen Progressive Conservative
- Mrs. Heather Forsyth Wild Rose Party
- Mr. Broyce Jacobs Progressive Conservative
- Mr. Mel Knight Progressive Conservative
- Mrs. Genia Leskiw Progressive Conservative
- Mr. Barry McFarland Progressive Conservative
- Mr. Leonard Mitzel Progressive Conservative
- Ms. Rachel Notley NDP
- Ms. Bridget A. Pastoor Progressive Conservative
- Mr. Dave Quest Progressive Conservative
- Mr. Ed Stelmach Progressive Conservative (former Alberta Premier)
- Dr. David Swann Liberal (former Leader of the Alberta Liberal party)
- Ms. Janis Tarchuk Progressive Conservative
- Mr. Dave Taylor Alberta Party
- Mr. Gene Zwozdesky Progressive Conservative
Now that this has been brought into the light of day, it is actually comical to witness the response of those who sit on the committee when questioned about it. Let's take the case of Genia Leskiw, MLA for Bonnyville- Cold Lake, its one of my personal favorites.
"I sit on so many different committees and it seems that I am working from 7:00 in the morning to 10:00 or 11:00 at night, and one committee runs into another committee and a person sort of loses track of all the stuff they are doing"
One thing is for certain, the above was definitely not a "prepared" statement, what is really scary is that an individual who let that rubbish flow from her lips is part of our government
Leskiw continued by stating that there have been times when she has served on as many as 5 or 6 different committees during the same period.
Jeez.... even I can do that math, 5-6 committees at $1000 per month each equates to $5000 - $6000
What is amazing to me is the fact that so many important issues stall in our legislature due to political posturing, the inability to agree on even the simplest of matters, or the need for one- upmanship between the parties. However, it appears that in regards to this particular committee the political parties have put their political differences aside in the interest of teamwork....truly amazing! One can only wonder what personal motivation inspired this show of cooperation, I suspect it was not one single reason but more like about 12,000 of them each year.