07 July 2006

Provincial legislature salaries and benefits

It will be interesting to see if The Independent can actually piece together and describe accurately the salaries, allowances and other benefits for members of the House of Assembly in the edition this weekend.

The House of Assembly scandal is a story a newspaper like The Independent was designed to tackle. Much of the interesting detail takes digging and leg-work such that it doesn't matter if the competition is a daily outlet. There's plenty for everyone.

Remember the comment made here about the Indy being a guilty sin? Well, this is the scandal for the purpose. As much as people like Harvey Hodder can bitch about the story, the Indy could be the paper everyone turns to on the weekend to find more detail on a huge public issue.

Whether that happens past this weekend depends on two things:

First, the Indy has to get this week's story dead-accurate factually. Linking the current allowance system with the one that existed before 1996, for example, would be a fundamental cock-up that may fit some people's perceptions. It just isn't accurate. Anyone who mentions the Morgan Commission report from 1989 will have to tell us what that was meant to accomplish and how the system worked before 1989. Understanding the back-story helps understand how the current mess came to be.

Second, the Indy has to do the basic research that leads it to the other facets of this story beyond what is convenient and easy. For example, it isn't good enough to tell us what the local indemnity and allowances are by themselves and in comparison to other jurisdictions.


The Indy has to get into issues like what allowances can be spent on here and everywhere else. They will likely run into some roadblocks from people who will be uncomfortable having their spending habits held up to scrutiny, but hey: that's accountability.

So while you wait for the Indy to appear on Saturday evening, take a look at the summaries compiled by the Saskatchewan legislature as part of its review of members' salaries. They call it the indemnity - meaning salaries.

District budgets are something else and there isn't any online information on those amounts for each province. One Alberta member of the legislative assembly reported her constituency expenditure at around $87, 000. Note that it includes salaries of employees - something not included in House of Assembly district budgets.

One line item not listed is donations to charitable or non-charitable groups in her riding. In fact, there doesn't seem to be any place in Canada where elected officials can spend public money in such a fashion.