Alison Redford oversaw the payment of more than $1.3 million in severance to premier's office and executive council staff during her time as premier of Alberta, documents obtained by CBC News show.
That figure does not include the roughly $1.1 million awarded to nine of Redford’s staffers in the wake of her resignation last month.
“[Redford] just did not seem to care and understand that this is taxpayers’ money,” said Derek Fildebrandt of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.
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“This is money that could be better invested elsewhere, rather than in political staffers,” he added. “It could be put into health care, it could be put into education.”
The documents, obtained by CBC News through freedom of information, reveal that 15 premier’s office staff members and five executive council staff members received severance during a period spanning April 2010 to the end of last year. The total amount awarded was more than $2.1 million, and included some payouts made under former premier Ed Stelmach.
A former executive council deputy minister, Brian Manning, took home the highest payout — more than half a million dollars on October 17, 2011. Elan MacDonald collected severance twice, nearly $150,000 in 2010 for serving as deputy chief of staff to former premier Ed Stelmach and more than $22,000 in 2012 for being Redford's chief of staff.
The list also includes the controversial $130,000 paid to Stephen Carter for six months’ work as Redford’s chief of staff.
Wildrose finance critic Rob Anderson said the amounts are troubling.
“Severance is meant to hold you over until you get another job, outside of the government,” he said. “And it should be a reasonable amount to hold you over for a couple of months, a few months, while you go look.
“But that is not what it has turned into,” Anderson continued. “It has turned into hush money, frankly — ‘Here, take the money and be quiet.’ And then they move you off into another department.”
But he rejects the notion that high severance payouts were an issue unique to the Redford government.
“It has certainly increased in Ms. Redford’s time,” Anderson said. “But it is in every department, it is in [Alberta Health Services], it is across the province in the bureaucracy. It really is troubling.”
Executive council, which released the records, redacted the name of one premier’s office individual who received nearly $15,000 in severance, on the grounds that revealing his or her name would be “harmful to individual safety.” No further explanation was provided.
Fildebrandt said the severance amounts highlight a larger problem — provincial governments that will pull back on legitimate social spending, but simultaneously award generous severance payouts to those within the political inner circle.
“Money is finite when it comes to, perhaps, a couple of programs once in a while,” Fildebrandt said.
“But it is infinite when it is coming to the political class — when it comes to paying their friends, paying their staffers.”