Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach is defending his government's decision to give pay raises of about 30 per cent to cabinet ministers and himself.

The 23-member cabinet voted last Tuesday to boost their pay by $42,000, to $184,000. Stelmach's salary increased by $54,000, to $213,450. The decision was made behind closed doors and was not announced until Thursday.

The increases followed a move the previous week by the legislature's Standing Committee on Members' Services, which agreed to pay the Liberal and NDP leaders, and the Speaker an extra $42,000 a year for their work on various government committees.

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Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach is facing questions about pay increases of more than 30 per cent for cabinet ministers, including himself, approved behind closed doors last week. ((CBC))

"It is an adjustment — I stand by the adjustment," Stelmach told reporters in Edmonton Monday.

Stelmach insisted that it's critical that salaries for elected officials, particularly cabinet ministers, be high enough to attract people from a wide range of professional fields.

"If there is some better ideas coming forward from anybody that has a way of doing it differently then I am open to listening to them," he said.

Although the premier has come under attack in the media over the raises from groups like the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, Stelmach insists the public is not upset over the increases.

"I've been at 15 different functions over the weekend and the comments made is that it is recognition of the work that MLAs do,  the ministers in cabinet," he said.

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation has called on the government to roll back the salary increases and appoint an independent citizens' committee to study salaries.

Alberta MLAs received a pay raise of 4.53 per cent on April 1, increasing salaries for backbenchers from $74,754 to $78,138.

One third of the salary received by MLAs is tax-free.