Alberta MLA pay report defended by author

The author of a report on how Alberta MLAs should be paid is defending his conclusions.

Justice John Major says recommendations are fair and not political

Retired Supreme Court Justice John Major told reporters on Thursday that MLAs need to be fairly paid. (CBC)

The author of a report on how Alberta MLAs should be paid is defending his conclusions one day after the premier rejected some of his recommendations.

Retired Supreme Court Justice John Major studied the issue for the last four months.

He recommends lowering the average MLA salary to about $134,000 a year, capping transition allowances when politicians leave office, and re-introducing a pension plan.

If the recommendations are adopted in full, the total pay, benefits and pension of the new 87

MLAs would equal the cost of the last 83 legislators, he said.

The recommendations would also make Alberta politicians the best compensated of all the provinces other than Quebec. 

'Are they fairly paid?'

Whether they're the highest paid or not is not the question, Major said. "'Are they fairly paid?' is the question."

Major recommended future salary adjustments be made every four years by panel of three provincial court judges.

Premier Alison Redford has already rejected Major's suggestion that the premier's salary jump from just over $200,000 a year to $335,000 within the next two years.

Major said that's fine with him.

"I was not asked to write a report that I thought the premier would accept," he told reporters Thursday. "I wrote a report on what I thought the premier's job was worth.

"If the premier doesn't see her job as being worth what I've recommended, she's perfectly free to not accept it."

Major maintained his 327-page report is independent and not political.

Premier makes less than judges

He told reporters he's not always sure what motivates politicians in some of their decisions.

"Does it make any sense to any of you here that it should be below that of a (small claims) court judge? Does it make any sense that it should be less than any judge in the province?" he asked.

"It defies common sense to me."

Major said the most misunderstood and contentious of his recommendations is that the province retain the tax-free allowance for MLAs, worth about $37,000 a year.

That allowance is provided under the federal Income Tax Act and the provinces have no control over it, he said.

Without the allowance the province would have to make up the difference in salary and then lose the $2 million in taxes to Revenue Canada.

Keeping the tax-free allowance shouldn't make MLA pay any less transparent, he said.

"I like to think Albertans are smart enough they don't have to be fooled by pretending something is what it's not."