Alberta premier suspends MLA committee pay

Alberta Premier Alison Redford is suspending pay for all government members on legislative committees effective immediately.

Liberal Leader Sherman, Wildrose MLAs Forsyth and Boutlier pay money back

Liberal leader Raj Sherman flashes his cheque during a CBC editorial board Monday as he promises to return the money he made for sitting on a legislative committee that hasn't met in four years. (CBC)

Alberta Premier Alison Redford is suspending pay for all government members on legislative committees effective immediately.

Her pronouncement comes almost a week after the public learned that 21 MLAs receive $1,000 every month for sitting on the privileges and elections committee which hasn't met in nearly four years.

Redford said she will ask the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly to review the pay of all committees of the legislature and suspend all legislative committee pay.

"For the last several days, Albertans have expressed their concerns about MLAs receiving pay for sitting on a committee that did not hold meetings," Redford said in a written statement. "Albertans are right on this issue."

On Monday, Alberta Liberal leader Raj Sherman wrote a cheque to the legislature for $43,656.17. The total represents the 41 months he was paid for sitting on the committee plus $2,656.17 in interest.

"I was on the committee at the beginning ...Our understanding (was) that we were going to work," Sherman told CBC News on Monday. "We did meet a few times."

Sherman said he didn't realize he was receiving the committee pay until the Canadian Taxpayers Federation made it an issue last week. He says all MLAs who sat on the committee are obliged to either return the money or donate it to charity. 

"If we haven't met, we didn't do any work," said Sherman. "It wasn't our money to begin with."

Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith said that two members of her caucus, Heather Forsyth and Guy Boutilier, are also paying the government back.

"I did not ask them to do this. They did some soul searching last week and they did this because they think it's the right thing to do," she said. "I have to say I'm very impressed with their ability to act so quickly on this and I support them in their decision."

But in question period, Redford slammed these actions as political posturing.

"I find it terribly interesting that a number of people in this house, who today have come up with a convenient stunt to try and polarize an issue, are people who are fully aware of exactly what they were receiving for payment and did nothing about it until today," she said.

Redford recently appointed retired Supreme Court Justice John Major to review MLA pay. 

"MLAs should have one, easy-to-understand pay package," she said in a written statement. "It is my commitment that we will simplify MLA pay into one, fully-taxable salary so that Albertans know exactly what their elected representatives are earning and why."