Edmonton

Wildrose: major budget cut manipulated by Tory-dominated committee

Alberta’s official opposition is crying foul about Premier Jim Prentice’s plan to cut a key legislative budget, saying the committee slated to make that decision is not playing by the rules.

Committee set to make major budget decision is breaking rules, opposition parties say

CBC's John Archer questions Speaker Gene Zwozdesky about accusations that an independent legislative committee isn't playing by the rules. 3:58

Alberta’s official opposition is crying foul about Premier Jim Prentice’s plan to cut a key legislative budget, saying the committee slated to make that decision is not playing by the rules.

Prentice pledged Wednesday to cut more than $500,000 from the auditor general’s budget. That cut must be finalized by an independent committee that is supposed to include members of all political parties.

The catch: There are no members of Alberta’s official opposition, the Wildrose party, left on the committee.

“In my 22 years as an elected representative, I have never seen anything like it, ever. Period,” said Heather Forsyth, leader of the Wildrose.

Jeff Wilson and Gary Bikman were the Wildrose representatives on the legislative offices committee, but they crossed the floor to the Tories in December.

Both the Wildrose and the NDP have sent letters to the speaker asking that the Wildrose get a seat at the table. Gene Zwozdesky said that can't happen until the next session of the legislature opens in March. 

"There are people involved in these committees who are with other opposition parties and it's not non-typical for opposition parties to work together when they have an issue they want raised," he said. 

​Forsyth said that's not good enough. She said unless a Wildrose member can be appointed to the committee, the next meeting should be cancelled. 

Prentice’s decision to go through with the cut followed considerable debate this week, and came despite two appeals against slashing two high-profile purses: the office of Alberta’s child and youth advocate and the office of the auditor general.

Both appealed to the same independent committee on Tuesday to have money restored to their budgets.

The auditor general’s request to restore $546,000 was granted, while the child and youth advocate’s ask for $275,000 was not.

The premier’s declaration one day later that half that decision would be reversed and the cut to the auditor general’s office would go ahead anyway came as a surprise to many.

Some critics said the announcement was premature, since the decision must be finalized by an independent committee.

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