Today, Alberta's United Conservative government announced its intent to slash political staffer salaries by 7 percent. This rollback comes after MLAs and the premier agreed to a 5% salary cut and a 10% cut respectively in 2019.
This comes after Alberta's Finance Minister Travis Toews expected all provincial departments to make cuts, like those recently announced by the health ministry for Budget 2021. Health Minister Tyler Shandro announced up to 11,000 jobs in Alberta Health Services would be cut to save money.
The Canadian Taxpayers Federation welcomed the United Conservatives' decision to reduce political staff salaries, which equates to 15 percent less on political staff salaries than their predecessors, and over a dozen fewer staff.
"Many Albertans outside of government are struggling with pay cuts and job losses, so cutting political staff salaries is a good step to show taxpayers that the government is willing to share some of the economic burdens," said Franco Terrazzano, the CTF's Alberta Director. "The UCP deserves credit for tightening its belt, and this pay cut helps give Premier Jason Kenney the moral authority to do what needs to be done to put Alberta's finances back together."
While many Albertans outside of government have taken pay cuts or lost their jobs during the downturn, the Alberta government's last broad pay cut was in 1994, according to research by Secondstreet.org.
"Alberta has been hit with a serious triple black swan event," said Minister Toews during a news conference Wednesday. "The global economy experienced the largest contraction since the Great Depression."
"Demand destruction and the oil price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia led to a total collapse in energy prices and, at the same time, we are dealing with the pandemic in our province.
"The impacts on Alberta's finances were severe and immediate."
The Alberta government's labour costs grew by nearly 15 percent between 2014 and 2019, while compensation paid to all Alberta employees has declined by five percent. Since 2014, the Alberta government's labour costs have increased by about $3.5 billion, with more than 10,000 government employees being added.
"We've seen Kenney and MLAs take a cut, now we're seeing their staffers share in the downturn, and next we need to see that happen across government," said Terrazzano. "Today's decision helps give Kenney the moral authority to ask government employees to take a pay cut."
Alberta currently faces a record deficit for 2020-21 of $24.2 billion, with the provincial debt forecasted at $99.6 billion by March 31, 2021.