Alberta Liberal leader Raj Sherman
Credits: TOM BRAID/QMI AGENCY
The issue came up during Tuesday's Members' Services Committee meeting.
"The process is not only flawed, it's the epitome of conflict of interest," Sherman said.
Sherman said he questions the commitment of other parties to independent oversight of MLA compensation while still continuing to vote on and influence related matters through the Members' Services Committee.
"I understand the inherit conflict - but, I don't understand how you're going to get around it," said Rob Vandersanden, partner and member of AON Hewitt, who was asked to help the committee understand various types of pensions.
Sherman said independence is critical.
"Otherwise, we are going to be right back here again retreading the same ground the next time the politics or economics change," he said.
The committee rejected Sherman's motion to set up an independent body that would finally take MLA pay out of the hands of the Members' Services Committee.
"If today's committee meeting is any indication, MLAs will continue to manipulate the compensation process for as long as they are able," Sherman said.
Opposition Leader Danielle Smith objected to a door left open to what the Wildrose calls "gold-plated" MLA pensions.
While rejecting a full defined-benefit MLA pension plan, PC committee members supported a "targeted-benefit" pension plan.
"Like defined-benefit pensions, targeted-benefit plans could place an unfair burden on Alberta taxpayers and could still result in politicians receiving excessive and unreasonable payouts," a release from the Wildrose said.
"We want a plan that's in line with real world standards," Smith said.
"I hoped we could find some common ground on this, but clearly the PCs aren't ready to close the door on their lavish entitlements."
Justice John Major recommended the defined-benefit pension plan in his report released in May.
Wildrose supports a defined-contribution pension plan for MLAs.
According to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, unfunded pension liabilities in Alberta have reached $11 billion - including $42 million still remaining on the MLA pension plan Premier Ralph Klein got rid of.
"Premier Klein was right to have killed these pensions almost 20 years ago," Smith said. "Reinstating anything like them would be a slap in the face to Alberta taxpayers and hard-working Alberta families."
The Members' Services Committee voted to strike a subcommittee to further investigate the pension issue. Smith volunteered to sit on the subcommittee.