Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith speaks about the launch of the Wildrose Caucus Foundation at the party's offices in Edmonton, Alta., on Monday, March 18, 2013.
Credits: Ian Kucerak/Edmonton Sun/QMI Agency
EDMONTON -- All 17 members of the Wildrose official Opposition caucus agreed Monday to give back the extra pay they received as a result of a November 8% pay hike.
Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith implored MLAs from all sides who didn't agree with the PC pay hike -- which wasn't in anyone's campaign promises -- to refuse it or donate it to charity.
"We believe this money was never rightfully ours," Smith said. "We are simply giving it back to the front lines. We hope others decide to join us."
MLA salaries increased from $145,000 a year to $156,000 with the addition of an annual 100% taxpayer-funded RRSP bonus. The sum can be set aside for retirement or just treated as taxable income, depending on the recipient's preference.
Tory MLAs have argued that since the bonus is nowhere near the "golden handshake" eliminated last year, the MLAs still got a pay cut.
The move is in contrast to a PC gesture. During the 2012 election campaign, Premier Alison Redford insisted her caucus members who sat on the no-meet committee at $1,000 a month, even though it didn't meet for years, would repay their earnings from the committees or they would be ousted from her caucus.
After the election, the caucus later voted to pass the hat to repay the money, reducing the impact on any members.
The Wildrose funds will flow to the Wildrose Caucus Foundation -- a registered fund under the Calgary Foundation -- that will make annual charitable donations, with the first to be announced shortly.
Smith added that the caucus decided not to just give the funds back to the government because the government hasn't demonstrated the ability to use money wisely.