Politics in Alberta. Money for nothing and the cheques for free. Dire straits indeed.
Let's hope somewhere in their skulls or souls they know it's wrong.
We can always hope but precious few show any evidence of knowing and no one is stepping up to give back the cash.
What we're talking about this day is the fact a group of provincial politicians, most of them from the governing Tories, sit on a committee that doesn't sit.
It's a group of 21 seatwarmers, that's more than a quarter of the legislature, who never have to warm a seat.
They just have to keep breathing and pick up the dough — $12,000 a year. If you're the chairman you score $18,000, to do nothing as you head up the group of do-nothings.
In this financial year, $261,000 has gone to this do-nothing farce. Since the committee last met 39 months ago, we're moving close to a million dollars for politicians in this absurd and immoral deal.
Yes, the group haven't met since 2008 and that meeting was ... wait for it ... 14 minutes long. Then they stopped huddling since, unlike the old days, these mugs don't get paid by the meeting, they get their coin for being in the group whether it meets or not.
Tory MLA Ray Prins, the chairman with the $18,000 for heading up nothing, doesn't appear to see a problem.
He feels the group is ready to respond as needed.
Yes, it's like the Standing Committee on Privileges, Elections, Standing Orders and Printing are on call, ready to go down the pole and out to the trucks, sirens on, to what we're not exactly sure.
Genia Leskiw, another Tory MLA on the committee, isn't sure what this group who don't meet is supposed to do when it's not doing nothing.
It's quite the gig and a lot of former heavy hitters get a stop at the money-for-nothing committee before they head out the door or because they've been taken down a notch or two.
Unsteady Eddie, the former premier pocketing a million bucks to go away, is at the trough of troughs.
There's former health minister Gene Zwozdesky, with his name on the list for the free grand a month after he was dumped from the Tory inner circle.
There's David Swann, whose regular cheque must not be as fat since he's no longer Liberal leader.
There's Lloyd Snelgrove, Eddie's old budget boss and Mel Knight who couldn't handle the energy file with two hands and a flashlight.
Lookee here, it's the less-than-legendary Janis Tarchuk who is leaving politics with $645,000 as a parting gift. That extra grand a month is just a little icing on her cake.
At the Canadian Taxpayers Federation they talk about how, in the real world, people go on committees where it's long hours and no pay. On this committee, it's no hours and $12,000 a year.
This is so bad, the taxpayer group gives the committee an award Wednesday for the most ridiculous provincial government waste to be found from coast to coast to coast.
Top-of-the-line piggery right here in free-spending Alberta.
Why mince words? This committee stunt is an obscenity, it should be toast and the politicians pocketing the dollars should put them back into the public kitty.
Alas, this is just the absurd top of an ugly iceberg.
There's the bye-bye bucks the provincial politicians gobble up at the exit door with the biggest winner being Ken Kowalski, the legislature Speaker who happens to be the head of a committee that does meet because they're in charge of fiddling with MLA pay and perks.
He will walk away in a month with $1.2 million.
Then there's the MLA pay, where you'd have to earn between $127,000 and $164,000 a year to make the same take-home pay as a backbencher daydreaming in the back row, voting on command and not spending a whole lot of time actually in the legislature.
Don't forget the RSP allowance, a free cheque of $11,225 this year.
The Wildrose have been pushing for a single wage for MLA with no extra committee pay. But it's Calgary Liberal MLA Kent Hehr who doesn't hold back.
Hehr demands action from the Tories, saying they should get the committee to kill itself.
The Tories have a majority on the committee.
Deputy Premier Doug Horner does diddly but dance and accuses Hehr of "playing to the media."
"This has to be cleaned up. We have a bad enough image without adding fuel to the fire," says Hehr.
"You have to be open and honest or people see through the BS sooner or later."
Sadly, it's usually later.
Calgary Sun, Wed Mar 7 2012
Byline: Rick Bell