POLITICS

'Do-nothing' committee head quits politics

03/21/2012 01:12 EDT | Updated 05/21/2012 05:12 EDT

Lacombe-Ponoka MLA Ray Prins, who headed the so-called 'do-nothing' committee, announced he is not seeking re-election, just days before an election is expected to be called.

Prins, first elected in 2004, submitted a letter to Premier Alison Redford Tuesday saying the controversy surrounding the committee has "the media, opposition parties and public questioning my integrity as a person and an MLA."

"While I firmly believe that I have not contravened my oath of office, commitment to Albertans or the tenets of my faith, the issues surrounding the MLA compensation were an unnecessary distraction for my caucus colleagues in the upcoming election," the letter said.

Prins, who also chairs the premier's rural MLA caucus, caught his supporters off-guard with his announcement.

"The last time I talked to Ray he was looking forward to running again," said Lacombe County Reeve Ken Wigmore.

"I would think to some degree it's a bit of an over-reaction," he said. "It's late in the day for us to look at a new person so it's going to be very interesting to see how it plays out."

The Standing Committee on Privileges and Elections, Standing Orders and Printing came under fire after it was revealed that members were paid $1,000 a month, even though it hasn't met in more than three years.

As chairman, Prins received $1,500 each month.

On Tuesday, 15 Tory MLAs decided to pay back some of the money — a maximum of $6,000 each — which is a portion of the total amount of money they received over 40 months.

Redford said she's not surprised Prins decided to pack it in.

"You know this is a time of change and I've continually talked about how new leadership brings those dynamics to the fore and I think he made the decision," she said.

"I certainly didn't talk to him about the decision and don't get a sense at all that it reflects anything else."

Some opposition MLAs such as Alberta Liberal leader Raj Sherman, have repaid the entire amount, about $40,000.