Saulie Zajdel, Montreal Shadow MP, Leaves Government Job, Won't Say Why
MONTREAL - A federal employee described by Liberal Irwin Cotler as his "shadow MP" on the public payroll says he no longer works for the government, bringing to a close a political appointment mired in mystery.
Saulie Zajdel told The Canadian Press in a brief phone conversation Tuesday that he left his government position — but he wouldn't say why.
"I'm no longer working for the federal government," Zajdel said in a 30-second discussion before hanging up.
"I'm a private citizen now."
The former Conservative candidate was hired by the Tory government after he lost to Cotler in last year's election.
Cotler had raised concerns that his ex-rival was earning a government paycheque while trying to perform MP-like duties in his Montreal riding. The Liberal MP said he was worried that Zajdel was meeting with elected officials in the riding, promising that he would help them secure federal services and grants.
Details of Zajdel's role were closely guarded.
The Conservatives initially refused to discuss his duties as an adviser to Heritage Minister James Moore. After several months, Moore shared some details, explaining that Zajdel worked in his Montreal office as a non-partisan liaison with the city's multiethnic communities.
Zajdel, meanwhile, had stayed active in Cotler's Mount Royal riding since starting his government job last fall.
Shortly after being hired, he convened a meeting with mayors in the riding to discuss Canadian Heritage programs.
A few weeks ago, the former Montreal city councillor spoke about the programs again during a lecture at a community centre for Jewish seniors in Mount Royal, which has a large Jewish population.
His one-hour talk was advertised in local newspapers and on the centre's website as "How the Federal Government Relates to Israel." It was attended by around 25 people.
Zajdel began his talk by discussing his department's heritage-related services, unrelated to Israel, according to two people in the room. Then he told the seniors' audience he was going off the record, so they could have a private chat about Canada's relationship with Israel.
Last month, Zajdel was part of Stephen Harper's entourage during the prime minister's visit to Montreal.
Zajdel declined repeated requests for an interview while he was employed by the government. He did engage in the brief exchange Tuesday, but refused to say what he's going to do next.
"Have a nice a day, sir. Bye, bye," he said before hanging up the phone.
One possible avenue for Zajdel is real estate. He is listed as a "real estate broker" on the website of an agency in the Mount Royal riding and has held a permit to sell real estate since 2003.
When asked about Zajdel's departure, a spokesman for Moore said Tuesday in an email that the department does not comment on "internal staffing issues."
How Much Do Our MPs Make?
Here's a rundown of <a href="http://www.parl.gc.ca/ParlInfo/Lists/Salaries.aspx?Menu=HOC-Politic&Section=03d93c58-f843-49b3-9653-84275c23f3fb&Year=2011" target="_hplink">how much our MPs make</a> depending on their position in the House. (Alamy)
MP - $157,731
The base salary for a Member of Parliament is $157,731. Being named to cabinet or other positions nets an MP extra pay. (<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/scazon/" target="_hplink">Flickr: Scazon</a>)
Government and Opposition Whip - $186,151
NDP MP Nycole Turmel is the Official Opposition Whip. (CP)
Leaders of Other Parties - $211,425
Bob Rae is the interim leader of the Liberal Party of Canada. (CP)
Minister of State - $214,368
Tim Uppal is the Minister of State for Democratic Reform. Ministers of State are essentially junior cabinet ministers. (CP)
Cabinet Minister - $233,247
Jim Flaherty is Minister of Finance. (CP) All ministers also receive a car allowance of $2,122.
Leader of the Opposition - $233,247
As NDP chief, Thomas Mulair is leader of the Official Opposition. He also receives a $2,122 car allowance. (CP)
Speaker of the House - $233,247
Andrew Scheer is currently serving as speaker. On top of his salary, Scheer receives a rent allowance of $3,000 and a car allowance of $1,061. (CP)
Prime Minister - $315,462
As Prime Minister, Stephen Harper also receives a car allowance of $2,112. (AP)