EDMONTON - The whip of Alberta's Tory caucus took the blame Monday for confusion that put him publicly at odds with Premier Alison Redford and allowed critics to mock his boss for being out of touch with her team.
Steve Young said he and some of his colleagues misunderstood Redford's marching orders when they passed a motion in committee last Friday to ask the legislature to bring back controversial transition allowances.
Young said he thought the new transition allowances would be OK because they were much cheaper than previous ones and because they had a new name — severance allowances.
"It was nothing like the (old) transition allowance," said Young. "(But) by any other name, it's still a transition allowance."
The mea culpa capped two days of confusion over whether Redford's Tories were bringing back the allowances.
Redford killed those payments during the spring election campaign after outraged voters learned they were paying more than $10 million to ease the return to private life for 25 retiring politicians of all stripes. Speaker Ken Kowalski alone got $1.2 million.
Redford reiterated Saturday that transition allowances were dead despite the motion passed by Young and the Tory majority on the all-party member services committee a day earlier.
The confusion opened the door for opponents to claim Redford either masterminded the return of the allowances then threw Young under the bus when public reaction was negative, or was out of touch with her caucus.
"This is the gang that couldn't shoot straight," said NDP Leader Brian Mason.
"That premier is so not in control of events, it really makes me wonder how she's going to manage to run the province for the next four years."
Liberal Laurie Blakeman said it's another example why politician pay should be left in the hands of an independent body.
"MLAs should not be setting their own pay and perks because someone is always going to interfere," said Blakeman.
"As soon as we have the premier saying no transition allowances they're going to call it by another name, or they're going to try and do it another way.
"It's a dog's breakfast and I mean no disrespect to the dogs."
The member services committee made the decision Friday after being tasked with finding a new pension plan for all members of the legislature.
The Tories used their majority to pass Young's motion to have the new pension plan be a straight-up RRSP with taxpayers funding the maximum contribution of $23,000.
Added to that motion was the transition allowance. All opposition parties on the committee either voted against it or abstained.
Young said Monday they thought they were on firm ground because they were basing their bid on a recent independent report by retired Supreme Court Justice John Major on politician pay, which said that transition allowances have their place.
Young also said the old payouts were based on three months' pay for every year of service with no limit, while his proposal was one month for every year to a maximum of 12 years of service.
He also said he thought they were following Redford's direction.
"The premier was very clear (that) the package we came up with had to be reasonable and transparent and the amounts had to be much less (than those recommended by Major)," he said.
Opposition Wildrose leader Danielle Smith said she doesn't believe the party whip would bring forward a motion on such a critical topic without Redford signing off on it ahead of time.
Smith said the transition controversy may be a bit of political misdirection to deflect public attention away from the RRSP payouts.
"The very idea somehow (Redford) didn't know what was being introduced beggars belief," said Smith.
"I'm not sure what the games are that they're playing, but I think they kind of got caught in their own web."
Earlier on HuffPost:
Alison Redford on insisting Alberta wont's see a PST
“Gosh, my goodness. Today is Thursday. Did I say it yesterday? Did I say it on Tuesday? Did I say it on Friday?” “We are not introducing a provincial sales tax, period. I’ll say it again tomorrow if you like." February 2013.
Alison Redford's Christmas Greeting
In a tongue-in-cheek greeting on This Hour Has 22 Minutes 2012 holiday special, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/12/07/alison-redford-funny-christmas-greeting_n_2258800.html?1354906380">Redford shared the following message to Canada</a> - "Christmas is my favourite time of year in Alberta. Most people spend their time with family and friends. I choose to spend the bulk of my time the way I do the rest of the year - having a scotch with my friends from the oil and gas industry; talking about how to relax environmental regulations." Looks like another mild winter. You're welcome, Canada."
Ed Stelmach On U.S.
"A good neighbour lends you a cup of sugar. A great neighbour supplies you with 1.4 million barrels of oil per day." -- <a href="http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/article/831381--don-t-tread-on-ed-premier-stelmach-defends-alberta-oilsands-in-washington-post" target="_hplink">In an ad in <em>The Washington Post.</em></a> (CP)
Redford On B.C. Premier Clark
"We have every other premier across the country understanding the importance of the energy economy and understanding that it's important for all Canadians that we do work together." -- <a href="http://www.calgaryherald.com/news/alberta/Debate+over+Northern+Gateway+pipeline+entirely+appropriate/7088360/story.html" target="_hplink">Taking a jab at B.C. Premier Christy Clark.</a> (CP)
Ralph Klein on Evolution
"Dinosaur farts." -- On what may have brought about the <a href="http://www.edmontonsun.com/news/alberta/2010/12/14/16554851.html" target="_hplink">Ice Age.</a> (CP)
Ralph Klein On Belinda Stronach
"I wasn't surprised that she crossed over to the Liberals. I don't think she ever did have a Conservative bone in her body. Well, maybe one." -- Speaking at a charity roast in 2006, <a href="http://www.edmontonsun.com/news/alberta/2010/12/14/16554851.html" target="_hplink">Klein comments on MP Belinda Stronach</a>, who used to date fellow Tory MP Peter McKay, crossing the floor to join the Liberal Party. (CP)
Ralph Klein takes on Dalton McGuinty
"I'm no doctor, but I think that Mr. McGuinty's got a case of premature speculation," said Klein, reacting to comments made in March 2006 by Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty opposing any two-tiered health care system in Ontario that Klein has proposed in Alberta, which was believed would allow quicker access to surgery for those who pay.
Peter Lougheed On Oilsands Development
"Would somebody please outline to me the advantages of our doing it this way? For me, an Albertan? What are they? Can you give me a couple of them? What do I as an Albertan gain by this mad rush up there?" -- <a href="http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/rob-magazine/the-second-coming-of-peter-lougheed/article659021/?page=all" target="_hplink">He asks in <em>The Globe And Mail</em></a>. (CP)
Ralph Klein On Mad Cow Disease
"I guess any self-respecting rancher would have shot, shovelled and shut up, but he didn't do that. Instead he took it to an abattoir." -- At the discovery of mad cow disease <a href="http://ca.m.yahoo.com/w/legobpengine/news/blogs/former-alberta-premier-ralph-klein-finally-getting-order-223011036.html?.b=entertainment&.ts=1340325348&.intl=ca&.lang=en-ca&.ysid=yXfXSNumJYMPRMtsjsr3kcZ6" target="_hplink">on an Alberta ranch.</a> (CP)
Ralph Klein On Edmonton
A fine city with too many socialists and mosquitoes. At least you can spray the mosquitoes." -- In 1990 as a <a href="http://www.edmontonsun.com/news/alberta/2010/12/14/16554851.html" target="_hplink">Tory MLA from Calgary.</a> (CP)
Peter Lougheed On NEP
"Let them freeze in the dark." -- Lougheed takes on Trudeau regarding the NEP in the 70s. The quote is also cited as the more contentious bumper sticker fodder, 'Let the eastern bastards freeze in the dark.'