Pay increases for Alberta bureaucrats are costing the province’s taxpayers $18.7 million according to a new report.

Documents obtained by the Canadian Taxpayer Federation (CTF) through freedom of information reveal the Alberta government gave pay raises to 7,384 bureaucrats in 2020. Only nine people were exempt or opted out of the raise.

All members of the Alberta public service, including part-time, full-time, temporary and permanent workers were included in the spending.

The CTF’s Alberta director Franco Terrazzano says it is clear we are not all in this together and is calling on Premier Jason Kenney to assure these pay raises do not increase taxes for Albertans.

This is the fifth consecutive year that Alberta public servants received raises – cumulatively amounting to $245 million – though it particularly stings in 2020 when many private sector businesses shut down or were forced to lay off workers, Terrazzano said.

“It’s unacceptable that thousands of bureaucrats received pay hikes while families and businesses were locked down,” he said. “We can’t keep asking workers who lost their jobs or businesses to pay higher taxes so thousands of bureaucrats can collect bigger pay cheques.”

Terrazzano said bureaucrats should “share in the burden and take a cut.”

“We need relief, we don’t need bureaucrats getting bigger salaries. That’s why Premier Kenney needs to reduce these mounting costs.” 

The call was echoed by United Conservative Party MLA Drew Barnes, who noted the wage gap between the public and private sectors was already significant.

“All levels of government must immediately spend less so they can tax less,” Barnes told True North. “The pay and benefits gap between the public and the private sectors was already inequitable. These public sector pay increases magnify the unfairness, and they create a burden on our economy, taxpayers, and future generations.”

Barnes added the province needs to “restore the Alberta advantage,” meaning government must “reduce spending, get public sector salaries in line, restore competitive taxation, and focus on free enterprise and the economy.”

Second Street, a Canadian think tank says, it has been decades since governments have cut employee pay.

Now that the private sector is reeling from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Second Street says a small reduction in employee pay could help governments avoid raising taxes of struggling families and businesses.

In normal times, these measures could limit rising deficits without disrupting services. A far less drastic measure for policy makers than layoffs. 

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