Local MLA Peter Guthrie believes the 20 per cent drop in wages to MLAs and senior bureaucrats proposed by Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barnes would undermine the Alberta Government's efforts in a time of crisis.

On Wednesday, Alberta MLA Drew Barnes called on all MLAs, MPs, and municipal politicians to take an immediate 20 per cent pay cut for the next six months. He also requested bureaucrats who make the same or more as MLAs ($145,000) to take a similar cut.

In an interview with CochraneNow yesterday, Barnes says taking a cut would show leadership during harsh economic times.

"Too many Albertans that are in private industry in Alberta are losing everything or they're on part-time work or laid off. The public sector, I think, can make better decisions if their situation was more comparable."

"The people that make the decisions, the people that make the policies, have to be a little more in line with the consequences."

Barnes says he will be seeking support for the proposal at the Dec.14 caucus call. He has been discussing the idea with other MLAs.

"There's a lot of support. There is some questioning in how we can make things better for Alberta moving forward, and I'm just hoping at our caucus call on Monday that I can help everyone understand why this is so important and so crucial."

"I think we're in good shape there, and I'm looking forward to that chance."

In says he's had a wave of support from Albertans since taking the stance a couple of days ago.

"It's got to be 1,300-1,400 that have reached out to me, saying they support me on this, and thanking me for recognizing the hardship that so many private enterprises and Albertans are facing right now."

Airdrie-Cochrane MLA Peter Guthrie hasn't heard Barnes address the issue nor has he had any contact with him on the topic.

He is gravely concerned with its divisive nature.

Guthrie says the United Conservative party (UCP) wanted to lead by example when they came into office and the premier and all MLAs took a pay cut. That was on top of a previous pay cut that was followed by a freeze that all took place over a five-year period.

Additionally, senior political staff took a seven per cent pay cut in recent months.

"All MLAs and all political staff understand the current situation and the Alberta Government have worked hard to control operational spending, however, the pandemic has made the situation challenging."

"A cut to the extent of 20 per cent for all bureaucrats, including those in health care, social services, and education, would cause serious issues in retaining quality staff at a time when we need them most. So, in the midst of a pandemic, making a move like this would jeopardize the province's ability to address ongoing and pressing issues."

"To me, MLA Barnes is demonstrating a pattern of behaviour which undermines government efforts and consists mainly of self-interest and divisiveness."

Guthrie says the solutions offered by Barnes are not effective, or helpful in dealing with current challenges.

"I would encourage MLA Barnes to offer more reasonable solutions to Albertans to help us get through the pandemic."

Franco Terrazzano, Alberta director for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF), says Barnes deserves credit for asking MLAs and top bureaucrats to share in the burden.

"So many Albertans are struggling right now, and I think this move--if his colleagues accept it, if the top bureaucrats accept it--will really show taxpayers that our elected officials and the top of the bureaucratic pyramid are willing to share in the tough times and that they understand the difficulties that we're going through.

"Unfortunately, so far we haven't really been all in this together. We've seen so many families, so many businesses, so many workers outside of government who have struggled with pay cuts and job losses, and we really haven't seen government willing to share in the downturn." 

Terrazzano gives MLAs and the premier credit for taking a cut in 2019, calling it a no-brainer for a government trying to tap the brake on spending. But he says it's not enough.

"This year since the COVID-19, the economic shutdown, the downturn that we've been going through in 2020, most politicians have been silent on the need to share in the burden. So, they're willing to take a small cut in 2019, but we haven't really seen our leaders in government share in the burden of the downturn that happened this year."

The federation has recently fortified its call for the wage rollback. In a news release yesterday, they stated a cut in pay for the province's top bureaucrats would save taxpayers $72 million every year.

The CTF released data published in the Alberta government’s compensation disclosure list that shows 1,991 Alberta government bureaucrats received more than $145,000 in compensation last year. 

This data does not include government employees working in agencies, such as Alberta Health Services. The CTF says in October they discovered more than 900 AHS management bureaucrats are on the 2019 sunshine list because they received more than $132,924.

Barnes' call for wage reductions falls in line with his belief in the need for a smaller government.

"I wasn't this directed at that point in time. At that point in time, I believed, and I still do, that as much as some people say that there's the opportunity for bigger government, this is also an opportunity for smaller government. A chance to get our tax burden in line, a chance to give families and free enterprise and communities an opportunity to prosper and grow."

In January 2019, outgoing Drumheller-Stettler MLA Rick Strankman suggested a 20 per cent pay cut for MLAs until the provincial budget is balanced.

Banff-Kananaskis MLA Miranda Rosin has no comment at this time on Barnes' position.