Saturday, August 12, 2017

It’s not like Alberta politicians are poorly paid to begin with. At a minimum, MLAs earn $127,000. In this province, in this economy, that’s pretty good. Trying to line your pocket in this manner shows an appalling lack of judgment and, we dare say, contempt for the taxpayer who’s paying your way.

Julie Ali
1 min
Actually it appears political integrity is for rent at least till we find out. Then social media does what it does best which is show to the political hires the error of their ways.
In this particular case, Mr. Fildebrant was doing nothing wrong. There are no rules by the GOA to prohibit this sort of tidy side line rental business operation. Maybe there should be?
There may not be any rules and Mr. Fildebrandt did nothing wrong but the public as noted in the last few days of feeding frenzy over this matter don't appear to be able to stomach the use of the overly generous housing allowance to generate profits. In fact, I would say we are rather astonished that a salary of $127,000 (base salary) could not pay for the bills that Mr. Fildebrandt indicated were the reason for the subletting of his place--something about maintenance and cleaning services. Can't the landlord pay for the maintenance as is usual in AB? Can't Mr. Fildebrandt clean his own apartment? Can't he pay for cleaning services with his perks and pay?
It's troubling that we have this sort of junk being used as an explanation for the mistaken use of a housing allowance. This indicates to me that there should be auditing of MLA expenses. However how would an audit have determined this extra rental income? Would it be present on the income tax of the MLA? This information would not be available to the auditor. So how does one find out about side businesses of this nature? I'm guessing in this case the UCP folks released this information. If so, they may have known of this side venture and if they had they should have ponied up this information earlier.
Both Mr. Jean and Mr. Kenney have kept mum about the fiasco for good reason as they don't want their royal cloaks being dragged in the mire as they vie for the bitumen bank and the next oil monarch position as the premier.

I'm thinking that it's time to leave the legacy of the PCs behind completely. It's time to start fresh. The Wildrose messed up the fresh start by joining with the Ebola Party of the PCs. Only the Alberta Party and the Liberal Party of Alberta are left. I like that the Alberta Party leader Greg Clark yapped openly about this issue. I like that Dr. Swann yapped about how little he takes of the housing allowance. These are the sorts of folks we should be voting for. Not the users.

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Julie Ali
We are not getting value for the major bucks we spend on MLAs. They have a base salary of $127,000. Where in the world would you get this sort of pay for the sorts of individuals who populate the power palace? Many of these politicians get supplementary income as well besides the expenses that we pay for that include the housing allowance that is too generous in my opinion. And yet the fat cats think they can use the money we give them to generate side capital?
Troubling. Also troubling is that we have to listen to their lecturing about looking in the mirror by the Conservatives who are now part of the Wildrose in the unholy marriage to make the UCP.
No doubt this episode is an indication of the sorry state of the political hires in the UCP sector and what this will mean when Albertans hire them to rid ourselves of the NDP folks in the next election. Heck this is getting troublesome. We fire the PCs who were far too arrogant and entitled using the NDP broom. Now we are doing the same thing in the next election to fire the NDP who are now the arrogant and entitled ones who ignore their constituents. The next round who are we gonna hire to rid ourselves of the arrogant and entitled UCP folks?
Could it be the Alberta Party?
Who you gonna call for politician busting?

Long a thorn in the side of opposing political parties and his own, Derek Fildebrandt is now knee-deep in a garden of scorn and criticism of his own making. The Strathmore-Brooks MLA has claimed co…

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Editorial: Political integrity not for rent

Published on: August 11, 2017 | Last Updated: August 11, 2017 6:56 AM MDT
Derek Fildebrandt is squarely in the centre of an expense controversy.
Derek Fildebrandt is squarely in the centre of an expense controversy. LEAH HENNEL LEAH HENNEL / LEAH HENNEL/POSTMEDIA
Long a thorn in the side of opposing political parties and his own, Derek Fildebrandt is now knee-deep in a garden of scorn and criticism of his own making.
The Strathmore-Brooks MLA has claimed costs for a condo in Edmonton (as allowed) but then rented it out via online agency Airbnb and pocketed the cash. Between January and March 2017 he claimed $7,720 for a downtown bachelor suite in Edmonton. That’s $2,573 a month. Fildebrandt says he made $2,555 off Airbnb rentals of the unit over eight months.
To most people, that’s the epitome of double dipping.
Members of the legislature who hail from outside the capital are entitled to claim a maximum of $23,160 in a fiscal year to own or lease a property. The money can go toward accommodations expenses like rent, utilities and parking but the rules explicitly state MLAs are only entitled to claim the costs incurred. It’s not a living allowance per se for the politicians to do with as they wish.
While it may not be technically against any rule — the optics are horrendous.
It doesn’t help that when questioned, Fildebrandt seemed to be patting himself on the back for his millennial ingenuity. “Find someone under 35 with a downtown apartment that doesn’t let their apartment if they’re gone half the year,” he told the Edmonton Journal. After all, “it’s the 21st century.”
It’s particularly galling because as finance critic for the now defunct Wildrose Party, Fildebrandt has made a career and reputation out of skewering the government, whether PC or NDP, over spending. He takes delight in exposing financial mismanagement. As his one-time colleague and former Wildrose leader Danielle Smith said on News Talk 770 Thursday morning, Fildebrandt made himself a rather large target because he’s very “self-righteous.” If you’re going to operate like that, “then you’ve got to be squeaky clean.”
Once the news broke, Fildebrandt had the chance to offer a mea culpa. But he took a page from U.S. President Trump’s strategy of misdirection and obfuscation and came out swinging. He accused former Wildrose leader Brian Jean’s “backroom operators” of trying to smear him in retaliation for his denouncing Jean’s leadership the day before. “I won’t let smear distract from real issues and will donate to the (Alberta) debt.”
But let’s be clear: this is not about partisan politics. It about optics, ethics and what’s right. If other MLAs are collecting a taxpayer-funded housing subsidy and then pocketing more for the same unit, they’re also in the wrong. Alberta Party leader Greg Clark is right in calling for an audit of all MLA living expenses, and asking that rule-breakers be financially penalized.
It’s not like Alberta politicians are poorly paid to begin with. At a minimum, MLAs earn $127,000. In this province, in this economy, that’s pretty good. Trying to line your pocket in this manner shows an appalling lack of judgment and, we dare say, contempt for the taxpayer who’s paying your way.

We expected more from the Opposition shadow minister of finance — and former Alberta director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. So should Albertans.

Ccr Alberta · 

Just because you can, doesn't mean you should. Just because there isn't a specifically written rule, doesn't make it right or ok.
LikeReply13 hrs
Douglas Welsh · 

Wow, the Herald actually shows a bit of guts and criticizes their golden boy. I'm surprised.
UnlikeReply218 hrs
J.E. Molnar
Yeah, it would have been somewhat more meaningful if they had called for his outright resignation, no?
LikeReply117 hrs
Julie Ali · 

J.E. Molnar He did not break a rule. He should not have done what he did but there you go. The housing allowance appears to come with no restrictions.

The indicates a problem with the current housing allowance set up. The use of the housing allowance to generate rental income should be prohibited.

It would be nice to see a decrease in the generous nature of this benefit. Also there should be a yearly audit of these expenses for all MLAs. The expenses are listed here:
MLA Expense Disclosure Reports
LikeReply5 minsEdited
Byron Whitford · 

Here is my problem with these kinds of discussions....everyone on all sides is stupid and isn't thinking correctly.

Change the legislation to allow MPs to lease out their taxpayer subsidized Edmonton apartment suites when they aren't using them but make them report the income and then deduct 90% of the amount from their housing subsidy. Let them keep 10% to encourage them to do it. This change would result in a few more apartments in good locations that are available for people visiting Edmonton to rent AND it would result in savings to the taxpayer by reducing the subsidies paid to MPPs/MLAs.

I have the same opinion for the federal government MPS and for the use of government aircraft. If Trudeau wants to bring his entourage with him when he travels I have no problem if they use the government plane and then reimburse the government for an economy airfare. This saves the government money over the PM flying on the plane himself and his entourage flying commercial.
LikeReply419 hrsEdited
Jane Craig
This is a great idea.
LikeReply17 hrs
Julie Ali · 

While this sounds like a good idea in theory, it's difficult to implement in practice. I doubt politicians for the most part want to operate rental property in their spare time. Mr. Fildebrandt is the only MLA to do this that I know of.

Also would it not be easier just to provide out of town MLAs with extra income that is taxable than go through this sort of free market enterprise using public funds? Better yet, decrease the housing allowance and audit the expenses of all politicians to ensure that this sort of abuse does not occur.

I think politicians are already too inventive with the public money they get and it's best for them to concentrate on their jobs and put some of this inventiveness into saving the public money by not wasting it in policy decisions like the $235 million "loan" to big oil for the orphan well program. The loan comes with a $30 million federal grant that was for stimulation of the moribund economy in Alberta and not to make this offer interest free.
LikeReply35 mins
Freeman Dick · 

"While it may not be technically against any rule"
If it isn't against any rule, then he didn't break any rule.
Leave the guy alone and add a proper rule that everyone can see and follow. Problem solved.

LikeReply20 hrs
Ccr Alberta · 

And you're the committee chairman of ethics?
LikeReply13 hrs
J.E. Molnar
One can only hope this new iteration of conservatives (UCP) has the gonads and political fortitude to expel Derek Fildebrandt from the party for his staggering and unprincipled improprieties. That would unequivocally send the right message for this fledgling party. Otherwise, the UCP will be perceived as just the same old conservative pig, but with fresh lipstick.

Now if the Calgary Herald would only step up and call for Fildebrandt's resignation, the illusion of tendentious UCP supporters would likely be diminished. What are the chances?
LikeReply123 hrs
Freeman Dick · 

"unprincipled"? What principle are you appealing to?
LikeReply19 hrs
J.E. Molnar
Freeman Dick he claimed a housing allowance while not living in said housing and then turned around and rented said housing while not living in it and pocketed both the housing allowance and rental fees. Catching on yet? This is called fraud in everyone else's book but yours.
LikeReply19 hrsEdited
Julie Ali · 

J.E. Molnar I doubt this is fraud. It is an inventive use of public money provided as a housing allowance. Legally he did nothing wrong. This indicates the NDP folks need to tighten up the rules to prevent this sort of use of the housing allowance. Yearly audits of the MLAs' expenses would also be a deterrent to abuse.
Mr. Fildebrandt made a mistake, took some time to admit to the mistake and will no longer be very credible as the UCP finance critic so I think he has learned from this episode.

The public for the most part are tired of the entitled ways of some politicians and this episode was useful to remind them that we're fed up.
LikeReply32 mins
J.E. Molnar
Julie Ali it was fraud, plain and simple. He will be investigated for this. He is a hypocrite and now a nationally disgraced Alberta MLA who is in hiding.

Political larceny never gets old when it comes to conservative values. Conservative entitlement goes back to the days of Ralph Klein. Looks like it will also become a staple of the new, unimproved UCP as well. Sad.
LikeReply27 mins
Julie Ali · 

J.E. Molnar I know you have problems understanding regulations but this man did not commit fraud in my opinion. Just because he is a Conservative politician does not set him up for this sort of comment. Similarly there should be no sort of haranguing of NDP politicians.

The facts are that there were no rules governing the use of the housing allowance. The PCs set up this allowance plus the overly generous pay set up for the political hires.

Now the NDP have been enstalled in the GOA. What are they going to do about the housing allowance loophole? What are they going to do about the overly generous MLA perks and pay?

I'm guessing the NDP folks will do nothing. They will yap on social media. Then everyone will forget this issue after political points have been scored.

I doubt that Mr. Fildebrandt's entitlement is pervasive in the UCP or is limited to the UCP. I suggest you get out of brand identification and look at the facts.
LikeReplyJust nowEdited

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