Alberta’s ‘Sunshine List’ – mostly moonshine? Below: Premier Alison Redford.

Today’s the day the government of Alberta is supposed to publish its “Sunshine List” of its supposedly most highly paid civil servants.It’s not appeared yet – so, it being a Friday and all, it’ll probably show up at about 4:45 p.m.*The official idea of this somewhat incomplete bit of political kabuki theatre is to encourage “transparency” in government – and surely no harm can come from having a little light shine on the financial perks enjoyed by those top public officials who have traditionally toiled in anonymity, unless they’re Crown prosecutors or contractors with confidentiality agreements, of course.

But what about some of the more opaque corners of Alberta, where the sunshine never penetrates?

I refer, of course, to Progressive Conservative premiers’ long-rumoured party “allowances.”

Wouldn’t today, which is supposed to be Sunshine Day in Alberta, be the perfect moment to deal with that mystery as well – leastways, if we’re as truly committed to “transparency” around here as we say we are?

After all, if the current premier, Alison Redford, is going to require the exposure of a long list of civil servants’ financial details to win back the approval of the likes of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, get some good reviews from Sun Media journos and score a few points on the hustings as the next election creeps closer, isn’t it fair to ask that she allow the same sun to shine on her?

So, while the province’s few remaining working journalists brace themselves for the task of spending their Friday night going through the Sunshine List with the proverbial fine-tooth comb, Premier Redford could aid the cause of transparency in Alberta considerably by adding her party pay, or whatever it is, to the massive data dump.

We know, of course, that the premier’s base salary is $240,061, which if she were a mere civil servant would be enough to place her prominently her on the Sunshine List that is supposed to include every public employee with a base salary of $100,000. (The list may exclude, for the moment at least, those Crown prosecutors, the possible absence of whose pay and benefits from it is presumably a sort perk associated with their superior legal skills, surely a point a coruscating legalist like Ms. Redford would heartily admire even if she doesn’t fully approve.)

To get on the list, a public employee is supposed to have a base salary of $100,000 or above – this sum to be ratcheted up in future years along with Alberta’s pathetic minimum wage to account for inflation. If he or she makes that cut, the rest of us are supposed to be told the whole meal deal, car allowances, pensions, optical plans and all.

So Ms. Redford’s $240,061 would leave the premier considerably in the shade of some who will certainly be on the list, for example, Deputy Health Minister Janet Davidson with her $580,000 annual salary** plus benefits sufficient to permit regular commutes to and from her Vancouver Island residence.

Now, some might argue that whatever allowances the PC party gives to Alberta’s premiers – who have all been Progressive Conservatives for as long as anyone can remember, or at least back to 1971 – ought to be between them and their party.

That seems to be the prevailing thought in PC circles, where the size if the allowances has always been a deep secret – and one that, for some reason, rarely attracts much attention from the province’s somnolent media. The party’s silence on this subject suggests they may be rather large.

But since political party funds come from donors, who in Alberta receive significant tax benefits for their gifts, surely a perfectly reasonable case can be made allowances and expenses from such sources are a form of public subsidy too and should also be subject to public scrutiny?

And by the way, if the PC Party is paying Ms. Redford either expenses or an allowance – in 2011, she told the Red Deer Advocate she received the former but not the latter – can the time she spends working for the party really be called “volunteering,” as her communications director Stefan Baranski insisted yesterday?

These sums are all part of total compensation, and if we’re serious about accountability and not just engaging in political showmanship they should be accounted for.

Surely what’s good for the civil service gander ought also to be good for the first-ministerial goose!

And if today isn’t practical, why not tomorrow?

This post also appears on

* In the event, a partial list appeared on the government of Alberta website at 4:03 this afternoon. An earlier version of this note said 3:30, but even that proved optimistic!

** Ms. Davidson’s salary is shown in the partial list as being $162,222.231 plus $3,899.77 in non-cash benefits. Although the Sunshine List does not explain, this is her salary for the three and a half months of 2013 after she was appointed in mid-September.

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