Alberta is truly a land of wonders. For example, I wonder what kind of thinking went into giving whopping six-figure salaries to public servants?

Alberta is awash in examples of staggering salaries — and jaw dropping severance packages — given to government higher ups.

Let’s start up north, Fort McMoney way.

Glen Laubenstein, chief administrative officer for the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo (basically Fort McMurray), suddenly quit his job recently. This is surprising, in that Laubenstein had a base salary of $433,015, with an additional $100,000 in expenses. Fort McMurray mayor Melissa Blake, who presumably was in on approving Laubenstein’s fantastic salary, described Laubenstein was “a great guy”. Apparently, being a great guy was enough to warrant making Laubenstein the highest paid civic administrator in North America. Laubenstein made more money than the city manager of New York City (a little burg you may have heard of it).

Money bubbles like bitumen in Fort McMoney. Civic executives were awarded $400,000 in living expenses from 2011-13, including one guy who had his $4,000 a month rent paid for him for 28 months. Oh, and getting fired isn’t particularly painful in Fort McMurray — 84 fired employees got $7 million in severance from 2011-13. And on top of that, they got to leave Fort McMurray, so it was a win-win for those 84 lucky souls.

In Alberta, getting fired from a cushy government job isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Take Farouk Adatia, deposed premier Alison Redford’s former chief of staff. Apparently, Mr. Adatia was so valuable, such a one-of-a-kind talent (he was a lawyer, and we all know how rare lawyers are) that he was paid $357,000 to be keep Redford’s appointment book up to date. This is more than the stipend paid to the chief of staff of the President of the United States (a little country you may have heard of). When he was let go, Adatia received a lovely parting gift of $366,000. Redford’s revolving door of staff did very well for themselves when they had to apply for employment insurance. Eleven staff members got a combined $1.2 million in severance when she resigned, on top of the $600,000 paid out to staff members who were let go while she was still premier.

One has to wonder how these deals are “negotiated”. I imagine the conversation between Redford and Adatia went something like this:

AF: Hi, Farouk. First, thanks for running for the party in 2011. It was much appreciated.

FA: You’re very welcome, your majesty.

AF: Please, just call me Madame Premier. Anyway, Farouk, how would you like to be my chief of staff?

FA: Hmmm, I don’t know. What does it pay?

AF: What do you want it to pay?

FA: Well, $350,000 or so sounds nice. And about the same when I quit. Gotta look to my future, you know.

AF: Sold! I’ll send over the papers right away. Anyway, I have to go. I need to hire a communications person. Think I can get a good one for under 200 grand?

Seriously, why does Alberta feel free to throw such staggering amounts of money at civil servants?

I blame oil.

Alberta is a one-industry province, and that industry is the extraction of the most in-demand product in the world. There is so much money in Alberta that it has permanently warped our values. The oil industry has become the baseline for our monetary values in this province. This is a province where a high school dropout whose only accomplishment in life is getting a driver’s license can pull down six figures driving a comically outsized dump truck. If an uneducated and unskilled worker can make a hundred grand a year, the thinking goes, surely an educated and skilled person is worth triple that, right?

Makes sense … but only in Alberta. And maybe Qatar.






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