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This article was published 28/5/2012 (3428 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A former three-term NDP MLA got a soft landing when she decided, for personal reasons, not to run for re-election last fall.
Bonnie Korzeniowski, who served 12 years as the representative for St. James, was hired immediately after the Oct. 4 election to stay on as the province’s military envoy, a post she had held since it was created in 2008.
Her salary, the Tories revealed Monday during Question Period, is exactly the same as she would have earned as an MLA — $85,500 per year. She even kept her old constituency office to use in her new job.
Tory MLA Dennis Smook (La Verendrye) asked why the government was paying a retired MLA to do the work that a sitting MLA used to do. He said it appeared that the NDP simply wanted to keep a political friend on the payroll.
"She has an MLA salary, an MLA office and attends events MLAs usually go to," Smook said.
Entrepreneurship, Training and Trade Minister Peter Bjornson, whose department is footing the $190,000 cost of Korzeniowski’s salary and office expenses, defended the hire.
Bjornson said Korzeniowski has done a good job as special envoy and won the respect of the military. With Ottawa cutting positions in its Veterans Affairs Department and closing a regional office in Brandon, the role of special envoy is becoming more important, he said, adding that Korzeniowski’s role is "evolving as we speak."
Service personnel looking at life after the Armed Forces are looking at his department for help in job retraining or setting up a small business, Bjornson noted.
But the Conservatives wondered why a sitting NDP MLA couldn’t have done the job — saving taxpayers a sizable chunk of money.
NDP backbencher Drew Caldwell (Brandon East), who represents a constituency with a big military presence, could have taken over the role, as could have Korzeniowski’s successor in St. James, Deanne Crothers, they said.
"Can’t they do the job?" Morris Conservative MLA Mavis Taillieu said, taunting the government benches in the House.
Taillieu said the special envoy role is "not supposed to be a retirement plan for NDP MLAs."
Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.