Editorial Comment

Redford Follies

 

It’s one thing to think yourself so noble and righteous that you are impervious to pain and damage, but it’s another to have your ideology blind you so badly you lurch from landmine to landmine seemingly hitting every explosive device in your path.
At least that is the impression one gets of Allison Redford, our “conservative” premier, with a liberal streak as wide as the prairie sky. Even prior to her somewhat surprising election win, she was seen as playing fast and loose with the treasury, buying off teachers with a huge raise right before the election. Since then she’s staggered from one scandal to the next. As worldly, seasoned and intelligent as we’ve been told she is, it seems she was quite unprepared for the unrelenting revelations of her and her parties past misdeeds.
There was the million dollar trip to the Olympics on the taxpayer’s tooney which included a $12,500 first-class plane ticket to London. Some are only angry that the ticket included her return.
Then there’s the almost weekly revelations of public institutions admitting using public money to attend PC party fundraising events. So entrenched was this practice, many of these publicly-financed bodies, school and health boards, municipalities and treasury branches, didn’t even know it’s illegal. 
And let’s not forget about the sketchy political donations of Daryl Katz, the reclusive, reviled multi-billionaire who loaded up Redford’s election war chest to the tune of almost  $500,000; a huge percentage of the PC total election receipts. Many Albertans assume the donations were made to ensure he received the $100 million in infrastructure money for his downtown arena plans.  
Then there’s the story recently breaking of Redford’s sister, Lynn, who had been using money from the Calgary Health board for hosting PC party gatherings between 2005 and 2008. Granted, these soirees were held before Redford gained the premiership but the electorate will probably not appreciate the distinction. They know from the rash of reports there’s something rotten at the core of the forty year juggernaut that is the Alberta PCs.
Also keeping it in the family is another recent news story circulating that Redford had signed off on using a law firm for the province’s suit against Big Tobacco, despite the fact her ex-husband is a lawyer practicing in that firm. Though some point out that conflict of interest rules don’t apply to an “ex”, when you pile it on with all the other charges, it adds fuel to taxpayers’ burning anger. It doesn’t help that even with the province’s much coveted oil wealth, her finance minister couldn’t bring in a balanced budget.
Luckily for Redford, it is still fairly early in her leadership. By changing her focus, Redford could easily make the denizens of the province forget her rocky start and embrace her to their collective bosom. In order to do this, however, she will have to understand three things.
1. When an Albertans says they are “small ‘c’ conservative” they are talking about understanding the value of a dollar and will only support governments that respect the dollars they take from us. For us, conservativism is really just another word for fiscal responsibility and so far, we haven’t seen much of it.
Opening up the past PC misdeeds to scrutiny in the early going was smart. It is possible for Redford to draw a line and move forward from it. However, she better make darn sure there are no more “bad optics” revelations going forward or all those past mistakes will haunt her like some Dickensian specter.
2. Enough with the social engineering projects. Albertans understand coming down hard on drunk drivers. The vast majority had no problem with the .08 limit which is widely recognized around the world as a reasonable limit. By implementing their new .05 limit with the arresting officer being able to pronounce judgment with no due process during an immediately imposed seventy-two hour suspension has not been well received by the citizens. The feeling is the drunks that are killing people are in the .08+ group, not those registering between .05 and .08. 
Albertans also take a dim view of the distracted driving law which is riddled with inconsistency; drinking a coffee or lighting a smoke while driving is okay but eating a donut isn’t? Really? Like the .05 ruling, this is another of those laws that punish you for what might happen, not for something bad that you did. When you add in, the widely panned “anti-bullying” provisions included in the new Education Act, which some experts claim undermines parental responsibility, then instead of a premier, we have Big Sister. Redford must stop micromanaging Albertans or pay the electoral consequences.
3. Unlike the image Albertans have with some of our countrymen, we are not backward Neanderthals when it comes to a social conscience. The Alberta psyche with regard to the social contract is two-pronged. Firstly, we definitely want our government to take care of our most vulnerable; seniors, the disabled and the disadvantaged. We know the rewards of a social safety net are many fold, including a safer society with a respected public image and, more importantly, a respected self-image. Secondly, we don’t really care if you are black, white, brown, yellow, straight, gay or something in-between, or whether you hale from Gaspe or Guyana. All we expect is that you work hard, pull your weight, conduct business fairly and try and get along. That’s it. We will accept no less, but certainly no more. Any Alberta leader that does not share this idea of our social responsibility will not last.
Don’t try to make us be who we aren’t Ms. Redford. You will lose.



 
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