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MLAs weigh in on entitlement accusations

Khan and Horner react to recent op-ed by Jim Dinning

By: Victoria Paterson

  |  Posted: Saturday, Apr 05, 2014 06:00 am

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St. Albert’s MLAs respectfully disagree with recent assertions that there is a sense of entitlement in their party.

“That’s not my experience in working with ministers, that’s not my experience working with caucus. And I certainly hope that’s not the experience of anybody in St. Albert who’s encountered my office or worked with me as a representative at the legislature,” said Stephen Khan.

“Is it an entitlement for me to be in three places in Alberta in one day because I used a government plane? Some would call that a long day,” said MLA and Finance Minister Doug Horner. “I’d be open to anyone saying, well, what about this? … if there’s something I’m doing that I’m not supposed to be doing, please, somebody tell me.”

Khan and Horner were addressing former finance minister Jim Dinning’s recent op-ed in the Calgary Herald that, among other wish-list items for a PC leader, said that the new leader needs “a conviction to purge any sense of entitlement.”

Dinning’s column also made it clear he won’t be entering the race for Progressive Conservative party leader.

“I agree with Mr. Dinning in the sense that as a party we need to do everything we can to be transparent and to combat this notion that the party is entitled,” Khan said.

Khan, who worked with Dinning at the University of Calgary, said the opposition parties are presenting a narrative that the PCs are entitled and arrogant.

“I agree with Mr. Dinning that we need to strongly combat that perception,” Khan said. “I think we’ve seen recently the premier’s office had stumbled into an area where it was hard to defend some of the actions they took.”

Premier Dave Hancock responded to Dinning’s column by saying anyone looking for entitlements would look to jobs other than MLA where they can get more money and more benefits than they can as an elected representative.

“I completely agree with Premier Hancock’s perception that, in fact I think his words were to the effect that overwhelmingly MLAs are hardworking, honest people of integrity. And that’s my experience,” Khan said.

Horner had a similar view.

“I think every day every MLA works really, really hard for the honour and the privilege of serving his constituents and by virtue of that, that’s how we’ve been able to, including Mr. Dinning himself, how we’ve been able to have the honour of governing,” Horner said.

Dinning also called for a return to “simple and clear accounting rules,” something Horner “found absolutely amazing ’cause he’s the guy I asked.”

The idea to split the province’s budget into capital and operating came through a conversation with former premier Peter Lougheed, Horner said. He then ran the idea past Dinning, and said Dinning thought the idea was great and was also on-board with taking advantage of low interest rates to build infrastructure.

“I’m not sure where Jim’s coming from,” Horner said. He added he’s been looking over three credit rating reports from three different companies and they all say the new budget format is more transparent and has more detail.

“For us to go back to the way he used to present the budget actually would be in violation of the public sector accounting rules which we all switched to in 2003,” he said.

Horner is still considering running for leader, and did agree with some of Dinning’s op-ed, including the need for the party’s leadership to listen to Albertans and party members.

“Frankly, every decision that the leader makes should be made through that lens and perhaps that wasn’t the case the last two and a half years, and I wouldn’t disagree with that,” Horner said. “We need to be able to get back to that, you need to be proud to be Progressive Conservative again because those values and those principles are what resonates with Albertans.”

But he disagreed with Dinning’s preference that the next leader should ideally come from outside the party’s current caucus.

“You need to have somebody who can bring caucus together,” Horner said. “Having someone who has no caucus support coming from the outside, I have grave concern over.”

The next leader needs to have experience with caucus and leading the team, he said, not someone jumping in because there’s an opportunity.

“Those are very serious things I think maybe we’ve lost our way on here in the last couple years,” Horner said.


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