What would you do if you were Finance Minster Doug Horner?
The MLA for Spruce Grove-St. Albert is under intense pressure this week as former premier Alison Redford's contagion plagues her former inner circle and cabinet, and the Tory caucus.
At the heart of Horner's woes is the fact that a number of PC ministers and MLAs used taxpayer-funded planes for partisan purposes. Horner himself declined to take blame for the abuse despite the fact his ministry is in charge of the aircraft. Horner said he's not responsible for the use of the aircraft, adding he's merely the booking agent and relies on MLAs to follow policy that governs the use of the planes.
It's becoming more evident that the PC culture of waste and entitlement exists, and it wasn't kept under wraps by a handful of people at the top. Staffers, some of whom are speaking on the condition of anonymity, are claiming they tried to warn then-premier Redford of the political consequences associated with her use and abuse of the government planes. One can logically draw the conclusion that if staffers knew about the abuse, so too did at least some MLAs. Staffers talk, and it wouldn't take long for rumours of Redford's behaviour to make the rounds at the legislature.
Horner is trying to, and some would say ineffectually, distance himself from Redford and extricate himself from the glue he's currently stuck in. He sent a letter to the Tory caucus saying that neither he, his office nor his staff did anything that contravened the policy or administration of the Air Transportation Services for which his ministry is responsible. To be clear as mud, we presume Horner is in charge of the ATS, but he's not responsible if something goes wrong — a notion that doesn't make sense, not even in the world of politics.
Horner has little choice but to do the right thing if he hopes to regain the respect of his colleagues and Albertans. Whether he believes he had correctly followed policy or not, he needs to stop hiding behind an interpretation of the rules. As Auditor General Merwan Saher so aptly noted, “You can't write a rule for everything. If you write a rule for everything someone can find a way around it. Ultimately, people have to be governed by principles.” Horner needs to take responsibility, admit he dropped the ball, and then tell us how he will fix the problem so it doesn't happen again. The buck has to stop somewhere — if the ATS falls under Horner's purview, Horner needs to own up to his responsibilities.
Horner's problem isn't going to go away. Each day he allows to pass without meeting the controversy head-on, is one more day of turmoil for his party, one more day of political ammunition for his enemies, and one more day for Albertans' ire to grow. Sometimes doing the right thing is the hardest thing to do, but in this case, it's the only thing to do.