Horner needs intro to poli sci course: professor
University of Alberta prof Jim Lightbody predicts minister of finance won't resign
Saturday, Aug 16, 2014 06:00 am
MLA and Finance Minister Doug Horner’s recent rough ride is a ride of his own devising, says a political scientist from the University of Alberta.
“He has created this all for himself,” said Jim Lightbody, chair of the political science department at the University of Alberta, when asked for his take on Horner’s situation.
“He is not a skilled politician … because he hasn’t learned the first rule,” Lightbody said. “The first rule of politics is when you’re in a hole, stop digging … he’s got the shovel flying with a frenzy.”
Horner has been under fire for the past week, facing calls for his resignation, since the release of the auditor general’s special report said Horner’s ministry was responsible for the government’s fleet of aircraft that was abused by Tory cabinet and caucus members.
Horner’s response has been to say while his department was in charge of policy and the planes themselves, the flights – and who boarded them – were the responsibility of the ministers ordering the flights.
Earlier this week an email from Horner to some of his Progressive Conservative caucus colleagues was leaked to the media, where Horner reiterated he wouldn’t resign.
“Well, first of all, you cannot say you’re responsible in a parliamentary government and then not resign,” Lightbody said. “You can’t take responsibility for the good things and avert responsibility for the bad things. This isn’t Visa, you can’t just take credit.”
Lightbody suggested a tactic that would have been somewhat more consistent with the auditor general’s comments about Horner’s department’s responsibility.
“What he could have said was that ‘Yes, my ministry has general oversight, and yes we try to be very careful for these things, but I am not responsible for ministerial decisions on how the air force will be deployed.’ Then that I think would have been a fair reflection,” Lightbody said.
Lightbody predicted Horner won’t step down from the finance cabinet post.
“This is Alberta and this is like one of those Saturday morning cartoons with Yosemite Sam shooting himself in the foot all the time yet he’s back again next Saturday,” Lightbody said.
In other provinces, he might be expected to resign, Lightbody said, and while many average citizens of Alberta might expect the same, there’s no one to enforce such a move.
The PC government, into its fourth decade of rule, hasn’t been challenged much in the last 30 years, he said.
But in a parliamentary system, Lightbody said, being responsible means taking responsibility.
“The parliamentary system of the British model runs on a common sense of what the rules are,” Lightbody said, noting that the basic rule is “individual and collective responsibility.”
Individual responsibility means a minister’s portfolio.
“If there is malfeasance, even if you were not directly involved, you have to fall on your sword. That’s the rule of parliamentary government and perhaps it is time for Doug Horner to take Political Science 101,” Lightbody said.
Horner should clarify what he means by responsibility, Lightbody said. Either he’s responsible or he’s not.
“This isn’t a bazaar, we’re not haggling over the price of chicken,” he said.
If Horner had sent his email to all members of the legislative assembly, you could give him some credit, Lightbody said, but it appears the note was just sent to Prentice supporters in caucus.
“It wasn’t a letter of apology. It wasn’t a letter defining responsibility. It was a job placement ad. He was responding to a job placement ad, he wants to impress Jim Prentice and he wants to stay in the cabinet. He was career planning with that letter. He only sent it to the Prentice supporters, which is most of caucus to be fair, but you can’t do that as a minister of the crown. Good heavens,” Lightbody said.