“She's really not a nice lady” – those are the words that have kicked off the last five months of political drama in Alberta.
Those five months have been fraught with political scandal, accusations and more recently a damning, detailed documentation of events related to our former premier in the Auditor General's report. It all started with allegations of extravagant spending of public monies for travel, then went on to the so-called ‘princess suite' atop the renovated federal building and then to the misuse of government planes. The report of the auditor general should be decisive enough to put the entire picture in perspective and lay the groundwork to bring this waste of taxpayers' resources to bed once and for all.
Despite all of the hullaballoo and media coverage of these events, it is now clear that the system works.
We have had some wrongdoing or “mistakes” as they have been called, and maybe even some criminal activity. Only time will tell, but if we really reflect on what has happened, it has proven that there are sufficient checks and balances in the system to root out wrongdoing, even at the highest levels of government.
Reflecting back we had a premier who was elected with virtually no support from caucus. Ironically, the only support she had was from one MLA, who was defeated by none other than MLA Ric McIver, who is now running to replace our disgraced premier. Alison Redford won the leadership and then the 2012 provincial election based on a number of political promises that likewise had little support within caucus but she was able to rally support from many “two-week Tories” who took the bait and shooed her into office.
As in any organization, the troops rally around a newly-elected leader, providing respect and cooperation to fulfil the elected leader's mandate. With a very respectable election win, caucus had further reason to maintain strong support for their leader.
Apparently things started to deteriorate based on issues and leadership style – bullying and abusive treatment as MLA Webber put it – and then concerns over spending and independent actions became public. It also became apparent that internal strife was building when caucus members were rumoured to be seeking a jump to federal politics. And then the lid blew off with the extravagant spending on the trip to South Africa to attend Nelson Mandela's funeral. Members began to speak out and jump ship, bringing the entire caucus revolt into the public domain. And the rest is history – at least part of the history as we can only speculate how this will play out in the end.
So, is this any different than a non-political scandal, crime or whatever? I suggest not – a person gets in a position of authority or opportunity, establishes credibility, gets away with a few minor indiscretions, things get worse, someone in the know blows the whistle, allegations are made and the perpetrator gets put in his or her place, safeguards are enacted to prevent similar problems in the future and life goes on.
Surprisingly, this whole scenario has been enacted over a fairly short period of time. Hopefully the cost of this fiasco will not turn out to be too severe, other than some reputations that have been permanently damaged.
The ‘aura of power' is over; it's been an interesting five months and will be a hard act to follow, not that we need any more of this kind of political excitement.
Ken Allred is a former St. Albert Alderman and MLA
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