We have no one to blame but ourselves. Oh sure, we Albertans talked a big game during the last provincial election. We were all revved up and about to make a change. It was going to be the end of the decades-long Tory reign and the accompanying arrogance that came with it.
But we flinched. We got to the voting booth and broke out in a cold sweat. We couldn’t vote for the Wildrose. They were, pardon the pun, a bit too wild for our taste. Instead, we opted to go with the devil we’ve known for the last 40 years.
And look what that’s got us – endless insults. Every day it seems we taxpayers learn of another way this cavalier government shamelessly wastes our money. It’s an insult to hard-working Albertans who pay their taxes and go quietly about making an honest living.
The latest insult is the severance paid to former Premier Alison Redford’s staff. Stefan Baranski, Redford’s communication director, is eligible to receive a severance of nearly $104,000 after only 18 months on the job. To really rub it in, we also paid for his flight home twice a month during his first year of employment. His home, by the way, is in Ontario, and we paid him $1,800 a month so he could go – talk about farcical. With a salary of only $180,000 when he was first hired as director of strategic communications, how could he possibly afford to fly home on his own dime? Apparently, the former premier couldn’t find anyone capable of doing the job right here at home.
Of course, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention Farouk Adatia, Redford’s former chief of staff. Adatia, a lawyer from Calgary, ran unsuccessfully as a Tory in the last election in Calgary-Shaw. He lasted 23 months on the job, and received a whopping $357,000 in cash and benefits last year. He gets a $316,274 parting gift for a job … well … done. That equates to $13,751 a month. With his severance and annual pay, Adatia will have hauled in a tidy sum of about $1 million over the last 23 months.
Proving the Tories have yet to learn a single thing over the last two years, interim Premier Dave Hancock defended the severance packages as a normal part of governing. “There are obviously changes when there is a transition in leadership,” he said. “Whenever you are asking people to put whatever else they have on hold and move in there, they are not guaranteeing they have any particular length of time in doing the job. That accounts to some extent for the issue around severance.” Indeed, the Tories certainly have a strange take on what they consider to be “normal.” Sadly, what we do know about government largesse is only the tip of the iceberg.
It’s clear this government has lost its way. Whoever wins the leadership race has the daunting task of not only repairing the party from within, but also its battered relationship with Albertans. The latter just may be too much to ask.