The slow poisoning of Alberta’s politics

Hey, Hi, Hello!

While many of us are struggling to keep up with the daily bombardment of bad decisions, power grabs and now sponsored ad content (hello Shopify) from our provincial government, it’s sometimes hard to remember that Jason Kenney isn’t where our trouble started. He’s a symptom of a bigger problem.

The new UCP government is emboldened by 44 years of conservative corruption. For decades conservatives have been under investing in Alberta during boom times in favor of offering tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy as well as living the high life on taxpayer funds, Kenney is just clumsily recycling old plays at the wrong times.

The UCP has been corrupt since its beginning and their predecessors, the PC and Wildrose, have had more than their fair share of corruption scandals (particularly the PCs).

Where do I even start? I mean, Ralph Klein. Drunkenly yelling at homeless people, questionable comments about a youth court judge, making a lewd joke about a colleague at a charity event. I’m sure you can fill in the rest.

In 1992 there was outrage after MLAs were paid more than $1.3 Million to finance living expenses. It was discovered that some PC ministers had used that money to make mortgage payments on Edmonton properties which they then sold for large profits when they retired.

Even “Steady Eddie” had a few controversies under his belt. Notably, Stelmach’s conservatives gave themselves a 30% pay increase while sitting fewer days in the legislature than any other province’s legislature. They instead directed business through standing policy committees of the Progressive Conservative caucus which met in private.

In 2007 Fred Dunn, who was the auditor general at the time, exposed MLAs for regularly exceeded living allowances and accepting lavish gifts and bonuses paid for with taxpayer money.

In 2009, Lorne Gibson, who was then the Chief Electoral Officer got on the wrong side of PC MLAs by issuing two reports about issues with Alberta’s election laws, it was seen as a rebuke of the PC government. He was fired from his position and ended up successfully suing the province for wrongful dismissal.

2010 saw conservatives accepting illegal campaign contributions.

In 2012 the public paid MLAs thousands of dollars for sitting on a committee that hadn’t met in more than three years.

That same year, Christine Cusanelli, who was the Minister of Tourism, billed thousands of dollars of personal charges on her government credit card, including $4,078 in airfare to fly her mother and daughter to the London Olympics and $10, 600 in other expenses. Cusanelli claimed it was all a “misunderstanding”.

Which brings us to Allison Redford who resigned from her position after multiple expense controversies including $11,000 overspent on a trip to India, $45,000 for a trip to South Africa to attend Nelson Mandela’s funeral, $330,000 for a “trip scout” and the $2.7 Million “sky palace”.

Then, of course, there’s Derek Fildebrandt, who served as interim leader of the Wildrose party in 2018 and is known for making inappropriate comments online, legal issues with a neighbor, listing his taxpayer funded apartment on Air BnB, charging meals to his MLA expense account while simultaneously claiming his MLA per-Diem for meals and illegally killing a deer (sounds like someone else we know, but at least from what I can find, he didn’t threaten to shoot anybody). Oh, and he purchased and re launched the Western Standard, a right wing Political commentary site that was founded by Ezra Levant.

the PC merger with the Wildrose party in 2014, of course brought us the good old Kamikaze scandal, among others. Danielle Smith claimed that PC Leader Jim Prentice had moved the PCs to the right and adopted “the lion’s share” of the right wing Wildrose platform, including “increased choice” in healthcare (*cough* privatization) and “parent’s rights” in education (*cough* GSA’s). Interesting that all it took to end the Wildrose party’s criticisms of the PC’s overspending and poor budgetary management was to offer some “key positions” for those willing to cross the floor and make some questionable policy changes. It’s almost sad that Danielle left the Wildrose party, which she took from non-party status to official opposition in 3 years for some vague promises only to lose her seat to a Wildrose member the following year.

Of course, those are just the highlights and don’t include anything from the last year. There have been dozens of smaller controversies from links to white supremacist groups (this topic needs its own post) to expense abuses.

So, you see, none of the corruption we’re seeing is new, it’s just more blatant than we’re used to. Alberta consistently elects politicians on the promise to protect us from the “cash grabs” of Ottawa and Quebec, offer us “a fair deal” and “Balance the budget” when we should be electing politicians with ethics, morals and compassion that will protect us from certain politicians and their donors who seem capable of nothing but lining their own pockets with our tax dollars.

Calamity out.

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