Poor Alison Redford. And poor us! She thought she was done with public service when she resigned last March. We thought the same. We made fun of her merciless fall from grace, but we never expected we’d have the chance to do it again. Now, however, Alison Redford is starting to look like Dalton McGuinty- and no, I’m not colourblind.
Like McGuinty, Redford resigned in an attempt to hide or distance herself from a steaming pile of truth. She undoubtedly hoped that her resignation would set her record in stone. She was a popular Premier; then, when she became unpopular, she was Premier no more. It seemed pretty simple. Alas, like McGuinty’s case, the truth kept piling up.
Obtained by the CBC, a report set to be released by Alberta’s Auditor General introduced scathing new evidence that Ms. Redford’s personal plane trips were indeed fraudulent. Talk about ripping open an old wound! According to the report, Ms. Redford booked a number of fake passengers on her flights, so as to make the flights appear full, so that she could fly her family to a number of tourist destinations on the public dime while appearing to be conducting government business. While this isn’t the first time a politician has had invisible friends—frankly it’s hard to see Stephen Harper with any other kind—it is the first time those invisible friends have had seats on a government plane in Alberta. Worse, the report continues, Redford’s fake passengers filled seats sought by actual government officials. It seemed Ms. Redford really wanted the plane all to herself.
Why would Ms. Redford demonstrate, in the words of Jim Lightbody, a University of Alberta political science, such “scarcely disguised contempt for taxpayers’ money?” Here is one possible explanation. Have you, as Premier, ever had to sit beside an Alberta Progressive Conservative on a plane? It would be like sitting next to a right wing Waylon Smithers (assuming that the real deal leans left…feel free to dispute). It’s the sort of thing that would be funny to watch on TV, but terrible to experience in real life (no dispute here…it would suck), especially when you’re supposed to be on vacation! Perhaps we can begin to imagine why Ms. Redford wanted to fly solo.
Regardless of her reason for doing so, there is no disputing that it was wrong for the former Premier to abuse public resources and betray the public’s trust. She forced taxpayers to pay for her assistants and fellows to fly commercial while she flew private. This was completely unnecessary. She said she didn’t request to fly privately, yet the paper trail of private plane requests leads directly to her office. She repaid some of her outlandish expenses, but only when public outrage forced her to do so. Based on these facts, in line with the conclusion of the Auditor General’s report, Ms. Redford is guilty of being an old book politician. The punishment: saddle her with a huge pension and make her carry it for the rest of her life.
When asked for comment, Lightbody said that a number of people probably knew about the abusive activities originating from the Premier’s office…yet no one said anything. He suggested that, since those people worked for the public, one of them should have raised a red flag. Unfortunately, only Stephen Harper knows if Stephen Harper knew about Wright’s cheque…sorry, the stories are just so similar! The point here is that Redford, like any politician, should look out for the public’s best interest. She should tell the truth, and should be forthcoming about mistakes. Obviously, that’s a lot of shoulds – too many to trust – and each one addresses a possible symptom of corruption. To hell with symptoms; let’s find the root cause of the problem- here’s the big question. Should the public demand an end to the concentration of power in the Premier’s Office that allowed Alison Redford to do all this stuff without any accountability? Yes, that might be a good idea.