Bigger than a plane ride
Well, this has certainly been shaping up to be an interesting week in Alberta politics.
On Monday, Premier Redford’s bad polling numbers were released and they were a shock even to me. Now, I personally have not been a fan of Ms. Redford and I have lost faith in the PC party years ago, but I was still surprised to see such bad numbers in Alberta of all places. We’re long famous for political dynasties and turning on a dime, but this feels different to me.
One thing is absolutely, abundantly clear: There is a great deal of anger with the cost of Premier Redford’s flights, especially her $45,000 trip to South Africa. I don’t begrudge her for going, in fact I actually applaud her paying her respects to Nelson Mandela - a man I also look up to very much. There are times you drop everything and make sacrifices in order to pay respect to someone important. But Albertans as a whole should not be sacrificing for our Premier to pay her respects. Even she has said there were mistakes made. The consequence has been that all her expenses are getting an extremely thorough examination now, and that is absolutely appropriate as well right now.
In my personal view, Ms. Redford needs to be accountable and repay every penny. I absolutely cannot say, “I’m sorry” and refuse to pay my debts. Sometimes it hurts to do the right thing, that doesn’t mean you should dodge doing the right thing.
But right now, I’m already looking beyond the money. I am in no way minimizing $45,000 - that’s most of my salary for a year! Instead I’m doubting our Premier’s judgement when it comes to making choices about how she travels. I’m doubting our Premier’s judgement about what she considers a valid expense and an invalid expense. More important than the money is the wheedling at the back of my mind that says I cannot trust financial decisions that are being made. That’s a hard knock the week before the budget comes out.
But there’s another factor to this, too. There’s a three ring circus where everyone is trying to get their shots in and to drag down the Premier by pointing out every single failing and misgiving. It can be a lot of fun to volley back and forth on the #ableg hashtag on twitter, but lately I’ve just found it tiresome and distracting.
This past Saturday I met with other Alberta Party people and Greg Clark was an inspiration to me. I felt angry, frustrated and upset with Premier Redford’s spending. Greg not only set the example, but he really focused in on the bigger picture. The Alberta Party has it’s own set of challenges as a small, challenging party, but we have great ideas and tons of energy and a willingness to do right for all Albertans. Greg didn’t obsess over the expenses, and said something to the effect that we’re trying to build a better Alberta, not tear down everyone else around us.
So on that note: Premier Redford will make her own decision on whether to pay the money back or not. I don’t control her and I won’t pillory her over her choices. I will personally make better choices and focus on making things better for all Albertans. I won’t ever put myself into the situation where I have to pay back so much money, and if I ever do need to pay money back I’ll do it promptly without the need for someone else to cajole me into doing the right thing. And I will definitely do absolutely everything within my power to keep my promises.
Yes, there needs to be transparency and accountability, but the need for accountability cannot get in the way of good governance. The value of good stewardship is much, much greater than an expensive plane ticket. There are many good people willing to step forward and provide the great leadership that this province needs.