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Is Orange the new Red with latest scandal?

Posted on August 12, 2014 by Taber Times

Readers Digest Canada released a survey in 2013 of the most trusted and mistrusted professions.

Toping the list of most trusted were jobs like firefighters, pharmacists, airline pilots and nurses.

Among the most mistrusted professions were lawyers, real-estate agents, home-building contractors  and politicians. Politicians were actually number two on the list— guess who was number one? Psychics…yes psychics.

The latest scandal of former Premier Alison Redford involves the misuse of public funds including her daughter flying on government planes 50 times in a four-year span, using government aircraft for personal and partisan purposes, block booking, 11th floor premier suites, and fudging the books on international travel.

It is amazing psychics could not see that one coming and are not complaining politicians should be number one on the Canadian Reader’s Digest list.

It is another sad tale that no matter the level of trust in any profession, there are bad apples in every occupation.

But, this time this bad apple may spoil the whole cart that is the Progressive Conservative party, that has had a stranglehold on Alberta since 1971, and maybe that is a good thing.

Without having to look over your shoulder for 43 years that someone may unseat you, four-plus decades of power can give a party that feeling of entitlement and being bullet-proof.

It is the second-longest unbroken run in government at the provincial level in Canadian history since the Liberal party ruled Nova Scotia from 1882 to 1925. To put it in perspective, Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith, the Progressive Conservative’s biggest challenger to their throne, was four months old when the PCs first took power in the province.

There is a growing sentiment in the province perhaps there is a time when there is too much of the same thing. In its first 35 years in power, the Progressive Conservatives had three leaders (Peter Lougheed, Don Getty and Ralph Klein). A convention in September will hand the reins to the fourth leader in the past eight years. Given iron-clad job security for that long, golden parachutes and lavish pensions, perhaps that bores the byproduct of having six consecutive budget deficits despite being considered the richest province in Canada.

If the Progressive Conservative Party has any hopes of breaking the record of continuous leadership provincially in Canada in the next election in 2016, it will have to reinvent itself in terms of transparency and reconnecting with the electorate.

In the first week of the Redford fallout from the auditor general’s report, the party is doing a horrible job of it.

Everyone in the PC party has been quick to devour Redford in the court of public opinion as apparently no one knew of activities spanning four years that are serious enough to get the RCMP and independent Ontario lawyers involved?

If the highest levels of provincial government have this little oversight of the public purse then quite simply the party needs to go or whistle-blowing legislation involving public employees needs to be strengthened.

The question needs to be asked, were public employees truly unaware these funds were being misappropriated or were they afraid of the fallout of their awareness from a party that has ruled for so long? The blame for this latest scandal should go far past the doorstep of just Redford herself.

In the end, it will be up to us, the voter, come 2016 if enough is enough when it comes to provincial politics as the Progressive Conservatives prep for spin control up until then.

Perhaps the PCs are hoping for the will to be broken among the electorate that no matter what party gets in, it will be business as usual when it comes to unethical use of public funds. In 2008, there was a laughable 40.6 per cent voter turnout for the provincial election.

If there is a huge spike in provincial voter turnout in 2016, it is fair to say among the political scientists out there, it will not be to protect a party that has had so much instability in recent years. This latest scandal involving Redford just adds to that.

Just as important will be how the RCMP and Ontario prosecutors handle the Redford debacle.

If million-dollar fraud of public funds does not involve Redford appearing in an orange jump suit for a lengthy time apart from her regular pantsuit attire, then Joe Lunchbox will become even more disillusioned than they already are that there is a separate set of rules for those with power, money and influence.

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