I have a theory why Alison Redford is in so much trouble these days — she doesn’t like living in Alberta. Or maybe she just doesn’t like hanging around with Albertans, with their pickups and non-designer jeans and all.
Redford’s aversion to Alberta has got her in all kinds of trouble, richly deserved.
The premier has been overwhelmed by problems entirely of her own making. The Princess Premier has an addiction to travel on the public dime, and she’s just lucky that she has time to scrape this cowpie off her Gucci shoes before the next election. Using the public purse as your own is just the kind of thing that rankles the public enough to get you turfed from your job. And THEN how would she travel? Pay for it HERSELF?
The problems (and, God help us, someone actually called it Travelgate) began when it was revealed that Princess Premier’s trip to Nelson Mandela’s funeral cost the taxpayer a ridiculous $45,000, all because Redford’s staff couldn’t read airline schedules. Redford blamed her staff for the fiasco, which is certainly true; a high-ranking politico doesn’t make her own travel arrangements. But there is no doubt that the trip was entirely a personal affair; she was not representing the province, just herself. She has rebuffed opposition calls to repay the money, which is shockingly bullheaded. If she had admitted the mistake, and repaid the money, the issue would be done. But not our Princess Premier.
But to my mind, that’s not the worst of the travel excess. Much worse was her decision to use a government plane to return to Alberta from a holiday in Palm Springs (again … is this woman a part-time resident?) to attend Ralph Klein’s funeral. She could have paid for her own trip, or just skipped the event. But not our Princess Premier.
And there’s more. On the trip she took to Palm Springs she took along TWO bodyguards. What exactly is the premier afraid of? Getting caught in a stampede at the 4:30 senior’s buffet at Bonanza?
And there’s yet more. The premier took a government plane to Vancouver to attend her uncle’s funeral. Clearly, this is private business — but a meeting with a trade representative from India was hastily arranged, it’s a government trip. Are we supposed to believe this?
The premier has taken her daughter along on some trips, which is not a big deal if the plane has empty seats on it. She also allowed her daughter to bring along a friend, which again is not a big deal if there are empty seats on the plane. The premier has agreed to repay the cost of the friend’s flight, which is no more than a sop to the opposition. But this didn’t come before she played the Motherhood card. Redford, trying hard to play to the public’s heart, said she is the first female premier of Alberta with a 12-year-old daughter, and clearly we have to make exceptions for her because she’s, well, a mommy.
Dave Hancock, always wiling to go into battle even when unarmed, actually told the Legislation “no one should have to abandon their family to do their job.”
What a load. Redford is trying to insert an emotional issue into the travel scandal to distract the public’s attention from the real issue. Does anyone begrudge the premier taking her daughter along on an empty seat on a government plane? Of course not. But that’s not the issue. The real question is the premier’s use of government planes (i.e., the Palm Springs to Vancouver flight, or the trip to Vancouver for her uncle’s funeral), and her frequent and lavish trips overseas (a trade mission to India, a trip to the World Economic Forum that cost $120,000, her resolute refusal to take commercial aircraft, the ridiculous use of TWO bodyguards while on vacation).
Redford appears to be on shaky ground with her own caucus. The trained seals behind her in the Legislature were tepid in their support, which is never a good sign. And now one of her MLAs, Edmonton-McClung seat-warmer David Xiao, has announced he will seek the Conservative nomination for the Edmonton West riding in the next federal election. Xiao’s only claim to fame is being one of the leading spenders on travel expenses ($32,000 for his own car in 2013, even though he lives in the west end within 20 minutes of the legislature), so losing Xiao does the party no harm. But having any MLAs quit — even one of so little consequence like Xiao — could be interpreted as a sign of wavering support for the leader. Xiao, who is entirely an opportunist, is likely afraid of losing his seat in the next provincial election, so he is seeking a safe federal seat. Thanks for your commitment, Mr. X.
Things are not good in the land of the Princess Premier. If she’s smart (and at one point, I assumed she was), she’ll stay grounded in Alberta all the way to the next election. But I wouldn’t bet on that; free airplane rides are a tough habit to break.