Much has been made in some sectors of the media about former premier Alison Redford’s absence from the legislature since her resignation. It seems the Princess Premier has not attended a single session of the legislature since she quit, prompting the usual “shouldn’t you have to show up for work to get paid?” whine from some members of the public and the media, who should know better.
Here’s where I have to weigh in from my fairly unique perspective as someone who has actually been there, and done that, in the Alberta legislature. (For those of you who don’t know, I was the MLA for Edmonton-Meadowlark from 2004-08. I was on the opposition side with the Liberal party.)
The criticism leveled at Redford for ‘not showing up for work’ is quite unfair, and shows a real lack of understanding of what a backbench PC MLA actually does while the government is in session.
Here’s the truth: the vast majority of PC backbench MLAs do absolutely nothing while the legislature is in session.
Oh, most of them at some point will introduce guests (school kids on field trips, or office staffers). Some will make a platitudinous statement about, oh, I don’t know, let’s say Oral Hygiene Month. And others will ask what we in opposition called ‘puffball’ questions during Question Period, usually along the lines of “What is the government doing about (fill in local issue)”, followed by the minister reading his prepared answer. (The final question is often something like: “Where can my constituents go to learn more about (fill in issue)?” with the minister reading a website address for the five or so people actually watching Question Period.)
Now, you might think that even government MLAs would weigh in during debates on government bills. Well, you would be wrong. The overwhelming majority of backbench government MLAs are expected to fill their comfortable chairs, and do nothing. There are some, of course, who do say a few, carefully vetted words. But most of them do not have the verbal dexterity to say anything that isn’t written for them. Many government MLAs spend their entire careers by saying nothing but prescribed prattle.
Should Alison Redford be in the legislature? Of course; it’s just good politics. But what’s in it for her? Her party rejected her in no uncertain terms, and she seems virtually friendless. She certainly won’t be running again in the next election. Attending legislative sessions would be painful for her, and pointless.
And so — and I never thought I’d say this — lay off Alison. As long as she has an executive assistant in her constituency office taking care of constituent concerns, that’s the most you should expect from her. She will, no doubt, make an appearance or two just for appearances sake, but she will not contribute in any way.
Just like most PC MLAs.