Time to stop beating on Alison Redford … she’s already dead.

There’s an episode of The Simpsons where Homer becomes a Krusty the Klown impersonator for hire. At the opening of a new Krusty Burger, he savagely attacks the Krusty Burger version of the Hamburgler for stealing Krusty Burgers. Watching the beating, a child in the crowd says “Stop! He’s already dead.”

That’s the way I feel about Alison Redford. The announcement that Premier Dave Hancock has asked the RCMP to look into Redford’s use of government aircraft makes me think, “Stop! She’s already dead.”

Redford has already resigned in disgrace, mostly for being insufferably arrogant. She has been trashed mercilessly by two of the also-rans running for the leadership of the PC party, mostly by the oily Thomas Lukaszuk, who was one of her biggest supporters and his best political ally. This week, while Tories were running from her like she had the ebola virus, she resigned her seat in the legislature. That wasn’t good enough for the cowardly premier Hancock, who has asked the RCMP to investigate the auditor general’s claim that she had ‘ghost passengers’ listed on the manifests of government planes so she could ride without being surrounded by the hoi polloi.

Now, let’s look at this. If there really were doctored documents that ensured the princess premier would travel alone, and if the premier knew about it or authorized it (she denies it, and the fact she asked the auditor general to look into government travel tends to back up her claim), how is this possibly a criminal matter worthy of the precious time of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police? Surely this is light years away from being a criminal act. Stupid and arrogant, sure. Obnoxious, certainly. But criminal? Ridiculous.

The sad fact is that people seem to hate Redford with a passion, and it’s now seen as perfectly OK to pile on her mercilessly. Ralph Klein used government planes as his own personal taxi service. Nobody complained, because King Ralph was a beloved, rascally old alcoholic who playfully threw money at homeless people and told them to get a job. What a kidder! Redford, however, is a patrician snob who probably would have thought the idea of throwing money at homeless people to be in ‘poor taste’. What a killjoy.

Hey, I’m no fan of Redford. But nobody in recent Canadian political history has risen so high, so fast, and crashed so shamefully as has Alison Redford. Calling in the cops to investigate was is, at worst, petty use of government dollars is shameful. The Tories are using the RCMP as a shield to deflect attention away from their own culture of entitlement that allowed Redford to run rampant. And by calling in the cops, the PCs can now say they can’t comment on any matter that is ‘before the courts’ (which it isn’t). Also very conveniently, the RCMP is unlikely to make a decision on charges until after the PCs elected Jim Prentice as their new leader.

Redford’s use of government aircraft is disgraceful, and she has paid a high political price for her hubris. The PC party’s tossing Redford under the bus — then putting the bus in reverse, running over her again, then getting off the bus and kicking her, then calling in a tank to run over her again — is equally appalling.



Does anybody want to be the PC leader? Seriously, anyone …

The Progressive Conservatives will select their latest leader in September, a mere five months away. You would think that the lineup to claim such a glittering political prize would be long, but so far it begins and ends with Ken ‘Who?’ Hughes.

Hughes, the Calgary West MLA and grown-up version of Charlie Brown, left cabinet and announced his candidacy April 11. First to declare isn’t a bad strategy (it worked for Ed Stelmach) and Hughes will need every available minute to pull this off; it appears he doesn’t even have a website yet, which is entirely clueless in 21st century politics.

So for now, Hughes is the frontrunner, or, put another way, the onlyrunner. I don’t know much about Hughes (I’ll leave it up to this blog by David Climenhaga to fill you in), but he seems relatively inoffensive. I don’t think being inoffensive is necessarily a plus for the PCs at this stage — Stelmach was the very definition of inoffensive, and look what that did for them.

The favourite political game in Alberta right now is conjecture about who else might join the fray. More interesting, and telling, to me right now is how few there are in the race. September may seem long way off, but in political terms, it’s almost right around the corner. There is a huge amount of organizing to do, even huger amounts of money to raise. Taking into account that many of the weeks leading up to the vote are during our precious summer months where only the most fanatical political types want to talk politics, and you could almost say that time is of the essence.

So, why so many alleged tire kickers and so few buyers?

First, some of the slightly more viable candidates ran in 2011. Doug Horner and Doug Griffiths, both still MLAs today, both gave it a whirl and ended up with nothing but bills. Gary Mar was the golden boy to some in 2011. He was, in fact, yesterday’s man then, which makes him even further past his best-before date today. Ditto Rick Orman, who has vanished from the scene. Ted Morton, I assume, is holed up in a bunker somewhere.

Second, and more importantly, there just aren’t many viable candidates. The Tory front bench is thinner than Alison Redford’s power base. There are no stand-outs in the Tory ranks, just a bunch of ‘meh’ candidates. It is a measure of the weakness of the potential field (or the laziness of the press gallery) that the oily Thomas Lukaszuk is often mentioned. Remember, this is a guy with such great personal skills that he actually got into a fight with an old man while door-knocking in his constituency.

And the third reason why there seems to be so little interest in taking over the PCs … who wants to captain the Titanic?



Small town cheap.

Legislature, day 5.

Monday’s Leg session hit new lows in boredom, which is really saying something. It was so boring, that even Ed Stelmach fled the country rather than spend another day in the chamber.

About the only thing interesting that emerged Monday was the release of the MLA public disclosure statements. Turns out that government MLAs don’t have a problem  with accepting free tickets to concerts, fishing trips with well-heeled supporters, and a bunch of other borderline ethical treats.

Liberal leader David Swann, in the Leg today, said government MLAs were “compromised by a plethora of free gifts”, and that they “could afford to pay for their own Lady Gaga tickets”.

The report from the ethics commission said 17 of 68 MLAs accepted gifts of more than $400. None of the opposition members accepted such gifts, possibly because nobody offers opposition members anything.

Some of the items the MLAs accepted were pretty small time, proof more of the profound cheapness of the MLAs rather than any sign of corruption. Employment Minister Tommy-boy Lukaszuk got free tickets from Edmonton Northlands to see Lady Gaga perform. Lukaszuk should have put aside some of the money he spends on hair products to pay for his own tickets, but it’s unlikely he is going to be corrupted by the tickets, although it’s embarrassing that a middle-aged guy would go see Lady Gaga. Same goes for Treasury Board president Lloyd Snelgrove,  who took his wife and son to see Fleetwood Mac thanks to the largess of Telus. Education Minister Dave Hancock  saw Rod Stewart, courtesy of Altalink.

This is pretty small time, more shameful than scandalous. Up a level or two, however, is Finance Minister Ted Morton and dimbulb Edmonton MLA Doug Elniski who went salmon fishing on someone else’s dime. Morton, whose trip was paid for by a Calgary zillionaire and PC sugar daddy, justified the trip by saying he was “comparing notes on fish habitat restoration,” presumably while killing some of them.

Elniski travelled to the Painter’s Lodge in Campbell River, B.C. He told the Journal that he paid for the flight and accommodations, but the ethics commissioner’s report said it was paid for by Hemisphere Engineering. Well, of course it was — if he paid for it himself, he wouldn’t have needed to report it to the ethics commissioner.

The most hilarious excuse offered by one of these junketing jerks belongs to Gene Zwozdesky. Dr. Zwoz attended a golf tournament, and he did it because: “They asked me if I could participate at this special Pro-Am and talk to some people there about encouraging more … physical activity. I spent the morning there speaking with some of the pro golfers.”

‘Fore’ shame, Gene.

However, my favourite bit of dirt to arise from the report involved, Carl Benito, the embarrassing Edmonton-Mill Woods MLA who, it was revealed, has not paid property taxes on his four rental properties. That probably has something to do with his donating his salary to create a scholarship fund for Mill Woods kids, and he probably just didn’t have the money.

Oh wait, he hasn’t really done that.

Benito explained to the CBC today that he was late in paying the bill because his wife forgot to do it, and she’s on holidays. Always a good idea to blame the wife, especially if she’s not home.

In a couple of years, he’ll have a legitimate reason to not pay his taxes … he’ll be out of work.

Bottom line: there’s nothing truly scandalous here, just questionable. Every one of these guys makes six figures, and could easily pay for their tickets or fishing trips, but they’re too cheap. That’s the real scandal.