If one were to wonder why the general populace is sick and tired of politics in its lack of transparency, one has to look no further than the fallout of Bill 22 if passed in the legislature.
It will see the UCP Alberta Government fire the province’s election commissioner, as his investigation into the United Conservative Party continues over illegal donations in the 2017 UCP leadership race between now premier Jason Kenney and Brian Jean.
The assertion that the move is to reduce ‘red tape’ to merge and consolidate the Office of the Election Commissioner into the Office of the Chief Electoral Officer, and to save taxpayer money, has poor optics on so many levels to date given recent actions by the provincial government.
The move, which is expected to save $1 million over five years to find greater efficiencies and save taxpayer money seems to be at odds in its ideology with flying 16 people, including two Premiers of other provinces to the Calgary Stampede on the taxpayer dime, a $30 million dollar energy war room, administrative costs involved in a ‘fair deal’ hand-picked panel, and five-star hotel accommodations involving $45,000 in expenses for a Kenney advisor in trips to Britain – all expenses that have happened mere months apart from each other for a party that has only been in power since April.
Municipalities as small as the M.D. of Taber, while not as easily as a province with 4.371 million people at its disposal, can find $200,000 in yearly efficiencies in its budget.
None of which involve turfing an office which has already reaped credible fruit in electoral wrong doings on multiple levels for the sake of democracy, in which we just finished celebrating on Nov. 11, featuring Veterans who fought and died for it in the purity of its ideals.
Another peculiar nugget of reasoning for Bill 22 is that it will align with other provinces that do not have a separate, independent commissioner’s office.
This need to be like every other province, seems convenient in its timing when it affects the livelihood of a province’s election commissioner who has already managed to dole out 30 letters of reprimand, punished nearly 90 instances of political over-contributions, and issued more than $200,000 in fines in a 16-month time period, where Lorne Gibson has had his walking papers signed by the very party he is still investigating.
Especially since the provincial government’s actions to date, optically, have shown a province eager to break away from the pack by making no effort to quiet separatist rhetoric of ‘us against them,‘multi-tiered minimum wage levels involving youth, imposing geographic restrictions on doctors, and its heavy-handed involvement with public unions in education and health care.
Despite the numerous protectionist actions of the UCP since April, now all of the sudden with Bill 22, Alberta needs to align with the rest of the nation – smack dab in the middle of an investigation, while Premier Kenney was in another country as the blowback hit on Monday’s announcement.
Confidence in Bill 22’s stand-alone merit seems minimal where the provincial government plans to evoke closure on the bill and limit meaningful debate to three hours, according to the Edmonton Journal.
The provincial government says the investigation into its party is expected to continue, but have not explained what staff resources will be assigned to it, or if Gibson will be re-hired.
For the sake of optics and transparency, why not simply make the move after the investigation has come to a natural conclusion? Or are there hopes the new person in charge is more interested in keeping their taxpayer-paid job than they are in going after the investigation with as much zeal as Gibson did? If the investigation ends up getting swept under the rug with Bill 22’s red-tape shuffle, the words of democracy, fairness and transparency that politicians often parrot, will be in sound bites and photo ops only, where the only efficiency to be found is how quickly Bill 22 seems to be wanting to be passed by the UCP.
This editorial originated in The Taber Times.