TweetMost people rely on TripAdvisor or call a travel agent to book hotels for overseas trips, but it is alleged by intrepid CBC investigative journalists that former Premier Alison Redford dispatched a staffer to visit hotels and restaurants in advance of her trips to India, China, Switzerland, Washington, and Toronto for a cost of nearly $330,000. It is not […]
Alison Redford’s planned rooftop apartment, high atop the Federal Building in Edmonton. The Alberta Legislative Building is visible in the background. Actual secret places of the modern world may not appear exactly as illustrated. Below: A shot of the actual Sky Palace under construction.
I don’t know about you, but I sort of admire the colossal cheek of the Hancock Government – which is exactly the same in most respects as the Redford Government – when it claims that all its recent troubles are nothing but One Big Distraction.
Last week, Premier pro tempore Dave Hancock visited my town, St. (Read more…)
“The Alberta Job.” Will the original “Self Preservation Society” get to keep the Tory gold? Is Jim Prentice – above, not exactly as illustrated – the man to help them do it? Read on to find out why we’ll probably never find out. Below: The actual Jim Prentice. Below him: Possible, rumoured, putative PC leadership candidate Stephen Mandel.
The question Jim Prentice really needs to ask himself is this: “Do I really want to ride that bus all the way to the bottom of the cliff and be sitting in it when it bursts into flames?”
The (Read more…)
Allaudin Merali filed a statement of claim today in the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench against Alberta Health Services and Alberta Health Minister Fred Horne.
“The statement of claim includes claims for a breach of contract, defamation and loss of income,” Mr. Merali said in a carefully worded email sent to media and bloggers.
Since the former Capital Health Region and Alberta Health Services CFO’s expense account became a cause célèbre and a political embarrassment to the (Read more…)
TweetIt has become tradition on this blog at the end of each year that I publish a list of Members of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta who have been the best and most notable of the past year. This year was the first time I struggled to compile a list. In the nine-years since I […]
Another aircraft takes off from Fort McMurray International Aerodrome loaded with CO2 captured from Alberta’s Athabasca bitumen sands. The gas will be stored in the basements of Russian buildings as part of a deal worked out through the province’s $2-billion “carbon capture” program. Actual Alberta carbon capture boondoggles may not operate exactly as described. Below: A Lethbridge student continues studying as hydraulic fracking operations take place next to her school; why is this doctor smiling? Hint: He runs a Family Care Clinic.
Soon it’ll be 2014 and the mainstream media can get back to doing what it does best: panicking (Read more…)
Your blogger with CBC investigative reporter Charles Rusnell. Below: Edmonton-Manning MLA Peter Sandhu; Mr. Sandhu with Alison Redford in a Tory Party photo grabbed from the Daveberta.ca blog. The photo-bomber is Calgary-Fort MLA Wayne Cao.
But how many Albertans know that so many of these scandals bedevilling our permanent governing party have been uncovered by the same (Read more…)
TweetEdmonton-Manning MLA Peter Sandhu has resigned from the Progressive Conservative Caucus after a CBC investigation revealed that a company owned by the politician had accumulated a trail of unpaid debt. The report, by investigative reporter Charles Rusnell, also found that Mr. Sandhu made a false statement in a sworn affidavit. It is not uncommon for [...]
Alberta Federation of Labour President Gil McGowan, right, speaks to yesterday’s AFL news conference at the Edmonton’s Shaw Conference Centre. Your faithful blogger can be glimpsed at the far right. Beside him, the CBC’s Charles Rusnell. Below: Rusnell, Alberta NDP Leader Brian Mason.
Back in the summer of 2011, as Ed Stelmach’s reign as premier of Alberta ground toward its inevitable terminal moment, then-employment-minister Thomas Lukaszuk sent around a letter advising stakeholders he was about to commence a review of the Alberta Labour Code.
It had to be done, said the minister responsible for the province’s labour portfolio, “to ensure (Read more…)
Participants in today’s Alberta Economic Summit solemnly await Premier Alison Redford’s arrival at Calgary’s Mount Royal University. Many are called but few are chosen, and they may not appear exactly as illustrated. Below: Stefan Baranski, Charles Rusnell and Stephen Carter.
As befits an almost exclusively political event, criticism of today’s Alberta economic summit by the Opposition Wildrose Party prompted a harsh and highly partisan riposte by the Redford Government.
A news release issued yesterday on government letterhead over the name of Stefan Baranski, Premier Alison Redford’s communications director, accuses Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith of a “deliberate misinformation campaign” against the Continue reading
TweetWhat does 2013 hold for Alberta’s political leaders? Do their performances in 2012 shed any light on how the next year will play out? Saved from defeat by controversial comments made by social conservative elements of the Wildrose Party, Premier Alison Redford led the Progressive Conservative Party to its 12th consecutive electoral victory since 1971. [...]
TweetTheatric and dramatic antics dominated this afternoon’s hour-long Question Period in Alberta’s Legislative Assembly. To start the drama, the official opposition Wildrose Caucus raised a point of personal privilege claiming that Premier Alison Redford misled the Assembly by claiming she did not choose the law firm involved in a $10 billion lawsuit against the tobacco industry [...]
Here in Alberta’s icy capital, the winter of 2012 is starting to feel like the summer of ’73.
If you’re an Alberta Progressive Conservative, this is not a good thing.
On June 17, 1972, five men were arrested in the wee hours breaking into the offices of the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate Hotel in Washington.
On Nov. 11, 1972, Mr. Nixon was re-elected by a crushing landslide that swept away his peacenik Democratic opponent, Sen. George McGovern of South Dakota. Sen. McGovern died at 90 in Sioux Falls, S.D., just 40 days ago.
But it turned out that those five fellows at the Watergate had something to do with Mr. Nixon’s campaign strategy. The rest, as they say, is history.
And so the summer of ’73 became the Summer of Watergate. Like the proverbial Chinese water torture, barely a day passed without a scandalous new story on the front pages that connected the dots back to that “third-rate burglary,” as Ronald Ziegler, Mr. Nixon’s press secretary, bitterly characterized the incident at the Watergate.
Even here in Canada, the grim parade of stories had their cumulative effect, the results of which – with 20/20 hindsight – now seem inevitable.
There was speculation not long after Mr. Nixon was finally driven from office in August 1974, and has been ever since, that the removal of this Republican, who on his domestic record was surprisingly liberal, had the hallmarks of a coup.
Fast forward to 2012, with Alison Redford, a surprisingly Progressive Conservative on some counts unexpectedly chosen as the leader of that party in the fall of 2011, was securely re-elected as the Premier of Alberta in the spring with a comfortable 61-seat majority in the Legislature.
But the election was not as comfortable a one as her party’s seat total suggests. Ms. Redford’s principal opposition came from the market-fundamentalist Wildrose Party, which draws inspiration and ideas from the American right all the way back to Mr. Nixon’s Southern Strategy, which was only laid to rest south of the Medicine Line earlier this month by demographics and President Barack Obama.
As Alberta’s spring election campaign progressed, it increasingly appeared that the Wildrose Party was in a position to form a majority government, but at the last minute – frightened by the outbursts of some Wildrose candidates who drew attention to just how far to the right their party stood – voters flowed back to Ms. Redford’s comfortably familiar PCs.
Wildrose strategists, tied to the Republican-inspired federal Conservatives of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, were shocked at first by the way their victory had turned to ashes, but quickly regrouped.
Off the record, they admit frankly their strategy from now to election day 2016 will be to relentlessly paint the Redford Conservatives as corrupt – a tactic that worked for them during the campaign, only faltering in its last hours. It worked because the arrogance and entitlement of a party in power for more than 40 years gave the accusations a whiff of authenticity.
Wildrose strategist Tom Flanagan, who is no dummy no matter what you think of his views, says there will be no far-right bozo eruptions next time to save the day for the Tories. “The lesson for the future,” he recently told the Globe and Mail, “message discipline.”
The aggressive Wildrose tactics, combined with a new drumbeat of little scandals reported principally by CBC Edmonton’s investigative reporting team led by journalist Charles Rusnell, who seems to have become modern Alberta’s answer to the Washington Post’s Watergate reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, has in the words of blogger Dave Cournoyer “stunned the Tories into a stammer.”
Their responses to the series of accusations and scandals emanating from the CBC sound rattled and lame. Cabinet members run from interviews with the media, then have public temper tantrums when the stories don’t go their way.
The PCs’ unwillingness to have a thorough public air-clearing over accusations that physicians were intimidated, that public employees improperly donated public funds to the Conservative party, that one of those public employees was the premier’s sister, that outrageous expenses were incurred by health officials and no one blinked, and now that the premier herself may have had a role in selecting a law firm where her ex-husband worked for a potentially enormously lucrative government contract add up to a destructive drip, drip, drip of revelations.
Premier Redford sounded persuasive to me when she stood up in the Legislature to deny the latest allegations she was in a conflict of interest when she, or someone, chose her ex’s law firm to litigate the government’s fight with Big Tobacco – which, as alert readers will recall, has a committed friend and advocate in Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith.
Premier Redford stated yesterday: “When the decision was made by the government of Alberta as to who to retain on this file, I was not the justice minister, I was not a member of cabinet, I was an MLA running to be the leader of this party.”
But the drumbeat of corrosive accusations, even when they are effectively parried, is having its toll – and that is what so strongly reminds me in the winter of 2012 of the summer of ’73.
Will Ms. Redford, too progressive on too many files for the comfort of the people with their hands on the levers, be hounded from office as Mr. Nixon was?
Are some of the people doing the hounding, inside and outside Wildrose ranks, former Conservatives who have benefited from the same too-comfortable way political business has been conducted for too long in Alberta?
Regardless of the answers, Ms. Redford is going to have to sharpen up her game if she wishes to survive.
She might look to the sage advice of Mark Twain, the 19th Century American author who counselled those who find themselves in situations like hers to tell the truth: “It will confound your enemies and astound your friends.”
This post also appears on Rabble.ca.
TweetAnother exclusive story from CBC investigative reporter Charles Rusnell: Premier Alison Redford, while justice minister, personally chose her ex-husband’s law firm for a government tobacco-litigation contract worth potentially tens of millions of dollars in contingency fees, a CBC News investigation has found. One of Canada’s top experts in conflict of interest says Redford was in [...]
Alberta Health Minister Fred Horne, at right, and a representative of the media go inside the Cone of Silence to discuss the latest health care expense account revelations. Alberta politicians may not appear exactly as illustrated, but, boy, Maxwell Smart sure looks like Dalton McGuinty! Below: Premier Redford’s sister Lynn, CBC reporter Charles Rusnell and the real Mr. Horne.
Aw, geeze! Just when you thought it was safe to say something nice about Alberta’s Progressive Conservative government and bury the phrase “culture of corruption” once and for all, another shoe drops in the apartment upstairs.
This time it was yesterday’s report by CBC investigative journalist Charles Rusnell that a senior executive at the old Calgary Health Region used public money earmarked for health care to make donations to PC Party fund-raisers in the mid-2000s with more than a little help from her generous expense account.
Some of Mr. Rusnell’s previous reports, as alert readers will recall, have catalogued similar donations of public funds to the Alberta Tories from school boards, community colleges, universities and health regions – a sort of long-standing money laundering scheme in which taxpayers’ public dollars were routinely converted into private cash for partisan use.
But the really embarrassing thing about the harvest of this latest CBC Freedom of Information search is that the executive in question, one Lynn Redford, is Alberta Premier Alison Redford’s sister.
We will pause here for a moment for all Progressive Conservative supporters reading this to do the traditional palm-to-face gesture that signifies the expiration of all hope. While we wait for them to separate their fingers from their foreheads, we can ponder an interesting question: How many more well shod feet does this Tory centipede have?
According to Mr. Rusnell’s lengthy report yesterday, which shares the byline of Jennie Russell, Lynn Redford was a Calgary Health Region executive when she attended some Tory events back when Alberta still had nine geographically based health regions. These included party fund-raisers, a premier’s dinner and a golf tournament. These Progressive Conservative Party events apparently benefitted mightily from her Calgary Health expense account.
Items claimed as expenses, according to the CBC report, included “fund-raiser tickets, travel costs, mileage, hotel rooms and even more than $200 for liquor for a Tory barbeque.”
Indeed, according to the two CBC reporters, Lynn Redford also expensed a dinner with her sister, now the premier, after Alison Redford was first elected as a Calgary MLA in the 2008 Alberta election.
Alas, political contributions with public funds have been illegal since 2004.
The trouble is, as is becoming increasingly apparent, doing so was absolutely standard operating procedure and nobody even thought twice about it. Indeed, it would seem that to a degree at least this is still so, if Health Minister Fred Horne and Alberta Health Services are to be believed.
Leastways, Mr. Horne told the Edmonton Sun, “I’m not going to make any comment on past health regions. What I can tell you is we have very strict policy here at Alberta Health Services with respect to these sort of donations.” So, the past is irrelevant?
As for AHS, the Calgary Herald quotes an AHS statement saying that when Lynn Redford worked at Calgary Health expense account rules “were not well defined and were open to interpretation.” Ms. Redford was “meeting the expectations and norms at that time,” the AHS added.
This is relevant, of course, because nowadays Lynn Redford is Alberta Health Services’ vice-president of special projects. Patti Grier, the Calgary Health boss who approved her expense accounts, is now chief of staff and corporate secretary.
Which raises an interesting question. Not so long ago, Mr. Rusnell also uncovered the sorry case of Alauddin Merali, the former Capital Health Region chief financial officer who had racked up some pretty spectacular expense account claims. Mr. Merali was swiftly thrown under the bus by the Redford Government and AHS top brass, who had rehired him to do the same job for the province-wide health agency. This was despite the fact there is no evidence he ever broke the rules at Capital Health.
So why are these different former regional health executives being treated differently by the government and the AHS executive suite?
Look, this sort of thing is why cries of “culture of corruption” by the Opposition parties in the Legislature – the right-wing Wildrose Party has been loudest, but the left-leaning NDP is certainly in enthusiastic agreement – seem to be taking on increasing credibility among ordinary Albertans.
Even jaded old bloggers like this one, who have a pretty cynical view of opposition calls for inquiries, commissions and investigations, not to mention claims like those of Opposition Leader Danielle Smith that what we have here in Alberta is “a continued, systematic, systemic, institutional breach of the elections law,” are starting to feel as if there’s an actual problem.
And this perception sure as heck isn’t going to go away anytime soon just because Mr. Horne is trying to lower the Cone of Silence over it!
For one thing, while Stephen Duckett, the Australian PhD hired to run Alberta Health Services in the spring of 2009 and then fired in the fall of 2010 by then premier Ed Stelmach when he became a lightning rod for the health system’s failings, tried to clean things up, it’s far from certain the problem of officials not being able to distinguish between the public’s interests and the PC Party’s didn’t extend well beyond his purview.
For another, it’s hard to shake the feeling there’s some tit-for-tat leaking going on by former officials of both the Calgary and Capital Health Regions – you fink out our Mr. Merali, well, we’ll fink out your Ms. Redford!
So, while anything is possible in a province where voting Tory is such a deeply ingrained habit, maybe these Redford Tories are finding themselves mired deeper than they expected, and it won’t be that easy a task for them to dig themselves out.
Never mind, by the way, that these various sins took place under previous PC premiers. The sniff test has as much to do with how the government on watch when the transgressions are discovered reacts as which one was in charge when the sinning actually took place.
So what should the Tories do, assuming – as it’s presumably safe to do – they’re serious about getting re-elected in three and a half years?
Ms. Smith’s suggestion they simply throw open the expensive account records of all health regions back to 2005 is reasonable one. Why not? It was our money anyway. And if the news is bad, it’s smarter to let it all loose in one massive blast. As has been said here before, if Richard Nixon had done that, he’d likely have served out his term as U.S. president.
It sure doesn’t sound like that’s what the Redford Government has in mind, though.
Likewise, NDP MLA Rachel Notley’s call for an independent inquiry increasingly seems like an excellent way to clear the air.
Past experience with Alberta Tories and calls for wide-ranging public inquiries, though, also suggest this idea is a non-starter.
Regardless, this government needs to do something positive about the whole question of weak election financing laws from which they have benefitted for a long time but which are now weighing them down like the proverbial millstone.
That something could be a tough election financing law, fully transparent, that put meaningful limits on the amounts that could be contributed to parties and political candidates, including party leadership candidates, and controls on the ways those donations can be made, including multiple donations by corporate front groups.
Don’t hold your breath for that outcome either.
Still, these may be the only ways to lay to rest the accusations of a pervasive, embarrassing, deeply entrenched culture of political corruption here in Alberta.
If the Redford Tories don’t do something about the sense something is deeply wrong with the way elections are financed in Alberta, the stink will linger – possibly long enough to do them real harm when the next election rolls around in 2016!
This post also appears on Rabble.ca.
TweetIntrepid CBC investigative journalist Charles Rusnell has uncovered another swath of illegal political donations made to Alberta’s Progressive Conservative Party: Lynn Redford, sister of Alberta Premier Alison Redford, attended Progressive Conservative party events at public expense and helped organize an annual Tory barbeque while she was a senior executive at the Calgary Health Region. Expense-claim [...]
Postmedia News, owner of Alberta’s two largest newspapers, was so relieved when one of the brothers who own troubled XL Foods Ltd. in this province’s southeast finally emerged and apologized for the E. coli mess at the company’s meatpacking plant the Edmonton Journal devoted a massive four-line headline to the story.
Normally, this is the sort of treatment reserved for humans landing in another part of the solar system or reports of the second coming, Continue reading
Alberta Health Services CEO Dr. Chris Eagle announced categorically in a news release today there will be no buyout for Allaudin Merali, the health care agency’s former chief financial officer whose controversial expense account practices in a previous job were at the centre of a storm of controversy last week.
But are we seriously expected to believe a man who would claim a single loonie plugged into a parking meter is going to say goodbye to Continue reading
TweetThe highest echelons of Alberta Health Services are once again being rocked by a firestorm of public criticism after it was revealed that AHS Chief Financial Officer Allaudin Merali had claimed more than $345,000 in expenses to the province-wide health authority. Mr. Merali was fired by AHS hours before CBC aired the story about how [...]
Let’s cut right to the chase: If Alberta Health Services can afford to buy out Allaudin Merali, again, it can afford to keep the doors open at the Little Bow Continuing Care Centre in Carmangay.
The Little Bow centre in the village of 275 souls way down in Wildrose country is home to 18 elderly dementia patients. AHS says that at 54 years old, the building just too expensive to renovate and too rickety to keep Continue reading
Allaudin and his wonderful expense account? Departing Alberta Health Service executives may not be exactly as illustrated. Below: One of the few photos available of Allaudin Merali; CBC investigative journalist Charles Rusnell.
One is practically struck dumb by the astonishing CBC revelation that the Chief Financial Officer of Alberta’s massive single public health care agency was once accustomed to spending public money on his expense account as if there were no tomorrow.
Indeed, after yesterday’s revelation by the only investigative journalist still gainfully employed in that field in Western Canada that Allaudin Merali submitted expense claims for such items as Continue reading
In the weeks leading to the election call earlier this year, it appeared that a series of illegal donations collected by Alberta’s Progressive Conservative Association could become a defining issue of the campaign. The donations, made public through the great investigative work of CBC reporter Charles Rusnell, revealed that many public institutions, municipalities, and organizations that receive public funds had made financial or in-kind donations to the PC Party. Under the laws that govern Alberta’s political financing, these types of contributions are deemed illegal.
As the Continue reading
I feel like I should be outraged about recent allegations that Alberta’s Progressive Conservatives have received thousands of dollars in illegal donations from municipalities and public institutions including the University of Lethbridge, but I am not.
Under elections finance legislation in Alberta, it is illegal for these entities to make financial contributions to a political party.
Perhaps it is the ingrained institutionalism of the Progressive Conservative Association as Alberta’s governing party for more than 40 years that has made these types of allegations seem unsurprising and feel normal. Is this just how municipalities and public institutions do business in Continue reading
In typical push poll fashion, the automated telephone survey asks participants to answer a series of loaded negative questions about Premier Redford, and then respond to whether they would be likely to vote for her or not. The expected results of this push poll should show participants having a negative opinion of the Premier.
Alleging the Premier has supported evil federal Liberal childcare policies and targeting the financial woes of her Chief of Staff Stephen Carter (who is incorrectly described as the top civil servant), the push poll is obviously meant to illicit a negative reaction towards to Premier.
The big question left unanswered was who exactly is behind this push poll. The tone and slant of the questions strongly suggested that the authors of this push poll are very sympathetic to the cause of Danielle Smith and her Wildrose Party - and intrepid CBC reporter Charles Rusnell has reported that the Wildrose is, in fact, behind the nasty push poll.
Care of David Climenhaga‘s Alberta Diary blog, here is the audio of the notorious push poll that attacks Premier Redford:
A top municipal official in St. Paul, Alta., used the city’s email system to solicit votes during the Conservative leadership race in a bid to ensure a local MLA remained in cabinet, a CBC News investigation has found.
Ron Boisvert, the town’s chief administrative officer, also helped organize a golf tournament in June to raise campaign funds for MLA Ray Danyluk. Boisvert participated in the tournament at the town’s expense, along with the mayor and two councillors.
It’s illegal in Alberta to use public money for partisan politics.
It has also been revealed that similar financial contributions were made by the Town of Barrhead and and Town of Cardston, where green fees were waived at a municipally-owned golf course in order to support a local PC Party fundraising event.