A guy ignores his blog for several months (my bad!) because he’s busy fitting a bunch of projects and volunteer commitments around work (this is a guy, remember, who took on those commitments while he was retired from politics and decided to keep all but one of them when he went back to being a full-time talk show host), decides to try and rectify that while on vacation, goes on vacation, and this latest Air Alison scandal drops from the sky with the thud of a frozen turkey…
And I was worried I’d have nothing juicier to write about than my sojourn on idyllic Salt Spring Island?
I need not review all the sordid details revealed in that leaked copy of Auditor General Merwan Saher’s draft report of his probe into the former premier’s high-flying ways. You’ve heard or seen or read them all by now. But a couple of points are worth noting:
- Redford’s “people” repeatedly put names on the flight manifests of government planes of passengers who never intended to take those flights, to make it appear the flights were fully booked weeks before they were scheduled to depart, and then removed the names from the manifests at the last minute, allowing Redford to have the plane to herself and her chosen companion — repeatedly.
- While those “people” — the ones caught with their hands on the delete key removing the names of Redford’s invisible friends — have not been identified by name, both Redford and Farouk Adatia, her then-chief-of-staff, deny any knowledge of the practice. What — did neither one of them ever notice that the government planes were empty except for Herself and her daughter or other hand-picked travel companion?
- The Auditor General makes it clear that his investigative staff were told about this “by (the premier’s) office staff and multiple staff from the Department of Treasury Board and Finance” — which means all kinds of people inside the PC government knew what was going on but they neither breathed a word while it was happening nor lifted a finger to stop it.
Here’s what must now happen.
The RCMP must be asked to investigate, because these amount to allegations of criminal behaviour. And these allegations come from a high-ranking officer of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta — the Auditor-General. This is not some opposition politician, so there can be no accusations of grandstanding.
Justice Minister Jonathan Denis has reportedly asked that all relevant documents be forwarded to the RCMP so they can determine if an investigation is warranted. Respectfully, that’s not the same thing. The government must ask the RCMP to investigate, just as the feds asked the RCMP to investigate Mike Duffy. The RCMP will then determine if criminal charges are warranted. But they won’t investigate unless the government asks them to.
As for Alison Redford’s fate — and that of Doug Horner, who was (and still is) in the Big Chair at Treasury Board and Finance throughout Redford’s high-flying days — the Doctrine of Ministerial Responsibility says that ministers are responsible to Parliament for the actions of all officials under their management and direction, whether or not the ministers had prior knowledge. In short, if people at Treasury Board and Finance knew about Redford’s invisible friends, it’s as if Horner himself knew. It’s his screwup, therefore, and he should resign, and and if he doesn’t resign, fill-in Premier Dave “the Temp” Hancock should fire him. Of course, nobody practises the Doctrine of Ministerial Responsbility anymore. Like chivalry and the passenger pigeon, it’s dead.
Redford can’t be fired from her Big Chair job; she already was. She should resign her seat as MLA, but she can’t be fired from that job by anyone other than the voters of Calgary-Elbow when the next election rolls around.
So Hancock could drop Horner from cabinet and engineer Redford’s expulsion from the PC caucus, but so what? At this point, the horses have bolted. It’s too late to close the barn door, even if it would make the barn look better. The damage is done. The rot is pervasive. Credibility is shot. See? It pays to let go of your invisible friends before you hit your forties.