Alison Redford, the Moribund Committee and Caesar’s Wife

The adage that Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion usually refers to the associates of politicians—Caesar divorced Pompeia who was suspected of wrongdoing because he knew that continuing to associate with her would taint his reputation.  But what happens when the suspicion is swirling around Caesar?

I’m referring to the recent controversy around Premier Redford’s 5 month stint as a member of the Standing Committee on Privilege and Elections, Standing Orders and Printing (that’s quite a mouthful, let’s call it the Standing Committee).  Committee members are paid an additional $1000 a month for committee work—unfortunately for Ms Redford, this standing committee had not met since 2008 and she and her fellow committee members engaged in no committee work.

Ms Redford’s explanation of what would otherwise be a breach of ethics was this:  “I found out yesterday that I had been assigned to this committee.  I didn’t receive any pay for sitting on this committee, but the randomness of it is something that is very troubling to me and it should be troubling to Albertans.”*

Think about this explanation for a minute:  “I found out yesterday that I had been assigned to this committee”.  If Ms Redford is to be believed she’s just told us that the PC government appoints MLAs to committees and removes MLAs from committees without bothering to check with them first.  That’s bizarre.  How, pray tell, does this happen?

  • On Oct 28, 2009 Mr Hancock proposed a motion that Ms Redford be appointed to fill a vacancy on the Standing Committee (which had not met since 2008).  The motion was unopposed and appears in Hansard, October 28, 2009, p 1611.  Ms Redford’s name appeared for the first time in the list of committee members for the Standing Committee which is published on the last page of Hansard and appeared there each and every day for five months until February 10, 2010.
  • On February 10, 2010, Mr Hancock proposed a motion to expand the number of committee members so that more opposition MLAs could sit on the committees (laudable, don’t you think, especially given that they don’t have to go to meetings to collect their $1000/month stipend).  The motion was debated and passed unopposed.  It included a decision to remove Ms Redford and replace her with Mr Lindsay.  It was recorded in Hansard on February 10, 2010, p 65 and Ms Redford’s name was removed from the members list for the Standing Committee on the last page of Hansard.
  • Notwithstanding the public disclosure of her appointment and removal from the Standing Committee Ms Redford was unaware that she’d been a member of the Standing Committee until 2 days ago. 

There is only one possible explanation:  The PC government routinely appoints and un-appoints unsuspecting MLAs at a whim and Ms Redford, like 99% of all Albertans, does not read Hansard.

Okay, on to the next part of Ms Redford’s statement:  “I didn’t receive any pay for sitting on this committee”.  Unless we can convince Ms Redford to produce her pay stubs for the 5 months she “sat” on this committee without her knowledge we’ll just have to take her word for it.  The sad thing is that Albertan’s level of trust is at such a nadir that even if she produced her pay stubs, many would suspect they’d been doctored, rather like the controversy surrounding poor Mr Obama’s birth certificate.

We’re on the homestretch:  ”…but the randomness of it is something that is very troubling to me and it should be troubling to Albertans”. No kidding!  I’m sure the “randomness” is troubling to Ms Redford, if for no other reason than she’d just gone on record stating that she had no knowledge of this “disappointing” situation and primly pointed out that it “wasn’t something that connected to me at all.  But it’s not right.” **No sooner had she stepped away from the mike than the situation blew up in her face.

With respect to whether the situation is troubling to Albertans, rest assured Ms Redford, the randomness of the PC committee appointment process which appoints MLAs to moribund committees in order to funnel extra compensation into their pockets is extremely troubling to Albertans.  Not only does it demonstrate an absurd lack of good governance, it confirms, yet again, that the PC government is morally bankrupt.

So where does this leave us?  Luckily Ms Redford laid out the appropriate course of action when she invoked the Caesar’s Wife rule and suspended Mr Mar over his alleged misuse of public office to raise funds to pay off debts he incurred in his run for premier.  She disassociated herself and the PC party from Mr Mar by placing him on suspension until the ethics probe is complete.

But how can will Ms Redford invoke the Caesar’s Wife rule in relation to herself?  It’s not as if she can suspend herself pending an ethics probe and then re-instate herself once her name is cleared.

Not to worry, the people of Alberta can do it for her.  They will decide in the coming weeks whether they believe that Ms Redford had no knowledge of Mr Hancock’s motion to place her on the standing committee and then remove her 5 months later.  They will decide whether they believe that Ms Redford, unlike the other MLAs, received no payment for sitting on a moribund committee.  If they believe her, they’ll return Ms Redford and her party to power.  If they don’t it will be “valedico”.  That’s Latin for goodbye.

* Calgary Herald, Mar 11, 2010, p A5

**Calgary Herald, Mar 10,2012, A1 

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6 Responses to Alison Redford, the Moribund Committee and Caesar’s Wife

  1. Carlos Beca says:

    I have said enough about politicians and I do not want to sound like a broken record, but this is reaching a level that as far as I am concerned not even the so called ‘third world’ accepts anymore.
    It is absolutely amazing that we listen to all of this and we are so detached from reality and what is called the government that we do not even pay attention anymore. My colleagues at work react for the most part with a ‘So what is that not what they do all the time?’. Now let me compare this with a regular situation.
    Here is an example – So one works for a company and takes in money every month for participating in some project that never happened. After a few months the company finds out and none of the participants ever said anything about it and just cashed in the money. What do you think it would happen? One is fired, descredited, and could even be taken to court depending on the amount. In contrast what does happen in our Legislature?
    The reaction even from the Premier is ‘OOPs I did not even know I was part of a committee!’. She never noticed it, she is totally innocent and next time she will check her pay stub a little more carefully. Others paid it back but you know what? They should have not taken it in the first place and hope that no one notices.

    This is absolutelly incredable and once again they will play it so not too many of us notices. These are the same people that want to put people in jail for smoking marijuana and have a .5 level of achool in the blood. You know what? First go after those that abuse power and do not respect our rigths as citizens and then we can worry about the little stuff.

    • Carlos, I too gave some thought to how this situation would play out in the work place. An analogy can be drawn with a corporate board of directors. A corporate board will appoint some of its members to certain committees like the HR committee or the Health and Safety committee. These committee members are paid an additional amount for their committee work. They get this pay whether they show up or not, however the big difference between the board committee situation and the Redford situation is that the board committees have scheduled meetings and actually meet. Also, at the end of each calendar year the corporation is required to disclose how many committee meetings were held and how many of these meetings the committee members attended. As a result the shareholders learn very quickly whether someone is slacking off. If a committee member slacks off or worse yet, the committees never meet, the shareholders react by dumping their stock. In the corporate world just as in the political world, it’s all about accountability. Thanks Carlos.

  2. phil elder says:

    Nice article, Susan. You’ve again hit the nail on the head.
    It seems that every day another little crack appears in the Tory dike. If enough become disgusted and think carefully about which progressive candidate can win in their district, the result could be surprising.
    When the election is called, please see changealberta.ca for suggestions on the “most winnable” centre-left candidate in Banff-Cochrane, Calgary, Edmonton, Lethbridge and Medicine Hat.

  3. I have the same feeling Phil…with each passing day a new “troublesome” (to quote Redford) development emerges. Right now I’m trying to figure out whether Redford’s press release announcing the suspension of committee pay crossed the line between her acting in her capacity as premier and her acting in her capacity as PC party leader. The sentence that bothers me is: “In addition, my government has decided that effective immediately our MLAs will refuse to accept the stipend for sitting on committees”. As far as I’m concerned “my government” should include all of the MLAs, not just the Tory MLAs. She did pick up the rest of the MLAs later but her glib use of the phrase “my government” when she means “my Tory party” is shocking.

    Thanks for the link to changealberta.ca. I look forward to seeing your recommendations!

  4. Carlos Beca says:

    I find it troubling that not more people comment on these very interesting and important issues. I also find even more troubling that people do not even respond to anything when questioned or challenged. Only Susan makes her own comment. I just want to say that when I challenge or ask a question I am not trying to argue with anyone or even try to change peoples minds at all. If I had all the answers or correct beliefs I am quite certain I would not have been born in this quite beautiful but strange planet. I love to discuss these issues and share thoughts.

    Thank you

    Carlos Beca

  5. Carlos, I share your concern that a lot of people don’t seem to be aware of the key issues. However, with each new crisis that breaks in Ms Redford’s camp I think (hope) this lack of engagement will change. I’ve noticed a dramatic increase of the “what on earth is going on?” attitude in my group of friends and co-workers. The opposition parties have latched on to this as well…perhaps this is the “break out” moment we’ve all been waiting for. One thing we can do is continue to talk about the issues to ensure that everyone in our circle understands them and forms an opinion that will guide them on election day. Thanks for your comments Carlos!

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