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