The Trouble with “Bad Boys”

Today’s topic is busts—Wildrose Party Leader, Danielle Smith’s bus(t) and PC Minister of Education Tom Lukaszuk’s bust (as in “gotcha”).

Let’s start with Danielle Smith’s bus.  I’m sure you’ve seen it.  We’ve all seen it.  What strikes me as bizarre is why the bus (or rather the bus tires) were newsworthy in the first place, eliciting comments (on The National no less) like “If they can’t paint a bus right, how can they run the government?” 

Pause for a minute to consider how inane that comment is.  The commentator decided the bus was painted wrong.  Why was it wrong?  Because Danielle’s photo is positioned over the rear bus tires.  Why was this positioning wrong?  Because the bus tires look like breasts.  Really?  To me they looked like bus tires.  However I suppose if you’re a pimply faced prepubescent boy you’d see the juxtaposition of bus tires and Danielle’s face as something titillating (oops, sorry, don’t want to get those prepubescent boys all riled up again).

Equally inane was the reaction of Clare Beckton, executive director of Carleton University’s centre for women in politics and public leadership in Ottawa, who said this type of thing makes women think twice about running for political office and (it gets even better) stories like this “continue to reinforce stereotypes about women… they tend to focus on women’s bodies instead of focusing on what women bring to the table in terms of their competencies.”  Naomi Lakritz’s reaction was priceless“What stereotypes? That underneath those tailored jackets women wear in the boardroom, there are breasts the size of bus tires?”*

So on behalf of all the women wearing tailored jackets let me say this…guys, grow up.

Okay, now that I’ve got that off my chest (oops, sorry) consider the antics of the PC’s newest resident bad boy—Education Minister, Tom Lukaszuk.

During a province-wide telephone town hall meeting Mr Lukaszuk was asked by a constituent represented by Wildrose Party MLA Rob Anderson why Airdrie had not received two desperately needed portables to ease the overcrowding in its schools.  Mr Lukaszuk (who was hand-picked by Ms Redford for this cabinet post) replied, “You know what?  I’m really itching to say it, so I will, even though I know I shouldn’t, but the first thing you can do is, actually, in Airdrie call your MLA and ask him not to oppose me in the Legislature” on infrastructure funding.**

And here we thought that the decision on where schools are built and when they’d be refurbished was based on objective criteria like the student population demographics, the age and condition of the building and available capital.  Apparently the overriding consideration is whether the minister controlling the purse strings feels put upon by an opposition member who asks legitimate questions in the Legislature.

Mr Anderson “busted” Mr Lukaszuk in the Legislature.  He described Mr Lukaszuk’s comments as arrogant and stupid and asked the Premier to fire this bad boy.  Ms Redford’s response?  “I think what the Minister of Education said was entirely appropriate.”*** Ms Redford’s rationale?  Mr Lukaszuk’s comment was a legitimate discussion about alternative funding models and the importance of infrastructure spending—in other words a policy discussion (!!)  Based on that rationale she concluded that “It’s certainly within his purview to make those comments.”*** 

I’d be the first to agree a policy discussion is well within Mr Lukaszuk’s (or any MLA’s) purview.  But even Mr Lukaszuk knew he wasn’t making a policy statement but rather taking a jab at his nemesis across the aisle.  Why else would he preface his comment with the phrase ”I’m really itching to say it, so I will, even though I know I shouldn’t”. 

By cloaking Mr Lukaszuk’s inappropriate comment in the blanket of policy discussions, Ms Redford gave Mr Lukaszuk and others like him free rein to threaten voters in non-PC constituencies with reduced services in the hopes that they’ll see the light and vote PC in the next election.

The trouble with “bad boys” is that they really believe they have the right to be bad.  “Little” bad boys say stupid things and sucker other little boys (like those in the media) into their childish games and voila we end up with a “news” story about Danielle’s bus.  The mature response to “little” bad boys is to tell them to grow up and repaint the bus.

“Big” bad boys flash their power and make trouble for the sheer joy of it.  In the political world, big bad boys are tolerated as long as they continue to deliver (case in point—Ron Liepert who coincidently also started out as Education Minister).  But there should be no place for big bad boys in government because when they puff out their chests and throw their weight around they don’t hurt each other, they hurt us.

The mature response to “big” bad boys is to send them packing.

*Winnipeg Free Press Online, Mar 24, 2012

**Hansard Mar 20, 2012, p 664

*** Hansard Mar 20, 2012, p 667 

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9 Responses to The Trouble with “Bad Boys”

  1. jillbrowne says:

    Thanks for this, Susan.

    The Ed minister’s comments were cryptic to me. Or a big non-sequitur. To determine the number of classrooms required, can’t we just divide the number of kids in the grade by whatever the current standard number of kids per classroom is? Sure, the formula may be more complex, but as you suggest, there must be one. I’ve assumed that’s how such decisions are made.

    Why has the administrative application of a formula by civil servants got anything to do with what the Minister or any MLA on either side thinks? And if the provision of classrooms is a policy decision, is policy being made on a school-by-school basis? That would not be right, and I hope it’s not what’s happening.

    It confuses me that the Minister should have referred to his opposite number at all. What has that got to do with the question of whether a particular school, anywhere, has the resources that the provincial standards call for? Has the MLA for Airdrie been standing up in the Leg and telling the Minister to stop sending classrooms to Airdrie? If that’s the case, I support the Minister. Otherwise, what the Minister said is confusing and did not address the question asked.

    • Excellent point Jill. The Rocky View school district in Airdrie has suffered at the hands of the politicians for quite some time. Airdrie residents and their MLA had been pleading for more schools for over a year to no avail. Then in May 2011 Ed Stelmach resigned and out of the blue announced three new schools. The elementary and middle school are to open in 2014, the senior high in 2015. These 2 portables are part of the larger package of portables intended to house the students until the schools are ready for occupancy.

      Why the funding issue has reared its ugly head now is a mystery. Particularly since the Redford government managed to find an unbudgeted $107M for the teachers (part of her “If you elect me leader” promise), and additional $181M for the doctors (part of her “if you elect me Premier” promise).

      I fear we’re going to see more of this nonsense unless the PCs are put in their place–in my view that would be the opposition!

  2. Phil Elder says:

    Well said, Susan. The Tories’ sense of entitlement and conflation of PC’s benefit with the public interest could sway many votes against them.
    Consider strategic voting for a centre-left candidate. Throughout the campaign, consult ChangeAlberta.ca for suggestions.

    • Phil, what I found particularly troubling about Ms Redford’s response is that it wasn’t based in principle (even the PC version of principle). She demoted Hector Goudreau, MLA for Dunvegan Central Peace by stripping him of his cabinet committee chairmanship for a similar comment. In the Goudreau case a school superintendent asked Mr Goudreau to ask a question in Question Period about the status of funding needed to repair a decrepit school. Mr Goudreau warned her to “be cautious” in her requests because they might offend “certain individuals” and “This could delay the decision on a new school.” (Globe and Mail, Online March 6, 2012). It hit the press and Ms Redford announced in the Legislature that she’d “accepted” Mr Goudreau’s resignation because “It’s not how I believe that we should conduct government”.

      The message in the Lukaszuk case and the Goudreau case was the same–play nice or no school–and yet Goudreau gets demoted and Lukaszuk gets a pat on the back. Go figure.

  3. jillbrowne says:

    Unless the MLA for Airdrie has been standing up in the Legislature demanding that the Minister of Education stop sending classrooms to Airdrie, the Minister’s comment is a non-sequitur and does not answer the question he was asked.

    I am a bit concerned if the question of how many classrooms one particular school in Airdrie should get is a policy decision to be dealt with by the Minister personally. Not only would this be massively inefficient, but it would also demonstrate a complete lack of confidence in the civil service, which is staffed by people who turn policy into action daily. What am I missing? I give Premier Redford full credit for being an intelligent and thoughtful person but I don’t understand how the decision about one school can be characterized as a policy decision.

    I hasten to add that I am woefully uninformed, my own fault for not paying attention. I may be missing the blindingly obvious.

  4. jillbrowne says:

    Apologies for double post. Feel free to delete either, in fact, please do! I was baffled by technology.

    • No problem Jill,…the technology baffles me as well! Although I’ve read both comments and think they’re equally appropriate. Perhaps someone out there can provide an answer to your last question (which I share). Are we missing something???

  5. Carlos Beca says:

    The breast event, Mr Lukaszuk Rex and everything else we all just feel so proud of, is to me a clear indication of the vulgarity and the level of politics in our province. It is not much better in the rest of the country but seriously, I am not surprised we are in a way still not taken seriously around Canada. It should be no surprise to us that every time our premier goes around the country, it just looks like Charlie Chaplin with lots of money. Furthermore, it is not getting any better. Can you imagine Alberta run by the Wildrose Party? I have actually heard more than once from University students saying that will be the day they make the final decision to leave the province. The PCs eliminated the Alberta Advantage and the WR will flat whatever is left. Amazingly, daily in newspapers people talk about why other Canadians no longer want to move here. Pretty soon only the Colombia cartel will explore the possibilities of setting camp here with the explosion of the only two industries the PCs seem to understand gambling and drinking. Believe it or not the reasons why the province is the way it is has all to do with the quality of people who run it. We now prefer to export highly paid jobs to the US and other countries because the so called ‘market’ already has hot places in the US where they can do the job, so let the market decide. Our people can move there if they so choose. We are in a pathetic decline and only because of insane ideologies.

    • Carlos, you made an excellent point in your comment that the the quality of the province as a desirable place to live and work is highly influenced by the quality of the people who run it. We’ve had an opportunity to see our new Premier in action in the 5 short months she’s been in power. Like so many Albertans I’ve been very disappointed in her performance, particularly her flip flops and half-delivered promises. But what’s most troubling is that she’s adamant that she’s actually delivered on every promise she’s made. I too am a lawyer but frankly can’t follow her logic. Don Braid’s column today talks about her promise of a fixed election date. He points to the sentence in Ms Redford’s press release which said: “Fixed election dates give Albertans the opportunity to focus on issues that matter and mobilize for an election, without the behind-the-scenes deal-making that sometimes characterizes the timing of an election.” Braid says that “we can’t help noticing now that she said “fixed election dates,” not “a fixed election date.” as if the addition of the letter “s” might, in Ms Redford’s mind, lend credence to her statement that she’s delivered on her promise of a fixed election date by given us a fixed election window from March 1 to May 31 (91 days) as opposed to single date.

      This type of legal mumbo jumbo might be appropriate when you’re a corporate lawyer thrashing through a difficult negotiation with an investment banker; it is not appropriate for a head of government who is supposed to be acting in the public interest as opposed to the interests of her own political party.

      Thanks again for your comments Carlos.

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