Redford’s Performance Appraisal: The Building Alberta Plan

Alison Redford’s performance appraisal document landed on my doorstep a week ago.  It’s called “The Building Alberta Plan 2013 Edition”.

In the real world a CEO undergoes an annual performance appraisal with the Compensation Committee of the board of directors.  If a CEO presented Redford’s Plan to the Comp Committee he’d be lucky to keep his job let alone pick up his bonus.  However, Ms Redford touts “The Plan” as proof of a job well done.

How did she justify her shoddy performance?  By moving the goal posts and burying her failures.

A “real world” review of The Building Alberta Plan

A CEO’s performance appraisal document includes measurable targets.  Redford’s Plan is slick with spin.  Its purpose is to sooth and confuse Albertans so they don’t twig to the fact that their “CEO” is squandering the $40 billion they’ve entrusted to her care.

The Plan sets out three objectives (election promises): (1) investing in families and communities, (2) living within our means and (3) opening new markets for Alberta’s resources.   Let’s examine the (few) metrics provided to see how Ms Redford’s government performed against these objectives.

Objective #1:  Investing in families and communities

This objective is measured by building roads, schools and health facilities and strengthening programs that support children, families, seniors and vulnerable Albertans.

Ms Redford promised to build 50 schools and modernize 70 more by 2016 and points to 35 school projects that are underway or completed.  She promised 140 Family Care Clinics by 2016 and takes credit for three FCCs and another 24 “in development”.

There’s just one snag.  The 35 school projects and the 3 FCCs were all in place prior to 2012 when she made her election promise.  None of 120 schools (new or modernized) are actually under construction and no new FCCs have been created since the PCs took office in 2012. 

Alberta’s social programs are a disaster.  The home care privatization project saw service providers renege on contracts and abandon their clients, seniors are dying of neglect in private long term care facilities, 145 children died in foster care and Albertans with developmental disabilities staged protests on the steps of the Legislature.  The Comp Committee would have a field day!    

On the bright side: Ms Redford delivered the Ring Road in Calgary and the twinning of Highway 63 is coming along nicely.

Comp Committee decision?   The government gets a PASS on roads but a FAIL on schools, health facilities and social programs…we’re not off to a good start, are we?

Objective #2:  Living within our means

This objective is described as challenging every dollar spent, investing wisely and saving for the future.   The Plan claims success with “budget challenge panels”, wage freezes and expense disclosure policies.

Wait a minute.  What happened to the “bitumen bubble”?  Ms Redford claimed it blew a $6 billion hole in the budget.  She passed a bunch of laws to let her government go into debt and mangle the presentation of future budgets so that no one can figure out where the money went and yet there’s no mention of that blasted bubble anywhere in The Plan.      

Comp Committee decision?  This one is easy.  A CEO’s failure to address a fundamental weakness in the revenue model (over reliance on resource revenues) while altering the presentation the company’s financial statements so the financial risk is obscured is a FAIL.      

Objective #3:  Opening new markets for Alberta’s resources

The objective here is “fairer prices” for Alberta’s oil, natural gas, beef, agricultural crops and lumber with the recognition that the government must show responsible resource development in order to succeed.

Redford lists the Canadian Energy Strategy, TCPL’s Energy East and Keystone XL pipelines, trade missions to Asia, new “rules” for resource development and setting aside 1.5 million hectares to “conserve our natural heritage” as evidence of success.

But The Plan fails to mention upgrading resources in Alberta or prudently managing extraction to minimize inflation, environmental damage and the negative societal and infrastructure impacts of unbridled exploitation.

Why?  In 2012 Ms Redford’s election platform included becoming a world leader in resource stewardship.* She replaced this objective in 2013 with “living within our means”. Responsible resource development has slipped off the radar screen as a metric of success.    

Comp Committee decision?  The Canadian Energy Strategy, the two TCPL pipeline projects and junkets to Asia are just talk—helpful, but not determinative in getting projects approved.  Reliance on the “new rules” to demonstrate responsible resource development is meaningless—these rules are biased in favour of industry at the expense of the environment and landowners’ rights.  And setting aside 1.5 million hectares is window dressing, nothing more.  Result: FAIL   

Five FAILs and one PASS

If Ms Redford were the CEO of a $40 billion publicly traded company, the Comp Committee would terminate her for incompetence.  Unfortunately, she’s not.  She’s the premier of a province blessed with outstanding natural beauty, abundant natural resources and an innovative and creative population that’s expected to reach 5 million in the next decade.

In 2016 Albertans will get the chance to fire Ms Redford and her party.  Let’s hope they remember that it’s no longer enough to play political games by moving the goalposts and burying your mistakes.  Alberta’s future is at stake.

*Thanks Joe T 


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16 Responses to Redford’s Performance Appraisal: The Building Alberta Plan

  1. aNYTHING ABOUT aLISON JUST LEAVES ME COLD and anything she does does seems so lacking in common sense. In two or three years I am afraid the damage will be insurmountable and the party taking over will just spend all there time and effort cleaning up. The worst scenerio she creates is that female politicians are air heads like her when in fact there are just as many honorable, moral, competent female politicians as there are male ones. It being the holy time of year for christians all I can say is “God have mercy on her soul”.

    • Tom, excellent point about Redford’s lack of judgment. Today’s Calgary Herald carried a follow up story about the Ethics Commissioner clearing Redford of wrong doing in the tobacco-gate litigation. Neil Wilkinson said Redford could have avoided the investigation entirely had she run it by the the Ethics Commissioner first. Redford refuses to accept this. She says she didn’t go to the Ethics Commissioner because there wasn’t an issue in the first place. She still doesn’t get the distinction between propriety and the appearance of propriety. Both are critical in positions of public trust. The opposition parties say she’s lacking insight and just plain arrogant. They’re right.

  2. Carlos Beca says:

    We all know that your post is correct. The tragedy is that the government continues with its propaganda front and pat in the back for a job well done. Furthermore she got a 70% approval rate inside the party so all is good in the neighbourhood. Finances suddenly, due to more magical accounting, is back in the black and so everything looks peachy and on the right track. It is unbelievable how humans find ways to distort reality and look good in the process and convince themselves they really accomplished something. What is important is perception. This, of course, is not just an Alberta problem, this is throughout the so called ‘industrial world’ and the results are obvious. The neo-con experiment is a farse and a disaster and many people are paying the price especially in Europe. In the meantime those that caused it are richer than ever before. Alison Redford is clearly in this distinguished club and out of all those PC MLAs no one lets out even a burp.

    • Carlos, I came across an interesting comment about propaganda–it’s most effective when (1) it connects with long standing ideology or cultural values and (2) it emerges in times of desperate economic or social insecurity. Made me think about our situation here in Alberta. We’re hearing a lot of rhetoric from the PCs that the energy industry will save Alberta and indeed Canada and that everything, including the environment, must be pushed aside to ensure this happens, while at the same time the middle class is struggling to maintain its quality of life (not enough jobs, schools, hospitals) and the poor are barely holding on.
      Gives you pause doesn’t it.

      • Carlos Beca says:

        It certainly does especially when we all know that we must be the only place on earth that is struggling with all the wealth we have. Our government cannot manage an emergency roon in a hospital but is trying to manage a province. The only way they know how to do it is by convincing themselves that ‘They CAN’.
        The middle class is the strongest foundation we have in any society, but still these people cannot understand any of it and batlle it down as much as they can because just like other idiots, they know that it is from them that the challenges for higher standards of government come from.
        At least there is now a comercial on television to wake up people to our reality and I love it. Alison Redford is a bully and should be treated like so.

  3. david swann says:

    Another powerful critique!
    Unfortunately ‘moving the goal-posts and burying her mistakes’ applies equally to the healthcare system where, literally, we see health indicators again being changed and, literally, people, especially seniors, are dying from preventable conditions.
    Keep up your well-researched and engaging blog- Albertans (especially our children) deserve better!

    • Thank you David. I know that in your capacity as Health critic you’re doing everything possible to hold the Health Minister to account, but it’s almost impossible to do so when the government refuses to publish the documents that give us a glimpse into what’s really going on. For example, the Health Minister has failed to produce not one but two quarterly health reports. His excuse for the first missed deadline was that the ministry was revamping its performance indicators. He has no excuse for the second missing report which is simply MIA.
      A government that promises transparency and accountability and then refuses to publish the reports that would allow the public to see how they’re really performing is not fit to govern.

  4. Julie Ali says:

    This is a very interesting post Susan.

    It’s pretty much a mess and we brought this on ourselves by voting for these crooks.
    I don’t believe that they are dumb even though they are very poor managers of our money.
    Redford is rather like one of those top folks at a corrupt corporation–say SNC-Lavalin –that is just now pretending to be ethical when it was bribing folks all over the globe and in Quebec to get their contracts. Even my MLA —Dave Hancock –who used to be a normal person has now morphed into an unrecognizable spin master who believes that wearing a Children First button on the lapel of his suit will reassure us that he did his job as the Human Services Minister. In any case, he is off that racket and onto better things as the assistant to the Synergy Spin Premier.

    These folks really know their dirty politics.
    They understand that being in government gives them the ability to make like Midas for the party faithful.
    If bitumen sales slump and profits go down, there is another pot of gold that can be handed out to the Tory faithful while at the same time reassuring mummies that don’t worry–you will get that Catholic school in Windermere (just perfect for yet another return in favor to the developers/builders who no doubt donated to the party).
    It’s a big circle of give and take in my mind and only the citizens are left out of the direct gifting of largresse.
    When we do get, it is a coincidental matter-as in the case of the Catholic school in Windermere.

    It seems clear to me that if there is now a building Alberta plan –then this plan is just the happy happy happy news chatter to lull us back to sleep again. This sort of nonsense is entirely designed to ensure that we never look at the auditor general’s investigations (which are not very good but still better than nothing). Folks should ask the auditor general of Alberta to do his job. He should be checking into the money that has been lost in Alberta over sundry messes such as the Networc Health Inc. fiasco, the small matter of the Turner Valley Gas Plant Historic Site (what a dumb and curiously generous thing the Tories did by buying an environmental disaster from corporate Canada that we have ended up spending major bucks on), the demolishing of fully functional hospitals, the building of hospitals to replace the hospitals they blew up, the bloating of the public service, the cutting of the public service, the messes in the care of foster kids…. the list is endless.

    I’ve only recently started to dig into this pile of manure and I find that there is a large number of issues that I can’t seem to get the Auditor General of Alberta interested in investigating. Why not? He is too busy looking at infection control at AHS. While I admit infection control is a major issue, since killing off the patients AHS is trying to supposedly save, it not good press—I do think the auditor general needs to look into the environmental messes that seem to carry pernicious health consequences not to mention the civil and criminal liabilities associated with them. Why for example did the city of Edmonton and the provincial government of Alberta collude to allow the operation of a Page the Cleaner’s job site in Edmonton—where ordinary citizens were exposed to toxins? What is the liability to the public purse not to mention the health risks faced by innocent employees?
    It is all very disgusting.
    Sometimes I have to read a poem to get away from the corruption files.

    Why aren’t the real journalists investigating the corruption in Alberta?
    I mean if SNC-Lavalin was bribing government in Quebec–why wouldn’t they be doing the same thing in Alberta?
    Surely there are some journalists out there who would examine these sorts of corrupt files that indicate that these Tory folks are smart enough to butter their own loaves as well as the loaves of their buddies (sponsors)?

    Even when we divest ourselves of the contagion we get them stuck in the public service like that Berger guy (courtesy of Redford) or enjoying the fruits of their corrupt labor in the oil sector. I mean perhaps the only reason they slog it out in the government is so that they retire in big oil’s pay. If you look at where the Tories land up after their government sinecures, they seem to get cozy with big oil as if they were simply continuing the employment they started in government as big oil employees.

    Albertans are in a coma.
    All Albertans seem to care about is that they have jobs.
    So long as they have jobs they don’t care if they have wolves or coyotes in power.
    I am curious if the construction bonanza that is ongoing in Alberta is the Tory party policy of ensuring folks are working as the oil industry goes down the tubes. They don’t want any unemployment or that might get folks asking questions why the richest province in Canada has practically no savings and is hemorrhaging money in P3 projects.
    One example of hemorrhaged money in a P3 project that was a scam for Katz and crew is that darn DeMockracy Place–I mean what’s it called now –Rogers Place.
    This arena in Edmonton is a major corporate subsidy for the Downtown Business Association, plus assorted donors to the city councillors— and then you have that N.E. development of the Horse Hill ASP by Waltons that was another gift to the building sector.
    Add to this road construction and it is as if all the donors of the Tories are getting their three wishes while the citizens who do not donate to these folks are getting a lump of coal for Christmas.

    Every day on the telly.
    And the soap opera of the Tories is continual.
    Redford just continues the melodrama of the Klein error and the Stelmach jellyfish.

    Only way to end this DeMockracy show is to stop voting for these folks.
    Will that happen?
    So long as Albertans have jobs, they don’t seem to care if the Redford crew spend our money and leave our kids with tailings ponds as a lake district.

    It’s pretty sad.
    But at least you have given her the failing grade that the Synergy Spin team in government fail to do.

    Really Mr. Hancock, how do you look at the man in the mirror?

    • Thanks for your comments Julie–insightful as always. Your comment about the symbiotic relationship between the government and the energy industry was confirmed in spades by Gary Leach, president of the Explorers and Producers Association of Canada. Mr Leach was commenting on the recent cabinet shuffle. Here’s what he said about Ms McQueen being moved out of Environment into Energy: “Diana McQueen would maybe be the best choice for energy minister if they are moving people around. She has been a high profile, strong advocate for the energy sector where it impacts with the environment issues.” (Daily Oil Bulletin, Dec 9, 2013)

      She has been a…strong advocate for the energy sector where it impacts with the environment issues… Given that she was Environment Minister when she was advocating for the energy sector against environmental issues this is a shocking statement. And yet Mr Leach had no qualms about saying it. Shows you just how messed up things have gotten when a spokesman for the energy industry can make a comment that to a normal person would sound like a blatant example of governmental bias and no one bats an eyelash.

  5. carlosbeca says:

    Susan your post on ‘Harper and Mandela – Hypocrisy and Hope’ attracted quite a few people to post. Here is something very relevant to that post that I believe some people will enjoy reading. By the way, for those who think that Danielle Smith band wagon sounds pretty good now, I just remind you that these people and the political environment on this article are where she got her political endoctrination. After you read this you will understand why the sudden pow wow on ‘We love gays and social programs…..blah blah blah’.

    Thank you

  6. Carlos, thank you. Very instructive. I’ve added Murray Dobbin to my reading list.

  7. Carlos Beca says:

    You are very welcome. I enjoy Murray’s posts. Regardless of the ideology, they make a lot of sense to me. He has some interesting books as well. In the peak of neo-con push Murray’s writtings became not as popular but reality is always just around the corner and so I believe people are starting to pay more attention to him again.
    My reading list is too long I cannot keep up anymore so I have to be very selective. I am a very slow reader and so it is sometimes frustrating but that is the way I like it and the obcession with speed and multitasking is very exagerated and not that fruitful.
    Susan you are an excellent investigator and a natural writer and I have now read your blog for a little while and I would love you to consider some posts on Financial Services. There is a mountain of fraud out there and not many people seem to care. Somehow when I discuss this issue with friends, there is almost this silent guilt that I do not understand. Almost as if our system should not regulate fraud because we should all be aware of this individually and suffer in solitude if affected. A Tabu of some sort. Furthermore, if one is actually in trouble not much can be done. The Wall Street debacle is a clear example of this atittude and despite being in the US, we are very similar and we also paid for the crash without a protest. Harper convinced us that there was not a bailout but that is just his interpretation, not very different than Alison Redford considering infrastructure investment as separate from the province’s budget !!

    • Carlos, I agree, it’s a real challenge to keep up with all the books, on-line articles,blogs, etc that are relevant. I find reading newspapers on-line is tricky, seems to me the “related articles” section just takes the reader deeper and deeper into one area at the risk of missing other articles that may also be relevant but are not caught in the IT system’s analytics. For example, I came across a great quote that supports your belief that it’s better to read slowly and understand what you’ve read instead of tearing through it at breakneck speed and not understanding anything at all. Here’s the quote: “Rushing in won’t get you anywhere, whereas sitting down and having a think is always a good idea”. The quote comes from Katherine Sorrell, an interior designer. She was talking about dumpster diving, but her advice is equally relevant to just about any other human endeavor—war for instance.

      • Carlos Beca says:

        Interesting quote. I have friends that think that fast does not affect the quality of their reading. To me that is impossible. I have mentally joined Karl Honore’s slow movement and I try hard to be more mindful about everything I do and I find it very helpful in many different ways. If nothing else I have been way less embarassed lately 🙂

  8. Pingback: Keystone XL: Alberta continues to put facts on the table | NewsCanada-PLUS News, Technology Driven Media Network

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