“I’m truly sorry that we allowed government to become a distraction from the vital work we’re doing on issues that matter to Albertans.”— Premier Dave Hancock to PC party supporters, May 1, 2014
Bill Clinton apologised for slavery, Tony Blair apologised for the Irish potato famine, Pope John Paul II apologised for the Crusades*and Premier Dave Hancock apologised for allowing the government to become a distraction. A distraction?
It’s never a good idea to legally parse an apology (Ms Soapbox knows this from personal experience) however Mr Hancock’s apology makes absolutely no sense.
Who is apologising to whom for what?
Let’s try that again: “I’m truly sorry that we allowed government to become a distraction from the vital work we’re doing on issues that matter to Albertans.”
Now ask yourself: who are “we” and how did “we” allow a government elected by the people to become a distraction from issues that matter to Albertans?
Either Alberta is being governed by a secret cabal (otherwise known as “WE”) or Mr Hancock the leader of the PC party is apologising to the party faithful for letting the “government” distract the PC party from running the province. Neither is good.
The litany of wrongdoing for which Mr Hancock says he’s sorry includes: damaging Albertans’ confidence in “the party” (not the government?), losing touch with the “grassroots” (not all Albertans?), taking the support of Albertans and PC members for granted and acting contrary to “our” (presumably PC) values.
Behavior versus character
Mr Hancock acknowledged that caucus lost its way but promised to get caucus back on track. He said it was possible to regain trust because “There is a big difference between behavior and character. Behavior can be changed. Character is a different matter.”**
Mr Hancock is dead wrong.
Trust is based on behavior. Behavior is the external manifestation of character. The two are indivisible. The only people who believe that behavior can be separated from character are proponents of the “Devil made me do it” theory of misbehaviour.
Dr Daniel Borenstein says trust is based on our evaluation of three dimensions of behavior: ability (knowledge, skills and experience), integrity (congruence between word and deed) and benevolence (promoting someone else’s interests or at the very least not impeding them).***
A heartfelt apology and promises to do better in the future will rebuild trust; but apologies and promises must be backed up with behavior (ability, integrity, and benevolence) that demonstrates that trust is not misplaced.
The government’s behavior
Mr Hancock promised to do a better job on “reporting how we use taxpayers’ dollars and ensuring Albertans see and understand the value of these changes”. He promised to demonstrate “how we’ve changed through our policies, practices and legislation”.****
But the government’s behavior fails to engender trust.
Instead of announcing a decision to scrap the confusing budget format that makes it well nigh impossible for Albertans to understand how their tax dollars are being spent (to say nothing of failing to meet general accounting standards) the Finance Minister staunchly defends the format as the best way to ensure Albertans understand that their $43 billion is being spent wisely.
Instead of announcing a decision to repeal the sinister Bill 45 that makes it illegal to even talk about taking strike action and the draconian Bill 46 that removed labour’s right to binding arbitration, the Justice Minister and the Jobs Minister are busy carping about Ms Redford’s failure to return to work.
The apology minister, Mr Hancock, is no better. He was introduced at the PC party fundraiser with a short video that flashed pictures on a screen of past Tory premiers…but Ms Redford was curiously absent. She’d been erased as effectively as a fallen Chinese leader in the Cultural Revolution.
When asked about this peculiar omission, Mr Hancock said “I would have had her in the video”. So what happened? Did he fail to notice she was missing when he reviewed the program for his maiden speech or did those presumptuous PR guys delete her of their own accord?
Historian Margaret MacMillan researched Canadian, British, Australian and American governments issuing apologies. She concluded: “Words are cheap…and politicians like to appear caring and sensitive…Moreover apologies about the past can be used as an excuse for not doing very much in the present.”* She was referring to government apologies for incidents that occurred decades ago, however her conclusion rings true for abuses that took place yesterday.
Words are not enough when the PC caucus (by Mr Hancock’s own admission) messed up the governance of Alberta so badly that it became dysfunctional. His apology will not stem the exodus of disgruntled PCs because his caucus either refuses or is incapable of backing up his apology with trustworthy behavior.
Trust is founded on behavior. Behavior reflects character. The behavior of the PC government reflects a character with a single-minded purpose—staying in power at all costs.
Consequently Mr Hancock’s apology is insincere and I refuse to accept it.
*The Uses and Abuses of History by Margaret MacMillan, p 27, 28, 30.
****Calgary Herald, May 2, 2014 A4.