It’s been a tough week for everyone; especially that “young, energetic and diverse team with deep experience” that Jason Kenney (his words by the way) appointed to Cabinet.
Health Minister Shandro took it upon himself to turn up at a Calgary doctor’s house and yell at him for reposting a Facebook meme that suggested the health minister was in a conflict of interest position because he and his wife own a supplementary health benefits company called Vital Partners. Minister Shandro also told another private citizen that if she didn’t stop sending threatening emails to his wife (they were sent to Vital Partner’s corporate web page and weren’t threatening) he’d refer the matter to “protective services”.
A Minister of the Crown yelling at citizens or threatening to send “protective services” to their doorsteps is not the way to allay their concerns.
Education Minister LaGrange issued a press release this weekend informing 25,000 teachers and non-certificated staff they were fired, at least temporarily. It’s okay, she said, the Feds will take care of you and besides we’ll re-allocate the money saved from this cut to Alberta’s COVID-19 response.
Economist Trevor Tombe called this a cut of “massive scale” and said it was “false” for the government to say the savings were being reallocated to COVID-19 because the savings will impact Alberta’s debt, not its health spending.
And while we’re on the topic of so-so cabinet ministers, what happened to Sonya Savage, our Energy Minister? She’s completely faded off the scene, replaced in all but name by Mr Kenney. Yesterday he was urging the federal government to go after Saudi Arabia and other OPEC countries for predatory dumping (“we cannot let them win”); he also said he’ll be speaking with American politicians and administrators about a coordinated plan to defend the industry.
The only thing he didn’t say is that he’d shut down the $30 million/year war room and reallocate the savings to fighting COVID-19.
No one is expecting the Alberta government to fix COVID-19 and its impact on our social and economic well being overnight. However some of us would argue that the “young, energetic and diverse team with deep experience” appointed by Mr Kenney is coming apart at the seams. Either that or Mr Kenney lacks the confidence in them to let them do their jobs.
Which leads us to wonder whether Mr Kenney’s characterization about the competence of his Cabinet is valid.
Albertans have no way of checking whether Shandro, LaGrange or Savage have the experience necessary to do their jobs at the best of times, let alone in the middle of a pandemic and global economic downturn, because their biographies do not appear on the Alberta government website.*
This is peculiar given that the descriptions of the remaining 17 cabinet ministers, 3 associate ministers, 3 parliamentary secretaries and one military liaison include their biographies. (Even the 27 deputy ministers have biographies for god’s sake).
So what gives?
Health Minister Shandro is responsible for the government’s response to the biggest public health emergency Alberta has ever faced; Education Minister LaGrange is responsible for K-12 education which is experiencing unprecedented upheaval as a result of COVID-19 and Energy Minister Savage is responsible for energy, the mainstay of Alberta’s one-trick pony economy; is it too much to ask for a modicum of transparency so Albertans could view their qualifications for the job?
They say a leader is only as good as his team. Unfortunately, the Kenney government has chosen to hide the biographies of three critical Cabinet ministers.
Given the performance of his team over the last few weeks of escalating crisis, this is deeply concerning.
*NOTE: A reader tells me he can see Sonya Savage’s bio. I’ve check on a few different browser, but still see nothing but a button marked “Learn More”. In any event, the question still remains, does Jason Kenney’s Cabinet have the bench strength necessary to lead Alberta through these difficult times?