Alberta’s PCs may not survive the damage done by Alison Redford; NDP faces risk of collateral damage from CBC revelations

Posted on November 26, 2015, 1:30 am
7 mins

PHOTOS: Alison Redford in 2011, as she was running for the leadership of the Alberta Progressive Conservatives. Below: Alberta Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley and CBC investigative reporter Charles Rusnell.

The Alberta Progressive Conservative Party may not survive the damage done by Alison Redford.

It’s been 20 months since Ms. Redford was fired as premier of Alberta by her own Legislative caucus – although so much has happened in that short time it seems much longer, doesn’t it? – but she haunts the PCs still.

GanleyMs. Redford’s political fate was sealed by her shenanigans as premier between Oct. 7, 2011, and March 23, 2014 – including irresponsible use of government airplanes, wildly extravagant travel expenses, plans to build the private Skypalace residence for her and her daughter atop a government building in downtown Edmonton, and a protracted war with the provincial public service.

But on Monday this week, a CBC exposé about a controversial decision made by Ms. Redford before she was premier, the inexplicable choice of a legal consortium to which she had close political and personal ties to represent the province in a $10-billion lawsuit against the tobacco industry when she was Premier Ed Stelmach’s justice minister, hammered the PC Party. The consortium stands to make tens of millions of dollars in fees.

Still suffering from the disaster in public perception wrought by Ms. Redford’s catastrophic leadership style, the PCs, by then led by the hapless Jim Prentice, were reduced to only 10 members in the May 5 Alberta election that saw an NDP majority government under Rachel Notley come to power. Mr. Prentice promptly quit, cutting that number to nine.

But so bad was the damage done by Ms. Redford’s rule that when her interim successor Dave Hancock was replaced by Mr. Prentice in September 2014, the party’s electoral debacle six months later would have taken a more talented Tory leader than Mr. Prentice to avoid.

The CBC’s revelation came just hours before Albertans learned of the tragic death in a deadly traffic mishap on a snowy highway of Calgary-Greenway MLA and finance critic Manmeet Bhullar, perhaps the only genuine star left in the PC Caucus and surely a potential future party leader.

RusnellYesterday, as shocked MLAs haltingly resumed business after a day devoted to mourning Mr. Bhullar, who was only 35, the CBC published the second part of the encyclopedic report by investigative journalists Jenny Russell and Charles Rusnell.

This second story made the case that senior Justice Ministry bureaucrats knew the consortium chosen to conduct the litigation, which was led by a firm that included Ms. Redford’s political confidant and former husband, had been judged by a selection panel to be the least qualified of three considered for the job.

The first report had illustrated how the process used to choose the consortium had been manipulated. A briefing note signed by Ms. Redford when she made the choice appears to have been altered to remove mention of the fact the International Tobacco Recovery Lawyers consortium had been ranked last.

This is a complicated story, which many readers will not read in its entirety. Ms. Redford issued a written statement saying “any allegation that the department informed me that ITRL was ranked last among the three firms bidding is false.” But the inevitable impression left in the minds of many Albertans, perhaps most, will be of more sleaze and entitlement in Progressive Conservative ranks, and a reminder of the multitude of other sins committed by the party during its nearly 44 years in power.

Even without the crushing loss of Mr. Bhullar, this would have made it much harder for the Tories under Interim Leader Ric McIver or whomever is now chosen to replace him to recover and supplant the immoderately farther-right Wildrose Opposition as the voice of Alberta’s conservative voters.

The CBC’s report also has the potential to do collateral damage to Ms. Notley’s NDP Government.

NDP Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley appears only to have learned of the problems in the Justice Department from the CBC.

This raises serious questions about a group of top bureaucrats with ties to former Conservative governments who were mystifyingly reappointed to senior positions by the New Democrats, in many cases to the distress of their own supporters.

Surely Ms. Notley’s transition team asked these seniors officials if there were any skeletons to be found in the closets of the Legislature. If they were told there were none, the CBC’s report makes it very difficult to avoid the conclusion the new government was misled.

Perhaps this is the price a new government pays for having too many people from out of province on its transition team. Regardless, such a situation requires a swift administrative remedy, and that means showing the responsible officials the door. This will not be pleasant for either Ms. Ganley or Ms. Notley, but it needs to be done if the government is to avoid collateral damage.

One thing is certain. This is not going to just blow over. There is more to come: the CBC will publish more instalments in this disturbing saga very soon.

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

19 Comments to: Alberta’s PCs may not survive the damage done by Alison Redford; NDP faces risk of collateral damage from CBC revelations

  1. Douglas Meggison

    November 26th, 2015

    I am confident that the new Gov’t can handle this. Heads will roll, but quietly. Thanks for the update.

    Reply
  2. D. Allen

    November 26th, 2015

    Albertans should watch closely how the NDP chooses to manage this revelation. The bureaucrats are loyal to only self preservation – not political parties. Additionally I wonder how much I will be on the hook for severance pay.

    Reply
  3. jerrymacgp

    November 26th, 2015

    I had predicted, inaccurately as it happened, that shortly after taking office, the Notley-led NDP would engage in a Washington-style wholesale purge of the senior civil service (at the Deputy Minister and even ADM levels), on the grounds that after 44 years of one-party PC rule, the bureaucracy was hopelessly captive of the previous government and its policy agenda. Instead, their transition team seemed to value administrative experience over policy neutrality, and kept all of them on, although there has been a small interdepartmental shuffle at the DM level in the intervening months.

    I fear this is just one example of that timidity biting them in the a$$. I wonder how many other time bombs are quietly ticking away in the halls of power?

    Reply
  4. political ranger

    November 26th, 2015

    One more time; Unless and until the Notley crew fires at least 30% of the public service staff, starting at the top, absolutely nothing substantive will change in gov’t.
    44 years is at least 2 generations; father to son. The Alberta public service, management and rank and file, are thoroughly vetted hard-core conservatives of the peculiar Albertan strain. They will drag their feet and stonewall any progressive policy they disagree with, and they disagree with everything that doesn’t benefit them personally.
    Turfing a third of the useless buggers will be difficult and expensive. But it’s the only way a new gov’t can survive.

    Reply
    • anon

      November 26th, 2015

      I wholly agree with you P.R. The record of bias and incompetence in the Alberta public service is enough justification for a mass purge starting at the top. Their misleading and spinning our political representatives makes the NDP look like fools at best, and opportunists at worst.

      Consider the discrediting of Brian Mason on the Calgary ring-road by backing him into supporting a P3.

      Reply
    • Sassy

      November 27th, 2015

      Thirty percent of management and above – maybe. DMs and ADMs are obvious potential saboteurs. Rank and file are mostly security-conscious people with no particular agenda. From my experience, some are deadwood but most try hard to do their jobs. They are not the dangerous ones and they could be very helpful in identifying the good first-level managers. Those good managers would be able to identify the good directors. The good directors would be able to identify the competent, unbiased executive directors, and so it would go up to the top, with fewer and fewer making the save list. With over 3,000 names on the sunshine list (mostly management level personnel) and an estimate of 30% needing to go, that would mean many hundreds of layoffs. I don’t see it happening but one can dream. I wonder how many of those positions would need to be replaced?

      Reply
      • political ranger

        November 27th, 2015

        I agree with you that “most” are good and worthwhile employees. Problem is with the rest tho’.
        Most must be at least 51%. I give “most” a 70% count. It’s the 30% who are going to sabotage the progressive Notley policies.
        These people are worse than deadwood. Unfortunately they are also at the high end of the seniority scale as well so have an undue influence on how the rest perform their duties. I also agree with you that it’s pretty much a dream to think that these clowns can be fired. But it’s not to much to expect that the Notley gang recognize the snakes in their midst and have a plan to work around them.
        A serious house-cleaning at the top would also set the tone for the rest. There is far too much politicking going on in the rank and file; their job is simply to do what they are told, not to decide the policy implications. Most (and by that I mean more than 51%) don’t know this distinction.

        Reply
    • Humble public servant

      November 27th, 2015

      Pray tell me, does that include those “thoroughly vetted hard-core conservative” rank and file public servants who are now sitting as NDP MLAs?

      Reply
  5. Athabascan

    November 26th, 2015

    WTF?

    Let me get this straight. Are you implying the NDP may be to blame for not knowing about all the skeletons in the PC closets? You’re kidding right?

    Do you have any clue how many skeletons ,for that matter how many closets the PCs left behind. They had 44 fxxx’ing years to hide them. That doesn’t even take into account the month long orgy of paper (illegal) shredding just after the elections.

    Cut them a break. Sure go after those who perpetrated the massive fraud, and not those who are trying to clean it up.

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      November 26th, 2015

      Obviously I am not implying that the NDP is to blame for not knowing about skeletons in PC closets. I have, however, said in the past I was surprised and concerned when they kept some senior civil servants with close ties to the Tories who, as another commenter has observed in a less temperate way, are not their friends and are part of the problem. Moreover, I am certainly saying that, whether it’s fair or not, the NDP will end up wearing some of this if they don’t act promptly to fix the problem that has been made evident by the CBC’s report. That’s politics, and no one, least of all me, said politics is always fair. As for cutting the NDP a break, you can count on it that I will, but most voters won’t. I wouldn’t be a very good friend if I didn’t warn them about this. There several issues where I think this government is implementing the right policies, but doing it in a way that can hurt them with voters. When I think so, I will continue to say so. DJC

      Reply
  6. Simon Renouf

    November 26th, 2015

    It’s positive to hear that Kathleen Ganley is willing to look at the whole tobacco litigation file. I hope the department also examines the entire rationale for doing this on a contingency basis.

    It’s understandable that an individual involved in a motor vehicle accident might be prepared to trade a large fee (after the fact) for relief from having to pay the costs up front, but that rationale doesn’t apply to the government. It’s the huge potential fees that seem to be the root of this problem. Could they be eliminated?

    Secondly, I agree with David that the new government should have been asking questions about this issue from day 1. It was sufficiently an issue that Brian Mason grilled the PCs about it before the election. This really ought to have been on the radar.

    Reply
  7. David

    November 26th, 2015

    One of the problems with our former one party state, is that over time the skeletons in the closet tend to accumulate. Over 40 years, there are a lot and the relationship between the bureaucracy and the natural governing party became too cozy over time.

    There are a number of reasons for this, an important one being that the politicians would hire and promote people who they felt agreed with and supported their political agenda. Also, ambitious bureaucrats knew the political ideology and masters they needed please in order to advance their careers. I suspect that led some to cross the line from impartial advisors to enablers, promoters and defenders of the previous government. There probably needs to be some changes in the bureaucracy to get rid of the worst offenders, but over a 40 year period there were likely many offenders. The government will have to carefully consider what offences are forgivable and which are not, they will also have to consider the impact on operations of the loss of experience and knowledge. Whatever the NDP government does, I suspect Albertans will cut them some slack, as these problems arose under previous PC governments.

    A perhaps bigger and more important question relates to the future of the Alberta PCs. Will they follow the path of their scandal prone Saskatchewan cousins and disappear to be replaced by another conservative party, or will Alberta voters be more willing to eventually forgive and forget? I think the PC “brand” is stronger in Alberta than it was in Saskatchewan so I lean towards the later. However, the PC’s may get a longer time out from voters than they expect. I see one or two more election losses in their future before they can even think of returning to power.

    Reply
    • Barbara Johnston

      November 26th, 2015

      Notely is hundred times worse than Red Ford…Red Ford was all about self indulgences, Notely is a climate change religious zealot…she doesnt care who she hurts, or does even look at the evidence of how false her god is …God help Alberta

      Reply
      • ema

        November 27th, 2015

        Barbara, do you have a problem with the spelling of Premier Notley’s surname? Or is just a another passive aggressive way to express your disdain and anger? NOTLEY, try it!

        Reply
      • Athabascan

        November 27th, 2015

        Climate change religious zealot? Really? You couldn’t just leave the religious part out? When did climate change (aka science) become religion?

        The basis of all religions is faith, which is another word for delusionary belief in magical thinking.

        To make matters worse you compound that first error with another by invoking “God”? You mean that magical wizard white man with a white beard who lives in heaven? Sounds a lot like Santa Clause.

        I think you are the religious zealot – only it seems your religion is rooted in some deep seated hate for Rachel Notley. What did the son (aka Jesus) of the magical wizard teach you about love and hate?

        Reply
  8. ronmac

    November 26th, 2015

    Why did the Notley NDP need outsiders on its transition team? Goddamnit! This is a curious Cdn tradition that we need outsiders to run things because we can’t be trusted on our own.

    The federal NDP has been hiring US consultants to run their campaigns over the last few years. How’s that been working out?

    Reply
  9. penelope

    November 26th, 2015

    I’m pretty sure the NDP do not need to worry about “collateral damage” . They’ve been pretty adept at doing massive damage on their on and in only 6 months.

    Reply
    • Athabascan

      November 27th, 2015

      Damage to whom? Can you be more specific?

      Reply
  10. David

    November 28th, 2015

    The cranky conservative commentators are even crankier than usual. So sorry for all your electoral defeats, I am sure it hurts, but really the world is not coming to an end just because the voters elected some other parties. Take a deep breath or a valium.

    Reply

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