Say what you like about the many flaws of former Alberta premier Alison Redford, she never would have let Mike Allen back into the Progressive Conservative caucus, not as long as the Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo Tory MLA lived, breathed and managed to get reelected.
It was on July 16 last year when the once and future professional jazz musician was in St. Paul, Minn., as a representative of the Government of Alberta when he was caught by a police officer he’d mistaken for a prostitute and got himself busted for trying to buy sex.
Mr. Allen was charged with what the Minnesota justice system calls a “gross misdemeanor,” which was later reduced to a plain old garden-variety misdemeanor when he agreed to plead guilty. He was fined $500, sentenced to a year on probation, to be served as far away from Minnesota as possible under the circumstances, and sent home to Alberta in disgrace – or so we all thought at the time.
Ms. Redford judged him guilty of a gross political and social misdemeanor – and rightly so, when you think about the real implications of a well-connected foreign politician trying to hire a vulnerable prostitute, even if she did turn out to have a badge, a gun and a set of real steel handcuffs.
So the premier sent Mr. Allen packing from the PC caucus for, we can presume she assumed, forever.
Ah, but this is Alberta, where in normal times there’s one set of rules of the government and its pals, and another for the rest of us, so it was not to be so. Many things have happened since the July night when Mr. Allen found himself excited to be in Minnesota with time on his hands and a couple of hundred U.S. dollars in his wallet.
One of them was that the boys in Ms. Redford’s caucus, who never liked her anyway, fired the former premier last March. They had their reasons, and some of them were sound ones, but after yesterday’s development we all have to wonder how many of them had to do with her just not being one of the good ole Tory boys.
At any rate, in a decision that would fulfill the fondest dreams of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, a well-known believer in letting bygones be bygones, Premier pro tempore Dave Hancock’s PC caucus welcomed Mr. Allen back into its self-satisfied midst yesterday.
When he got back to Alberta in July 2013, Mr. Allen described his decision to buy sex from a stranger in St. Paul as “a profound lapse of judgment.” Apparently that was good enough for the fellows in the Tory caucus.
“Mike has paid his penalty and he has paid a personal price,” PC caucus Whip George VanderBurg said yesterday according to the Edmonton Journal, not explaining what that personal price might have been, other than a year on the west side of the Legislature.
“He handled himself well through this,” Mr. VanderBurg added, explaining that when he asked the caucus what to do about Mr. Allen, the boys said OK … “and he’s back in.”
And now, Mr. Allen’s old-new caucus mates are no doubt thinking, can we just put this behind us and move on?
We’ll probably never know for sure just what it was that Mr. Allen thought was the profound lapse in his judgment – trying to buy the services of a hooker, doing it while he was out of town on government business or merely mistaking a police officer for a prostitute.
What we do know for sure is what the members of the Alberta Tory caucus – notwithstanding their sanctimonious support for their federal counterparts’ legislative efforts to make prostitution even more dangerous for sex workers and supposedly to emphasize prosecuting their customers – seem to think Mr. Allen’s behaviour was really not all that serious a breach.
Perhaps those of them who hold publicly to religious principles will quietly assume he’ll be punished in the next world, seeing as he’s not going to get his knuckles rapped any more in this one.
The political principles of Alberta’s Tory caucus are clear – they no doubt concluded that Mr. Allen, popular with many voters in Fort Mac despite his antics, threatened their ability to win in the northern oil sands town where the Wildrose organization is weak.
Well, at least there hasn’t been another Alberta case come to light involving a prostitute and a politician since 1983, when Graham Harle, Premier Peter Lougheed’s solicitor-general, was found in a government car in Edmonton in the company of a prostitute.
Mr. Harle explained to the police officer who rapped on his car window that he was conducting a one-man investigation into Alberta’s prostitution problem, as the Canadian Press disbelievingly put it. And he had discovered, he noted, that prostitution “doesn’t appear to be a problem right at the moment.”
Mr. Harle resigned his cabinet post immediately after the discovery but was allowed to remain in caucus. He did not seek reelection in the 1986 Alberta election.
It is not yet known, of course, if Mr. Allen, who told the media yesterday he was also “excited to be back in the caucus,” will run again when next an election is called.
His probation – presumably served without the requirement of regular visits to a Minnesota Probation Officer – will expire just before Christmas.
A provincial election is scheduled to take place in the spring of 2016, although there has been speculation one could be called sooner. One thing is virtually certain: when it is, Ms. Redford will not run again.
This post also appears on Rabble.ca.