‘Fakes on a Plane’ problems set to return? Blame Dave Hancock for the Prentice Government’s next big problem

Posted on January 01, 2015, 4:21 pm
7 mins

PHOTOS: By last summer, former Alberta premier pro tempore Dave Hancock wanted embarrassing explanations to the media like this one in the spring to just go away. Below: Former premier Alison Redford; Auditor General Merwan Saher (CBC photo).

It may be 2015 now, but a 2014 problem continues to haunt the government of Premier Jim Prentice.

I’m not talking about the Mudville Nine Wildrose defectors. Instead, you can at least partly blame Dave Hancock for the Alberta government’s likely next big crisis.

At any rate, it was Mr. Hancock, when he was premier pro tempore after Alison Redford was tossed overboard by her caucus and before Jim Prentice triumphantly paraded through the streets of the capital to replace her, who either had or approved the bright idea of calling the cops in to investigate the things Ms. Redford and her advisors had gotten up to.

Redford-LIn his report last summer, which was heavily covered by news media at the time, Auditor General Merwan Saher blamed an “aura of power” around Ms. Redford for making spineless politicians and government officials fearful to challenge what was being done in her name. More seriously, Mr. Saher concluded that the former premier’s office staff used public aircraft inappropriately – a specific accusation that according to the CBC the RCMP had already been looking into.

Even before the report was out, insiders in Mr. Hancock’s government seemed to have hit on the idea of asking the RCMP to investigate the talk of scandal as a way to show they were doing something about that particular political crise du jour and as justification for refusing to answer reporters’ questions about it.

Former Wildrose strategist Tom Flanagan, who had fallen into temporary disrepute in conservative circles for comments he had made about child pornography at a public meeting, rightly assailed the rush to call the cops before the AG’s evidence had been released as a sign Alberta was turning into a banana republic that had little regard for due process. “I’ve seen this from the inside as well as from the outside,” Dr. Flanagan said darkly at the time.

For her part, Ms. Redford issued a statement on July 29, categorically denying any part in the Fakes on a Plane shenanigans, in which fake names are said to have been added to flight manifests to keep rank-and-file government employees from travelling on government aircraft being used by the premier and her aides.

“Despite the allegations raised today, as far as I am concerned there was never any directive preventing others from flying on government aircraft when I was a passenger,” Ms. Redford stated. “In fact, on most occasions that I can recall, when I was on government flights, I travelled with other elected officials, public servants and staff.”

As a distraction tactic, dialing political 9-1-1 worked OK in the short term. Mr. Hancock, Justice Minister Jonathan Denis and other officials were able to claim something was being done to solve the political problem they faced, and they were thereafter saved the embarrassment of having to struggle with the most difficult questions.Saher-R

However, as it turned out, this only put off the problem for the government until later.

The thing about the RCMP – and, who knows, this may have come as a revelation to Mr. Prentice and his inner circle – is that their criminal investigations are quite independent of a provincial government.

Once you’ve called the Mounties in, you can’t call them off just because it’s become politically expedient for your government. So the investigation by the RCMP’s Serious and Organized Crime Branch has continued, whether the government likes it or not – and it almost certainly doesn’t like it one bit.

Everyone in political circles in Alberta has heard the rumours that the investigation is bearing fruit and something is likely to happen soon. If charges against some participants result – and there’s no point asking the Mounties, because they’ll tell us what they’re going to do in their own sweet time – the stuff will hit the fan all over again.

And even though he’s selling the planes, this time it will be very difficult for Mr. Prentice to argue this isn’t his problem because other than the premier and his new friends from the Wildrose Party, Alberta’s brave new management looks pretty much the same as the lily-livered old management that lacked the spine and principles to stand up to Ms. Redford’s supposed aura of power.

Mr. Denis, for example, Mr. Hancock’s justice minister and main sidekick on the file, is now Mr. Prentice’s justice minister and likely to be his main sidekick on the file. Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose?

Indeed, it will look very much as if nothing at all has changed – although that may not make much difference with the opposition co-opted, fragmented and understaffed.

It’s safe to assume that Mr. Prentice wishes this problem would just go away. But it’s hard to see how he can make that happen with the Mounties in charge of the investigation, and presumably determined to get their man or woman.

This is just one more reason for Mr. Prentice to call an early election in 2015.

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

4 Comments to: ‘Fakes on a Plane’ problems set to return? Blame Dave Hancock for the Prentice Government’s next big problem

  1. Public Servant

    January 2nd, 2015

    I sincerely hope the RCMP have enough evidence to lay criminal charges against Redford and any others and that the political fallout ends Prentice’s career as well.

    Why should politicians be exempt from the same laws as the rest of us?

  2. January 9th, 2015

    I doubt the RCMP will do anything about any of the high flying Tories.
    In any case, why aren’t other MLAs being investigated for improper use of the planes?

    Why is Ms. Redford the only one being burned on the stake as a witch?

    What about the other MLAs who used the planes for their family members?

    In this article— we have Ms. Jansen tell us that her daughter flew on Air Alberta—because there was a seat that was available and therefore it didn’t cost the taxpayers anything.
    I don’t think that is the point.
    The flights on Air Alberta are reserved for government employees and her daughter was not a government employee.
    If Ms Redford paid for the flights of her daughter and friends, then why isn’t Ms. Jansen doing the same thing?
    I think Ms. Jansen should pay back the taxpayers and also get the same RCMP check up as the Redford is getting.
    Any other MLAs who have used Air Alberta as their personal aircrafts should also be investigated.
    These folks are just way too entitled.

    They need to be reminded that the public purse is not their personal credit card for their own use.


    Liberal Leader Raj Sherman said the problem didn’t begin and end with Redford.
    “Where is the accountability for the ministers who are managing the current fleet?” he asked.
    “(Former) premier Redford is not the only one here who is a problem.”
    The new flights also showed that Sandra Jansen, the anti-bullying minister, flew with her daughter on two government flights in February.
    Jansen told the house she did so because there was an extra seat.
    “It didn’t cost a dime extra for my daughter to travel on that flight,” Jansen told the house during question period.
    “If it did I would happily pay the money back.”
    – See more at: http://www.princegeorgecitizen.com/news/national/alberta-keeping-its-government-planes-despite-more-questionable-redford-spending-1.962799#sthash.hlaNAM97.dpuf

  3. Velvet Martin

    January 10th, 2015

    Freaking aircraft (money) is one thing, what ought to weigh more prominently in the minds of Albertans are the lives and deaths of our youth being withheld from the public. 768 babies, children and teen fatalities and no investigation?? Nearly 2500 petitions are demanding an independent, public, police investigation: https://www.change.org/p/force-rcmp-to-do-a-criminal-investigation-of-children-s-aid-and-the-alberta-justice-lawyers-who-helped-hide-the-deaths-of-685-foster-children-from-the-public


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