Back in 2008, while running as the Progressive Conservative candidate for the Alberta Legislature, Carl Benito made the spectacular promise to donate his entire MLA salary to create a scholarship fund for students in the Edmonton-Mill Woods riding.

Former Alberta premier Jason Kenney earlier this month (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

“Carl’s personal pledge is to DONATE the salary allocated for his MLA position to a Scholarship Fund/Program to provide opportunities to our Youth with financial limitations who has the passion and determination to pursue higher education,” Mr. Benito’s campaign literature stated, without qualification.

The pitch worked – for a while, anyway. Leastways, Mr. Benito was elected and served as MLA until 2012. 

Now, I admit, I haven’t thought about Mr. Benito for years, but was reminded last weekend of his short career in Alberta politics when a number of stories in local media reported that the former southeast Edmonton MLA had been sentenced Friday to two years of house arrest for immigration fraud. 

Mr. Benito, 68, along with his 28-year-old son Charles, pleaded guilty to charges under the federal Immigration and Refugee Protection Act of illegally employing eight unauthorized foreign citizens in Edmonton and Calgary and paying them a pittance between 2016 and 2018, the Canadian Press and other news organizations reported. 

Mr. Benito will have to pay a $75,000 fine and serve another two years of probation after his house arrest ends. 

NDP Labour Critic and Edmonton-Mill Woods MLA Christina Gray (photo: David J. Climenhaga).

But since it’s Mr. Benito’s political activities that interest us here, let’s return to 2008.

Once elected in the March 3, 2008, general election, Mr. Benito revised his promise. He told the Edmonton Journal he didn’t mean to donate all of his salary every year. “Basically one year salary is my commitment,” he informed the newspaper.

In 2009, he did in fact donate $500 each to 12 high school students from his riding, which was generous, although considerably less so than giving up his entire MLA salary would have been.

Not long before he lost the PC nomination he needed to run for the PCs in the 2012 provincial election, Mr. Benito was involved in another controversy in which he failed to pay municipal taxes on four rental properties he owned. 

He blamed his wife for the oversight when the matter came to public attention.

The Duke of Wellington as seen by Thomas Lawrence, painted circa 1815 (Image: Public Domain).

That did not go over well, and may have contributed to Mr. Benito’s loss of the Tory nomination to businessman Sohail Quadri, who served one term as the MLA for the riding until the election of the NDP government in May 2015. Former NDP labour minister Christina Gray now represents the riding. 

Readers with particularly sharp memories for unwise political promises may also recall that Jason Kenney – who until a week ago was premier of Alberta – once promised to give 100 per cent of his Parliamentary pension to charity as long as he was still being paid a public salary after his superannuation kicked in. 

That was in 2016, when Mr. Kenney was campaigning to replace then premier Rachel Notley, partly on his reputation as a sometime anti-pension crusader, and he must’ve felt as if he’d not only win government but restore the 43-and-a-half-year Conservative Dynasty and enjoy decades more of power.

“I’ll give 100 per cent of the proceeds to poverty relief related charities,” Mr. Kenney confidently pledged.

While Mr. Kenney’s United Conservative Party handily won the next election in 2019, it turned out that a province like Alberta is considerably harder to lead than it is to sit as second fiddle in an Ottawa orchestra conducted by Stephen Harper. 

Alas for the relief of poverty, it looks like Mr. Kenney is now off the hook. 

Presumably to his surprise – and without doubt that of the many political observers, this one included, who overestimated his political talents – Mr. Kenney met his Waterloo last May at the hands of party rebels displeased with his refusal to completely ignore the COVID-19 pandemic and let ’er rip.

As a result, he wasn’t able to remain in office long enough to have to deliver on his promise. Just the same, it was close. 

Mr. Kenney will be 55 and able to start collecting his Parliamentary pension on May 30, 2023. 

The next Alberta general election, in which Mr. Kenney has said he will not run, is scheduled to take place on May 29, 2023. 

As the Duke of Wellington famously said of the real Battle of Waterloo in 1815, it was “the nearest run thing you ever saw in your life!”

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17 Comments

  1. I don’t have any trust for these pretend conservatives and Reformers one bit. They seem to be focused on their own well being, while destroying jobs, pensions, harming essential public services, such as public education and public healthcare, and they line their own pockets, and the pockets of their rich corporate friends. We now have Danielle Smith doing this too, and she was allowed to do it with a very slim margin of votes. Where’s the sense in that?

  2. When it comes to pensions, such as the MPs’ pension, every single RPC candidate swore up and down that when they were elected, they would refuse the pension. Well, two elections later the whole lot of them decided that getting a pension was worth it after all. Presto Manning still waived his pension, but he was already well off anyway. And he didn’t want to wreck his brand.

    Anyone who believed Kenney or any other CON would give their pension to any charity, other than themselves, is really the stupidest person alive. Alberta believed and that says enough about that place.

  3. If Canada’s borders weren’t swiss cheese, this wouldn’t (and couldn’t) happen. There’s clearly WAY too many foreigners for the government to keep track of. Thats unsafe for them and us. Although, these folks seemed okay to be paid a “pittance”, just like most immigrants, hence our low minimum wage and the lack of any white person in any Tim Horts (Wendy’s, Walmart, etc.) across Canada.

    1. Close: This topic seems to have attracted a high percentage of trolls and racists, most of whose comments go straight to the trash. I am going to allow this one because, while expresses what I view to be a racist sentiment, it’s a relatively polite example of the genre. It will give readers something to respond to. We do live next door to a large and populous country whose citizens look and sound a lot like Canadians, and who are allowed to visit without a visa, so until we make the Americans pay to build a wall, I suppose it’s inevitable our government would have trouble keeping track of foreigners. DJC

    2. While your racist trolling is typical of the far right these days, logically you’re not making sense. A political insider is going to jail for immigration fraud, this suggests the opposite of what you allege. There certainly is a lot of room to exploit the TFW program but the idea that the federal government has no idea these people are being admitted to the country is laughable.

      As for Swiss cheese borders we still have the third country agreement right ? We are still properly racist with our immigration don’t worry.

    3. Close….FYI..unless you are indigenous, you and your family are immigrants to Canada…your racism is so blatantly obvious,as is your lack of knowledge. Most people who came to this country were the poor from countries all over the world, who were willing to work for a “pittance ” , but they were more than willing to actually work…. that they were taken advantage of seems to have been overlooked by you…
      As a white female, who spent a number of years working at Tim Hortons, I know that nowadays, most young people feel they are entitled to better paying jobs as soon as they finish high school, if not before, so they don’t want to work for minimum wage, so the jobs go to the people who “are” willing to work…and FYI..if you want to talk about working for a pittance, just Google minimum wage in places like Texas, or better yet the states that don’t pay any wages for waitresses, they work just for tips…Canadian wait staff were always better off overall than our southern counterparts…
      And IMHO , your entitlement is also showing, you want someone to serve you, but now you’re complaining that they’re not “white ” ..??? Oh sorry master..!!
      2 words, and they’re not happy motoring…

  4. Perhaps the old saying that patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel could extended to include charitable intentions, at least for political scoundrels.

    In both cases, these politicians tried to use public claims of charitable intentions for political advantage or gain. In Mr. Benito’s case he clearly did not meet his pledge, but then his political career didn’t go so well after.

    In Kenney’s case, perhaps his pledge made voting for him more palitable for some of those concerned about double dipping. Of course, in the end it was his own party leadership vote and the timing of next election that may get Kenney off the hook.

    However, it is still possible that election date could change; it is now beyond Kenney’s control. Also, Kenney is free to run again Federally in the future and I wouldn’t be surprised if, after a period for the public to forget the worst of his regime, he pops up again. He may not need the money then, but he seems too young to be riding off into the sunset forever and just writing his memoirs. It also does not seem to be keeping with his character and temperament. So perhaps this issue may come up again for Kenney.

  5. The chronicle of how far the PC party has fallen since the peak days of Lougheed and been finally extinguished within the UCP is a sad tale. Benito’s tale is an example of the many warning signs along the way of the underlying rot in the PC party that led to its ill-fated merger with the Wildrose party to become the UCP. A cautionary tale if ever there was one of why trust in Conservatives and politics in general has fallen so much over the recent years.

  6. The link to the CBC story about nonpayment of property taxes also contains a list of gray haired Cons getting free tickets to watch bloated over the hill rock stars from their younger years. To paraphrase Tom Wolf, “they may be conservatives, but by Gawd, they’re hip.” The free tickets are actually a tax write off for corporations usually characterized as “good will,” which is a close cousin to lobbying. So, it is really the public paying both ways. No wonder Alberta’s so-called democracy has declining credibility.

      1. DJC……”Guffaw” and high 5 from my sister, though you know as a local, that the resident orcas just eat salmon, it’s only the transients that go after those slippery seals, but it is a nice thought…..

  7. We have got to make certain this moron Danielle Smith doesn’t get elected and I think we should all write letters to the Brooks Bulletin and the Medicine Hat News outlining our concerns, and pointing out her previous pathetic record in politics. She was even voted out in her own home riding of High River/ Okotoks. We need to get the young people interested in voting because we know how ignorant many seniors are. We know that they elected her and are believing every lie Smith feeds them.

  8. Okay, quick blast from the past – like, 600 BC or so. Some dude named Plato wrote a book called the Republic that, ~2800 years later, most of us are ignorant of. In it, Socrates asks a very interesting question: “Why do we pay rulers wages?” He then goes on to put forward (a vastly superior version of) the following argument:
    If a ruler were ruling for their advantage instead of ours, no wages would be needed. They would simply take whatever they wanted from the public purse and structure the economy to benefit them.
    1.Anyone capable of effectively governing us has no incentive to. If their desire was wealth, they could attain more in the private sector. If their desire is for honours, they will not be wise or just leaders.
    2.Therefore, a penalty is needed to make those who we would actually want to govern us offer to govern us.
    3.The best penalty is the “punishment” of watching someone much worse than you misrule the society you belong to.

    Anyways, one of the ideas that indirectly follow from this line of reasoning is that “anyone offering to lead you for free is a charlatan, no ifs, ands, buts, exceptions, substitutions or refunds.”

    These ideas are well within the ken of teenagers. We all spent 13 years in school, but we only learn of this if we stumble across it or go to university. Maybe that is deliberate, to limit our ability to “get uppity” by demanding that “our betters” make a society that works for everyone, instead of just for them. Maybe public education should be less about wasting the time of kids, providing free child care for the working class so that the owning class can more effectively exploit their labour, and creating a class of docile, compliant modern-day peasants, and more about… oh, I don’t know, educating the public? Crazy outside the box thought, but in a society build upon epistemic injustice, being willing to try to find the truth is a revolutionary action.

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