The Wildrose official opposition has long highlighted the culture of entitlement and patronage that exists with a provincial government that has been run by one party rule for over 40 years.
The most recent case is the hiring of former Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Evan Berger who is in line for a six figure patronage post in his former department — just months after being defeated in the riding of Livingstone-Macleod by my Wildrose colleague, Pat Stier.
It seems every week the Progressive Conservative government manages to tumble down to a new low when it comes to ethics, transparency and respecting the Alberta taxpayer.
Berger was hired by his former deputy minister, John Knapp (whom Berger rehired back in October, 2011) to be a “senior policy advisor” — a position that did not exist until recently — without an open competition and, as Berger himself has admitted, does not even have a job description attached to it.
Not only that, Berger has since indicated that he plans to run for election again in 2016 in his former riding, essentially using his plum government job as a launching pad to try and win back his seat. To put the icing on the cake, Berger still remains in line to receive a gold-plated transition allowance worth up to $150,000 for his time as an MLA.
It seems outrageous the government would allow a PC insider to line up at the trough roping in hundreds of thousands of dollars, but this is quickly becoming a routine pattern of behaviour within the Redford government.
On top of it all, this appointment not only fails to pass the smell test, it flies directly in the face of conflict of interest legislation that prevents a former minister from working or being involved in their former ministry within a one-year period. Despite this, ethics commissioner Neil Wilkinson, who has ties in the past to being a donor for the PC party, waived the law without any documentation, evidence or explanation.
By waiving the law to get Berger a top paying job to help finance his re-election campaign, Wilkinson has brought the office of the ethics commissioner into disrepute. One would hope that top officials in the PC government would flag this as a serious problem, however the province’s own minister of Transparency and Accountability, Don Scott, seems to prefer to keep his head in the sand as he made the bewildering statement that, “he’s seen no evidence of widespread patronage during his time in government.”
Albertans deserve better from their government that continues to reward PC insiders with hundreds of thousands of dollars of tax dollars instead of tackling the problems that matter most to them. While Berger and other insiders are lining their pockets, hundreds of seniors are on waiting lists for long-term care nursing beds, and emergency rooms and emergency management services continue to be in a state of crisis across the province.
While it may look like more of the same old from this 41-year-old PC government looking out only for themselves, we at the Wildrose will continue to put Albertans first. Albertans can be assured we will continue to battle against this egregious use of tax dollars and advocate for a cleaner, more accountable government that works for you — not just PC insiders.
To contact MLA Rod Fox, phone 403-782-7725 or contact his office at #101 4892 46 Street, Lacombe, AB T4L 2B4 email: Lacombe.firstname.lastname@example.org