Redford defends travel expenses as costs of being a mother
Alberta Premier Alison Redford used her role as a mother to defend breaking the province's travel expense rules by taking her daughter on government business trips.Ahh, yes, the costs of being a mother. I guess it's the sort of costs a $211,000 salary just can't cover anymore with how high costs have climbed even though the Alberta government expects everyone to get by with significantly less. In fact Alberta's latest budget outlook is completely predicated on everyone having less, higher costs, and less affordability.
Redford announced Tuesday that she'd repay $3,156 to cover flights taken by her daughter's friends on government planes.
New Democratic Party leader Brian Mason asked Redford if she knowingly broke the rules set by the auditor general eight years ago.
"The auditor general specified family members other than spouses attending official events should not travel on government aircraft," he said.
Redford responded saying the policy needs to change to keep with the times.
"We think it is important for issues to evolve, she said. "I'll tell you quite frankly one of the evolutions in this province is you have a premier who has a 12-year-old daughter."
Mason was undeterred.
"There are thousands of government employees who are women and who have families who are not allowed to bring their children to work," he said.
Redford also found herself defending yet again her decision not to repay $45,000 racked up on a controversial trip to South Africa.
"One of the big questions today is are there enough checks and balances in place to make sure the Premier's following the rules when claiming expenses," said Wildrose Opposition leader Danielle Smith.
"The idea that somebody could be spending this kind of money without oversight from anybody and then try to duck and run by referring the matter to the auditor general to avoid tough questions in question period, that's not a sign of leadership," she said.
A political ethics expert at the University of Toronto said he's not surprised about the public backlash over the expenses.
"Especially when you have a government telling everyone they have to tighten their belts," said Duff Conacher. "And then the government is essentially — and the Premier — abusing not only the public's expenses, but the public's trust.
"It is of course something that pushes everyone's buttons and makes them very upset."
In its third-quarter financial report released Wednesday, Finance Minister Doug Horner said the government’s rainy day contingency account — originally expected to be drained below $700 million — is now likely to be $4.6 billion by the end of the fiscal year on March 31, thanks to buoyant energy prices and a low Canadian dollar.That's right, thanks to a lower Canadian dollar and "buoyant energy prices" both of which are temporary market conditions out of the government's control, a bet, gambling, and also make the cost of living for everyone else higher, the government missed it's projections by $3.9billion dollars (because you can't accurately predict the results of gambling, of course) and yet talk about it as though it was all part of some strategic plan and can't reverse just as quickly. Buoyant energy costs of course translate to buoyant fuel costs which jet fuel has been seeing continual spikes over the years. I wonder if that's factoring into Redford's costs of being a mother.
At the same time, the Tory government said it had borrowed $2.7 billion for capital projects so far this year.
Debt used to be a dirty word in Alberta politics, with the Tory government boasting in 2004 after the provincial debt was eliminated under former premier Ralph Klein.
But Redford said the rapid population and economic growth of the province, which recently topped four million people, has changed the mindset around borrowing. Schools and other facilities are long-term assets that represent “an investment in the future,” she said.
“Albertans said, ‘We know we’re growing, we want to make sure we’re keeping up with that growth, that we’re building infrastructure and that we’re ensuring that the quality of life for Albertans today will continue to improve in the long term,’ ” said Redford.
However, taking on debt has attracted ferocious criticism from the official Opposition.
At a news conference earlier this week, Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith said the government is refusing to properly account for its debt load.
The government’s total borrowing liability will be $17 billion by 2016, resulting in a debt servicing charge estimated at $600 million, she said.
“It has a real impact on the budget over time,” Smith told reporters.
“I talk to a lot of Albertans, I don’t think that they want to see $600 million of their hard-earned tax dollars every single year going to the banks to service the debt.”
So I have to wonder if the Premier is aware the "hardships of being a mother" aren't hers alone to bare? I have to wonder if she's aware if her policies of wishing for ever higher energy prices and a higher cost of living for everyone translate directly to it being harder for mothers without a taxpayer funded slush fund to get by. I have to wonder if she's really so disconnected looking down from her position of corporate royalty masquerading as public service that she actually thought complaining about the costs of being a mother on a salary most mothers could only dream of (and fathers, for that matter) would garner any sympathy at all.
But it gets even worse, because on top of policy meant to drive up the cost of living for everyone else the government is also borrowing from the future to support the investment that should have been made in the past and the squandered billions on Olympic Trains and public relations hocus pocus. The government squandered all of the money, ALL OF IT, from the major run on oil prices up to $147 / barrel and now after the fact want to borrow from the population, at interest from private banks, to do what they refused to do with the squandered wealth and that's what we're paying her a $211,000 salary to do.
A $3.9 billion miss, even though it's a positive miss, is still a major miss. It's dumb luck, not good planning and can easily go the other way at a moment's notice. Alison Redford is extremely deceptive and out of touch, the boom Alberta experienced prior to 2008 is never coming back there is just simply not enough momentum to drive energy costs up that high, for that long. Alberta treats the exception in market activity and the biggest bull run oil had ever seen as the rule and fools the population into supporting the lifestyles of royalty. You don't need "incredibly highly skilled quality people" to make bad market bets.
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Richard Fantin is a self-taught software developer who has mostly throughout his career focused on financial applications and high frequency trading. He currently works for eQube gaming systems.
Nazayh Zanidean is a Project Coordinator for a mid-sized construction contractor in Calgary, Alberta. He enjoys writing as a hobby on topics that include foreign policy, international human rights, security and systemic media bias.