Time out needed for government politicians to discover reality

Out of touch is an apt description of Progressive Conservative politicians sitting under the dome of the Alberta Legislature.

Out of touch is an apt description of Progressive Conservative politicians sitting under the dome of the Alberta Legislature.

Perhaps that’s why they’re trying to rush through “so much important business in all night sessions” as Alberta Liberal House Leader Laurie Blakeman charged earlier this week.

“Why does the government choose to do this?” she asked. “They want to get out of town and leave the scandals behind. It is part of their pattern of saving important legislation until the end of session and then letting opposition work all night while government sits and grumbles.”

Yes, maybe it’s a good idea to let those people get away from the Legislature and back into the real world then they’d hear the grumbling of common folk who live closer to the land and closer to reality.

We were astounded this week by revelations that the premier’s office has paid more than $2 million in severance for former employees over the past three years, with $585,000 paid out since the April 2012 provincial election.

Eighteen employees have left since Alison Redford became Progressive Conservative Party leader in October 2011.

In our world the only time severance is paid is when you want to get rid of someone. And there better be extremely good reasons for taking such drastic action.

We agree there needs to be an answer to Liberal Leader Raj Sherman’s question. “Is the premier hiring bad employees, or is she a bad boss, to have such high turnover in the office?”

This is particularly important since every facet of government spending is being curtailed — it’s as if we’re in disaster mode. We think, however, this is just another manufactured crisis to move towards a particular ideology.

Noting that severances in the last year cost more than twice what it would take to save the Music Enrichment Program at Victoria School of Arts in Edmonton, Sherman asked in the Legislature, “Premier, why are golden handshakes for former staffers more important to your government than this popular and valuable music program — and other programs important to Albertans?”

A ‘time-out’ is certainly warranted for this government as more and more life-impacting decisions are being made daily, affecting thousands and thousands of our friends and neighbours, particularly the most vulnerable.

Then, with Conservative politicians out in the hustings, talking to the common folk, perhaps the consternation that’s percolating would rise to the top and spill over into some no-nonsense conversations about how we can improve our province instead of decimating it.

Severance payouts at the top level of this government’s political arm should be the warning sign that all is not good in Alberta. They should signal the need for change — either in the leader or in a ruling party that’s been around too long.

The time is approaching very quickly. We urge residents, opposition politicians and other interest groups to continue opening government decisions to scrutiny so that we can have informed discussions about change instead of the tight control which has evolved in Canadian politics.