By Medicine Hat News Opinion on February 1, 2020.
After a difficult week for my family and a truck-in-the-chest reminder that our time with loved ones is cruelly short – and sometimes just cruel – I admit to not having put much thought toward Laying it Out.
I even had Jeremy Appel on standby to run something in my space, but if you’re reading this then I suppose that wasn’t necessary.
What I really should do is create a Mad Libs-style template column that could be filled in last minute should I need to take a week off. At this point in the UCP’s reign of pretty-much-everything-is-deplorable style of governance, I’m sure a stock piece would be easy enough.
“A UCP announcement this week has left *insert specific but enormous group of Albertans* without proper funding. Minister *insert name* says *insert generic talking-point gobbledygook*, but as it turns out, a simple fact-checking exercise shows that *insert shockingly easy-to-find truth* is what exists in reality. PS – somebody wrote a column in *insert Calgary or Edmonton* and it was terrible.”
Anyhoo… moving on.
When accountant Steve Allan stepped down as chair of Calgary Economic Development last July in order to lead a $2.5-million probe into so-called foreign-funded efforts to target oil and gas, he told the Calgary Herald he was “coming at it from an independent, objective view – which I have to, it’s my training as a professional.”
The credibility of that oh-so-polished statement should have been in full question when it was reported in November that Allan hired his son’s law firm Dentons for a $905,000 sole-source contract shortly after his appointment to the $290,000 role.
But thanks to an email gaffe worthy of the Trump administration, this week provided absolute proof that, not only is Allan just another crony appointment to a meaningless publicly-funded position, more importantly, the Ministry of Justice has no problem covering up unethical activity to save face.
Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer was the man who appointed Allan to the panel, which makes sense since, as it turns out, Allan was an undisclosed donor (that’s bad) to Schweitzer’s failed UCP leadership campaign.
The two men also once worked at Dentons at the same time, and when CBC News emailed the ministry to inquire about their relationship back when Allan referred to Schweitzer as a “young lawyer who has an office down the hall from me,” the minister of justice’s press secretary accidentally CC’d the CBC in an email about how to cover it up.
“Do we say that Allan rented an office in the Dentons business area or do we say that there seems to be no record that Allan worked at Dentons and we don’t want to comment on statements he made so you’d have to ask him? I think the second,” wrote the press secretary.
As if this person’s lack of understanding communications wasn’t already on display, the press secretary then sent another email to CBC asking them to “disregard” the first one. Like I said… Trump administration-type dumb.
But while that press secretary clearly doesn’t understand the press, the real problem here is that the minister of justice (are you finding the humour in that title yet?) can’t be trusted to do anything but prop up his friends and hide it.
What’s more, after the CBC posted the story many people seemed more concerned or even amused that the press secretary had made such a bonehead mistake. While I absolutely get the joke, I feel like the province glossed over the whole “we can’t trust the Ministry of Justice” part.
Maybe it’s because cronyism and cover-ups are just things we expect in 2020. Maybe it’s because of that ridiculous preconceived notion that the CBC is ran by Justin Trudeau, and therefore hates Alberta, fossil fuels and, most especially, you. And maybe it’s because no other media even touched this story after it came out.
The whole thing kind of reminds me of a certain investigation into the leadership campaign of a certain premier, who totally had no idea that people right next to him were conducting themselves in a manner that has already led to $200,000+ in fines. You know, the investigation that the RCMP said just last week was still underway.
The premier. Under investigation by actual police. Has been for his entire term to date. Maybe it’s just the “left-wing-rag” in me, but that seems like a story the province’s biggest media should follow more closely. Anyone have a guess as to why it lacks proper attention? Yeah, me too.
Even if this all seems like a broken-record complaint show of the decisions, direction and deceit put forth by the UCP, its staunchest supporter must be secretly admitting by now that at least some high-ranking members of the government are willing to skirt ethics to help their friends. And let’s be honest – they’re kind of awful at hiding it.
Holding your government to account – especially one whose promise of transparency is just another vow it has not remotely delivered on – does not have to mean giving your loyalty to the opposition. There must be some place you can go that exists between “conservative for life” and “great, I guess I’m a socialist now.”
If Albertans don’t find that mindset soon, what’s to stop the government from doing literally anything it wants? The Ministry of Justice?
PS – Columns were written in Calgary AND Edmonton, and they were both terrible. Happy Saturday!
Scott Schmidt is the layout editor at the Medicine Hat News. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. All opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of the News’ editorial board
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