False Passengers and Fake Promises: Could the PC Party be choosing the next opposition leader?

Alison Redford Jim Prentice Thomas Lukaszuk Ric McIver Alberta Premier PC Leadership Race
Alison Redford, Thomas Lukaszuk, Ric McIver and Jim Prentice

Here’s a question that isn’t often asked in Alberta: Which of the three Progressive Conservative leadership candidates would make the best Leader of the Opposition?

An insane trail of scandal continues to leak out of the 43-year-long governing PC Party as it lurches towards a leadership vote on September 6.

A CBC exclusive story alleged today that Auditor General has uncovered “false passengers” were booked to ensure that Premier Alison Redford and her political staff would be the only passengers on government planes during certain flights.

The leak was a draft copy of a report Auditor General Merwan Saher is expected to release in August 2014 and will also include a review of the former premier’s flights to South Africa and Palm Springs.

Along with Ms. Redford’s secret plans for a private penthouse residence, this week’s secret cancellation of a three-year pay-freeze for senior government executives (which was only implemented 17 months ago), and the Auditor General’s discovery last month that the province has failed implement its much vaunted Climate Change plan, the PC government does not look like the well-polished machine it once was.

Two years ago, PC candidates led by Ms. Redford promised a new era of open and transparent government. It appears that the fake passengers were not the only fabrication.

Is it possible that the three men vying to lead the PC Party did not know about the false flyers?

Both insiders, Thomas Lukaszuk served as Ms. Redford’s Deputy Premier and Ric McIver was Transportation Minister from May 2012 to December 2013. While they have denied knowledge of the flights, it is strange that at the very least these two senior cabinet minister had not even heard rumours about the Premier’s alleged fictional bookings and questionable travel habits.

And Jim Prentice? He is not an MLA and was busy working for a big Bay Street bank during Ms. Redford’s reign.

But what of Finance Minister Doug Horner, whose department is responsible for the Alberta government’s fleet of airplanes? Surely someone within the Finance Department would have been aware of these alleged ghost travellers? Mr. Horner, along with 50 other PC MLAs and nearly every PC Party insider, is supporting Mr. Prentice’s bid for the PC Party leadership.

Mr. Prentice, who appears to only speak in generalizations and avoids details in all his public announcements, issued a statement on his Facebook Page in response to the allegations. “Albertans do not need excuses from those who were at the table when these decisions were made,” Mr. Prentice’s Facebook statement said.

Nearly everyone who would have been sitting around the cabinet table when these phantom flyers were on the books are now endorsing Mr. Prentice.

His opponent, Mr. Lukaszuk, was much more harsh on Ms. Redford, who remains the PC MLA for Calgary-Elbow. The former Deputy Premier said he would have his former boss thrown out of the PC Caucus and would ask a retired judge to investigate the allegations (Justice Minister Jonathan Denis, also supporting Mr. Prentice, today asked the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to decide whether there should be an investigation).

This leads me back to my initial question: Which of the three leadership candidates would make the best Leader of the Opposition?

For the past four decades, this would have been a nonsensical question. But in 2014, the Tories face a relentlessly aggressive Wildrose opposition flush with cash and preparing for an election. There is an increasingly real possibility that the PC Party could be in opposition after the next election.

Mr. Prentice served in the Conservative Official Opposition benches in Ottawa for two years during the dying days of Paul Martin’s Liberal government, a time which may oddly familiar similar to the current politics in Alberta. An ambitious politician, Mr. Prentice does not strike me as someone who would be interested in remaining in the opposition benches if the PC Party were to lose the next election.

Mr. Lukaszuk is well-known for his partisan attack dog-style in Question Period, and might thrive in the opposition benches. Mr. McIver served as the unofficial opposition to Mayor Dave Bronconnier on Calgary City Council, but, like Mr. Lukaszuk, he has no support from his PC MLA colleagues.

In light of recent revelations, perhaps some time spent in the opposition benches could inject a much needed dose of humility into Alberta’s Progressive Conservatives, who have become very comfortable with the trappings of political power. Despite coming within a hair of losing the last election, the Tories act as if they are an invincible force. This recent string of scandals may help prove that the PCs are not invincible.

5 thoughts on “False Passengers and Fake Promises: Could the PC Party be choosing the next opposition leader?”

  1. I think Lukaszuk knows the party is facing a real chance of losing but his attempts to distance himself from Redford just look ridiculous given he was such a key player. Prentice is probably just hoping to do what Klein, Stelmach and Redford did. Paint himself different and hope the opposition is ineffective. I really don’t think the public will be fooled again, but this is Alberta so you never know.

  2. If the theory that Redford will only stick around until Prentice is elected party leader, then resign and give him a safe PC riding to run in, that might prove damaging to Prentice. It’s hard to convince people you’re the “change candidate” when you appear to take advantage of the party machinery to get into the Legislature.

  3. “If the theory that Redford will only stick around until Prentice is elected party leader, then resign and give him a safe PC riding to run in, that might prove damaging to Prentice.”

    Methinks Redford’s riding is rapidly becoming the least safe PC riding in the province. In fact, maybe that should be your next piece, Dave: if Prentice does become next PC leader, does he face an increasing challenge just getting elected?

  4. Prentice is the new lipstick on a pig. These buffoons do not deserve office as they continually betray trust of Albertans and show utter incompetence in every portfolio and use our taxes like a personal slush fund, not to mention the billions of accrued debt in an economy that has been hot for almost 14 years now. This is not Premier Lougheeds party. That party used to care about people and this province. Now it has become pile of unfettered greed and lies and more lies to cover up the lies. With so many self serving standing MLA’s quiet on almost every transgression and malfeasance, the stench of moral and ethical corruption is beyond sickening, it is down right revolting and shameful. is
    …MLA for Ft.Mac region… back in caucus…. Alberta is truly a great place, not coming anywhere near to its true potential. Madame Redford may have been a lot of things but throwing her under the bus is not going to fix the perception problem for the Tories. The problems run far deeper and a new leader can’t and won’t change anything. Methinks Mr. Prentice, if he wins, he will not have the vision or the bxlls to make any lasting positive structural changes, the same status quo will continue and the lipstick will soon wear off and the ugly pig will be back. The only way that things will change is if voters think for just a few seconds send a strong message next election and put these guys into official opposition status.

  5. I think people’s perception of Alison Redford may be off the mark. The extra security detail, the “secretive” apartment and the “fake” passengers on the plane do not speak of a luxury-loving politician so much as a woman who feared for her personal safety. Remember, another female premier in Quebec, just last year had an assassination attempt against her. Until we see a report from Redford’s security staff (which we likely won’t, due to its confidential nature) we can’t be sure that these expensive and rather eccentric precautions were not in fact well-founded. If it turns out that Redford had in fact been receiving death threats or other indications that her security was at risk, the media may end up with significant egg on their faces.

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