I spent part of my afternoon yesterday hanging out at the Alberta Legislature including a trip to Question Period. Props to my MLA, Dr. Raj Pannu, for the kind introduction to the Assembly.
I was really disappointed that Lyle Oberg, the newly Indepenent MLA for Strathmore-Brooks, didn’t show up to sit in his brand new seat behind Alberta Alliance MLA Paul Hinman.
Aside from my Oberg disappointment, I did get to watch the following interaction between Calgary Currie Liberal MLA Dave Taylor and Deputy Premier Shirley McClellan highlights one of the main differences between the Alberta’s Conservative Government and their Tory cousins in Ottawa.
Mr. Taylor: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Today the federal Conservatives in Ottawa are introducing a bill to improve government accountability and openness, but the Conservative government of Alberta refuses to do the same for the people of this province. Alberta has a system of grants, contracts, and land sales that’s out of control, no mechanism to bring it under control, and a taxpayerfunded propaganda bureau to continuously remind citizens to just keep moving, that there’s nothing to see here. My questions are to the Deputy Premier. Will she support an all-party legislative committee to make recommendations to strengthen the statutory authority of the Auditor General so that he can follow the money to the end recipients?
Mrs. McClellan: Mr. Speaker, there’s absolutely no need to do that because the Auditor General today has that authority. The Auditor General in this province is an officer of this Legislature, and he has the authority to follow the money right to the end and, in fact, has done so on a number of occasions. So I think the question is quite redundant.
Mr. Taylor: Mr. Speaker, he doesn’t have the same authority as the federal Auditor General.
Again to the Deputy Premier: given the clear failure of this government to protect whistle-blowers at the Alberta Securities Commission from retribution, when will this government introduce legislated whistle-blower protection for public-sector employees?
Mrs. McClellan: Mr. Speaker, in reference to the Alberta Securities Commission and whistle-blower rulings, that has already been done and has been in place for some time now. As far as an overall government policy we’ve made it very clear over and over and over again that no one who brings forward a valid concern will have any adverse repercussions at all.
The Speaker: The hon. member.
Mr. Taylor: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Again to the Deputy Premier: when the feds are cracking down on the lobbying industry, why is this government allowing it to flourish behind closed doors? Why won’t she acknowledge a problem exists?
Mrs. McClellan: Well, Mr. Speaker, a rather obtuse question at best. However, whatever he might be referring to, contributions that are made to political parties here are a matter of public record if that’s the part he’s talking about.
Mr. Taylor: I’m talking about lobbyists.
Mrs. McClellan: People that come to meet ministers in ministers’ offices: that’s an occurrence. I suppose you could suggest that everyone who passes these doors, whether they come to see the opposition or the government or the third party or the fourth, et cetera, would be a lobbyist. I’m not sure exactly what he’s framing the word “ lobbyist” around.
Mr. Speaker, I can tell you that there is no behind closed doors as far as we’re concerned. People who come into our offices are met. They usually discuss matters of mutual interest but certainly matters of interest to them, and I would be against anything that would preclude the public from coming and meeting with government to express their interests or their concerns.
So, I guess the answer is: It’s none of Albertan’s business which lobbyists are taking Ministers out for lobster and martini’s.