The world of opposition politics in Alberta can be an unforgiving place where, in many cases, well-meaning politicians linger until they either give up and leave politics all together or join the long-governing Tories.
In the past, the opposition NDP has typically held the title as masters of media release metaphors (including some odd and obscure metaphors), but a recent media release from the Alberta Liberal Caucus may claim the 2012 summer title. The metaphors packed into this Liberal Caucus media release are almost too much to bear:
Too much smoke blowing from PC gravy train
Edmonton – Alberta Liberal Leader Raj Sherman says the province is doing little more than using smoke and mirrors to clean up the spill from the latest gravy train derailment.
The PC government feigned surprise and concern over the hiring and practices of Merali, brought to light by freedom of information requests, belies the fact he was hand-picked by cabinet in March to be the province’s financial controller.
“Once again, the PCs are blowing smoke at Albertans,” says Sherman. “This is the same premier, minister, and cabinet who, just a few short months ago, offered Merali control over all of the public purse.”
In an effort to mitigate growing public outrage, AHS announced yesterday that Merali will not receive an additional severance package and an outside firm would be hired to conduct an audit of his expenses.
Sherman says the PCs are in damage control mode by cutting out the Auditor General, limiting the review only to Merali’s expenses, and reporting the findings to the minister.
“This just proves the PCs want to control any additional blowback,” says Sherman.
The government has had problems controlling the Auditor General in the past, instead electing to handle similar scandals internally:
– October 2009 Report (p.256) from Alberta’s Auditor General found lack of oversight, poor process, and overpayment for executive termination.
– April 15, 2010 – AHS defends payments to previous Regions’ CEOs and executives as “legacy” agreements—contractual obligations that AHS inherited to which it was bound to comply—and highlights new process for executive contracts.
– November 24, 2010 – In the now infamous “cookie incident”, AHS agreed to a settlement totaling $735,630—including severance, variable pay, and contingent liabilities to Dr. Stephen Duckett.
– August 6, 2012 – AHS board announces no severance for Chief Financial Officer Allaudin Merali and a forensic audit of his expenses. The Auditor General has been asked to review AHS current policies and practices.
“The PCs are content to let the gravy train chug along silently in the dark” says Sherman, “but when a leak comes to light, it’s quickly cleaned and running back on schedule.”
Sherman believes the government is too compromised by its past involvement to handle the issue with any legitimacy. He is calling for a complete Auditor General’s review of AHS and the former Capital Health Region’s finances, with a report directly to the Legislature.
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