Monday, March 3, 2014

Let them eat cake!

Marie Antoinette

In a recent Twitter exchange I was taken to task for criticizing the cost of accommodations for Premier Alison Redford’s Executive Assistant when he stays overnight in Edmonton.

I tweeted, “he could have found decent accommodations for a cheaper rate than $200 per night for him to stay at the Hotel MacDonald.”

Someone replied the issue is a “tempest in a teapot” and that in the scheme of things $200 a night is not expensive… that Brad Stables (the premier’s EA) needs to be housed in safe, convenient, clean accommodations.

That response is valid, and I almost conceded the cost was not all that excessive, especially since the Hotel MacDonald offers provincial employees a special rate.  Yet, for some reason, I just can’t let go of the level of luxury the young EA seems to enjoy, or the way the evidence is piling up that Ms Redford is oblivious to the way her spending is affecting the way we see her.

First of all, her EA is not an elected official.  When our elected officials travel away from home they should be accommodated appropriate to their status and the business they are doing on our behalf.  But, Brad Stables was not elected. He works under contract, paid out of the public purse.

It’s not like I expect him to stay at some grungy motel on the edge of town, but I’m starting to get the feeling our current premier has no idea how many of the rest of us live.  She doesn’t even attempt to keep costs down when it comes to her own comforts and to those she favours.  

Her unnecessary trip to London during the Olympics, the $146,000 spent on hotel rooms that went unused, her use $45,000 in associated costs to fly home from South Africa after Nelson Mandela’s funeral, including the $20,000 spend on flying her EA to and from Johannesburg on a private journey.

I don’t want to come across as a spokesperson for the Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation.  I think the premier needs to travel… and I think she needs to travel in a style that befits her elected position.  She is, after all, the premier of our great province.  Nor do I expect the people who do the work of this province—and travel away from their families and homes—to stay in Spartan of conditions. 

It would be refreshing if our political leaders tried to operate in a way that made us believe they understood where the money they're spending comes from.   We all appreciate a bit of comfort, but wouldn’t it be something if our leaders... you know... actually led... by example.

1 comment:

  1. Will, I absolutely agree from both perspectives. It is both a tempest in a teapot and a leader in complete oblivion to the reality of the lives of the majority of Albertans. You will recall reading Nikiforuk, The Energy of Slaves: Oil and the new Servitude. What Redford and her ilk do not understand is that there is a growing number of Albertans who are taking up a rather "improbable emancipation" Some of us no longer worship the "inanimate slave culture of frantic consumption." Nikiforuk also says, "Unqualified power diminishes life, the only true wealth we share." And he speaks clearly to how easily the Slaves of Energy are deflected from true democracy by the trivial stuff. So, while we spend time and energy on Redford's absolutely unconscious approach to governing through her not too small ego, we are left for little time on the really important real democracy and freedom from the power of petroculture which has obsessed her offices not to mention MLAs. How can we move to taking back our own life and land?