Opponents of Alberta's Progressive Conservatives must go to sleep at night thanking the political gods for making life so easy for them. The PCs keep handing an endless supply of ammunition to the New Democrats, the Liberals, the Wildrose, the fledgling Alberta Party and any others that want to sign up for the fight. Through their own missteps, the Tories have allowed the opposition to frame the upcoming spring election around one dominant issue — that the PCs are political bullies.
First came allegations of doctor intimidation, then improper donations by public officials who felt obliged to support the party, then the accusation that municipalities that vote Tory get preferential funding, and now a damning "smoking gun" letter by PC MLA and former cabinet minister Hector Goudreau warning a school district not to be critical of the government or it might not get a new school.
As the Wildrose said in a news release Monday, it all adds up to a "culture of corruption, cronyism, intimidation, bullying, self-dealing and patronage." After 40 years of rule, the Tories may not be drunk with power, but they certainly seem to be borderline impaired.
For many, the letter by Goudreau was perhaps the last straw. It's bad enough for doctors to be muzzled for advocating for patients, but to threaten a school board advocating for a safe and healthy environment for children who are shivering in a cold school with collapsing ceilings and creaky plumbing is beyond offensive.
On Monday, Goudreau, the Peace River-area MLA for Dunvegan-Central Peace, informed the Tory caucus that he would step down as head of a cabinet policy committee on community development. Late last week, it was revealed that he had written a letter to the Holy Family Catholic School Division that suggested criticism of the government could hamper the district's chances of funding for a new school in Grimshaw.
"In order for your community to have the opportunity to receive a new school, you and your school board will have to be very diplomatic from here on out," Goudreau told district superintendent Betty Turpin. "I advise you to be cautious as to how you approach future communications as your comments could be upsetting to some individuals. This could delay the decision on a new school."
The Tories have been criticized by former PC MLA and now Liberal party Leader Raj Sherman for looking after "their buddies." Linda Sloan, president of the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association, faced a vicious, two-pronged attack from Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths and Alison Redford's chief of staff, Stephen Carter, when she said towns and cities that vote Tory get preferential funding.
Redford, who promised change, may be the fresh face of the PC party, but the culture of Tory entitlement is looking so ingrained that it appears all the PCs' opponents need do is line up to shoot fish in a barrel.
Calgary Herald (editorial), Tues Mar 6 2012