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Former MLA Dave Rodney lands generous gig as Alberta's agent general in Houston

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Dave Rodney, still an MLA, in 2013. Image: David J. Climenhaga​

There may have been peaks and valleys along the way, but thanks to a hand up from Alberta Premier Jason Kenney this week, it looks as if Dave Rodney has finally ascended to the summit of his career.

That is to say, for some reason Rodney was the recipient of a very nice sinecure in one of the nicer wards of Houston, Texas, with pay in the vicinity of $250,000 a year from the generous people of Alberta, and no doubt many generous benefits and plenty of opportunities to expense things.

In return, Rodney, 56, will have to have lots of lunches in nice restaurants with oil industry big shots, which may be dull at times, but he's a garrulous fellow and will doubtless make the most of it. There will likely be very little stress and few meaningful performance expectations.

So don't look for the former Progressive Conservative MLA from Calgary-Lougheed to do all that much in his new role as Alberta's agent general in Houston, but he probably won't do much harm either beyond being a drain on the provincial treasury.

Not bad for a lad from the flatlands of Mankota, Saskatchewan, population 205, who would grow up to be a mountain climber and a politician with few accomplishments beyond serving four terms in the Alberta legislature.

Other than that, Rodney's key accomplishments hitherto that prepared him for his new role in Houston were climbing Mount Everest, twice, and throwing a rope to Kenney at a key moment during his ascent to Alberta's political summit.

Back in the fall of 2017 when Kenney had just emerged victorious in the race to lead the United Conservative Party -- long before the phrase "kamikaze candidate" had meaning for Albertans -- Rodney generously elected to step aside to make way for his "dear friend" to run in his vacated seat.

He made the announcement via that traditional parliamentary tweet -- which, alas, is no longer available for some reason. "Honoured to pass the Calgary-Lougheed torch to my dear friend-our intrepid @Alberta_UCP [email protected]," said Rodney, bringing his undistinguished 13-year legislative career to a close.

While appearing at the side of a new leader was not an activity completely unknown to the expeditious Rodney -- he'd managed to make his way quickly to Alison Redford's side the night in 2011 she was chosen Progressive Conservative leader -- his decision to make way for Kenney in 2017 surprised Alberta political observers at the time since he was seen as having few transferable skills to earn a living beyond his ability to be repeatedly re-elected in a safe Tory seat.

During his first term as an MLA, Rodney was also chair of the Alberta Alcohol and Drug Abuse Commission. After a senior official was discovered to have made off with $625,000, the board was sharply criticized by the province's auditor general for its failure to provide oversight.

"Not a superstar," a former caucus colleague summed up Rodney's career succinctly at the time. Other than being known as a good man to have at your side in the event an oxygen-bottle battle breaks out at high altitude, that is.

Arduous though the climb may be, plenty of people have reached the top of Mount Everest. Not so many can say they helped out Jason Kenney at an important step in his political ascent, however.

To cynics like Opposition leader Rachel Notley who expressed doubts about Rodney's qualifications despite the many glowing references in the government's press release, a grateful premier said, "I have the utmost confidence he is the right person for this role."

The convenient seat switch in 2017 had absolutely nothing to do with it, Kenney insisted. "He never asked for any kind of consideration in the future."

According to the CBC, Kenney said a number of possible candidates were considered for the job, but Rodney "just stood out to me as the kind of go-getter that we need."

The AMA lawsuit will fail, health minister says -- really it will!

In an unusual news release published yesterday, Health Minister Tyler Shandro set out all the reasons he feels the Alberta Medical Association's lawsuit against the provincial government will fail.

In April, AMA president Christine Molnar announced that the province's doctors are launching a constitutional challenge and seeking $250 million in compensation from the United Conservative Party government for the way it arbitrarily ripped up their contract two months before.

Listing a number of "facts" the doctors' collective-bargaining association will almost certainly dispute, Shandro announced the government had filed its defence and insisted that "Alberta's negotiators worked hard and in good faith to arrive at an acceptable agreement that would still ensure that Alberta's doctors would be the highest-paid physicians in all of Canada. We believe this claim is groundless …"

Well, we'll see about that. You never know what's going to happen when you get in front of a judge. Still, Shandro's news release seemed like a peculiar tactic for a party to a lawsuit that is genuinely confident of victory.

One might almost suspect the intention was the opposite, to whistle past the constitutional graveyard now, and prepare the ground for a long public complaint about interventionist jurists later.

My advice to Shandro, his press secretary, and the UCP's legion of Internet squawkers: Tell it to the judge!

David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions at The Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. This post also appears on his blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

Image: David J. Climenhaga​

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