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Alberta Premier Jim Prentice repudiates controversial Redford-era bookkeeping scheme

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Stephen Mandel (L) and Jim Prentice

Well, nuts to you, Doug Horner!

Alberta Premier Jim Prentice continued his (almost) clean sweep of Redford Era Progressive Conservative Government policies yesterday, whisking away the former party leadership's weird system of triple-entry bookkeeping that was introduced last year by Horner in his role as Alison Redford's finance minister.

As of yesterday, it's safe to say that the confusing financial reporting scheme touted so enthusiastically by Horner has become more roadkill of Alberta history, and Horner himself is clearly collateral damage, gravely politically wounded if not quite dead yet.

Prentice issued a news release late yesterday morning outlining an "Accountability Act" that will be introduced in the fall session of the Legislature as a key part of the premier's new broom policy of total de-Refordization.

This followed announcements the day before declaring there would be a review of rural health care, which is in excellent condition compared to the health services situation in Alberta's major cities, and a move away from the Family Care Clinics promised by Redford to Primary Care Networks, which are likely to be easier for physicians to control.

That announcement, with unintended symbolism, was made at the well-equipped modern rural hospital in Olds, located just 16 kilometres from another well-equipped modern rural hospital in Didsbury.

At Prentice's side was still unelected Health Minister Stephen Mandel, the former mayor of Edmonton, who blundered into a discussion of how extended Emergency Room waits are caused by elderly "bed blockers" -- immediately prompting protests from health care workers who reminded him those bed blockers are human beings with little choice in the matter.

But if the health-care announcement was an imperfect success, the return to consolidated budgeting yesterday is a powerful symbol. As the Opposition parties will have to sadly agree, it is also sound policy.

Since Horner's innovation was universally loathed by left and right, ordinary citizens and high altitude politicos, not to mention the province's auditor general, this change is likely to be quite popular as well.

As for the other five points in Prentice's six-point accountability plan, voters will probably like them at first blush too, but I can't help thinking they and like policies will eventually sting Prentice's government.

By implementing tougher conflict of interest and lobbying rules, making officials wait longer before they can take jobs elsewhere, eliminating "sweetheart severance packages" (the premier's term, not mine) and eliminating all sole-source contracts, no matter how insignificant, isn't Prentice admitting his entire elected caucus is a bunch of clowns who can't be trusted to play unsupervised?

Really, if Alberta had a truth-in-legislation law, this bill would have to be called the "Ensuring Everything Is Locked Up Tight or Nailed Down so the PC Caucus Can't Walk Off With the Family Silver Act, 2014."

In many cases, these are the same people who will be running again for the new, completely different, vastly improved and totally reformed (supposedly) PC government of Prentice. Is it just me, or is this a potential problem?

Indeed, the sense that the premier thinks his own caucus is made up almost entirely of untrustworthy nincompoops is made more powerful by the government's communications about its next moves.

Government press releases nowadays emanate solely from El Maximo Lider -- Jim Prentice, himself. Typically they begin, "Premier Jim Prentice today announced…" Seemingly the only other trusted figures in his government are Mandel and Education Minister Gordon Dirks, who also, lest anyone has already forgotten, has not yet been elected.

It’s mildly reassuring, I suppose, that we were informed yesterday afternoon that Mandel and Dirks have been nominated to run in by-elections, the dates for which have not yet been set, the former in Edmonton-Whitemud and the latter in Calgary-Elbow, Redford's old riding.

Still, they're not elected yet. So what is this? Rome under the second triumvirate?

Extremely alert readers and those who are also extremely old may recall that the Second Triumvirate marked the end of the Roman Republic, which was not necessarily a good thing, depending on one's view of the relative merits of republican and imperial government.

I guess the real question here -- to stretch an obscure historical analogy like a rubber band -- is who will play the role of Octavian (whom most readers will recall as Emperor Augustus) in the Alberta government, Prentice … or Mandel?

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, Alberta Diary.

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