Darn that Canadian Constitution anyway! It's forcing Alberta's Wildrose Party-Progressive Conservative coalition to pretend this is a democracy, wasting time and causing embarrassment.
Without that inconvenient document, forced down the throats of unwilling Albertans with their unappetizingly bilingual cornflakes a couple of generations ago by the hated Pierre Trudeau, Alberta strongman Jim Prentice could just fire his MLAs for incompetence like any other self-respecting dictator. I mean, seriously, didn't he just say they deserved to be canned?
Instead, thanks to the perfidious and sneaky Liberal prime minister, Prentice has to pretend his MLAs have minds of their own, even while he subjects them to re-education behind closed doors for mistakenly imagining they were allowed to think for themselves and vote accordingly.
I mean, really! How dumb can you be?
This gave rise to the excruciatingly cringeworthy spectacle yesterday of the Legislature's supposedly independent Committee on Legislative Offices shamefacedly meeting and changing their vote from what they thought it was supposed to be a week ago, and then having to tell the media that this was a thoughtful and measured decision because, erm, you know, circumstances have changed!
You see, exactly a week ago, the PC-dominated committee voted to restore $546,000 to the AG's budget that it turned out Prentice wanted cut. Wow! Talk about embarrassing!
Poor Mr. Prentice immediately had to call a news conference and reassure Albertans that he was overruling the committee's decision.
That wouldn't have been such a big problem if there hadn't turned out that that constitution thing insisted MLAs can’t be told how to vote. Now, you may call that "responsible government," but it's not how we define responsible government in Alberta, where if you're and MLA you’re responsible to the premier and that's all you need to know.
So, yesterday, the committee had to all got together again and vote to take back that $546,000, like they were supposed to in the first place, while pretending this was all part of a thoughtful plan, which has the opposition, the less well behaved section of the media (fortunately small), the blogosphere, and most of the rest of Canada snickering at Alberta again.
Seriously, people, committee members kept telling the journalists who bothered to show up, we're still independent. Really.
As for the Premier's Office, it had to issue a statement explaining that Prentice is much too busy thinking about what to cut next to be ordering around committee members who, after a week of thinking about it, realized all on their own that they'd made a big mistake and got to work putting it right.
"The premier made his views with respect to the Auditor General's budget known last week, and today the committee met to reconsider that budget," a spokesthingy said on Prentice's behalf, at any rate. As for the two Opposition members on the committee, David Eggen of the NDP and Laurie Blakeman of the Alberta Liberals, they didn't change their votes, which just means they'll never be invited to play in the PC sandbox like the members of the Wildrose Party. Who can explain why Opposition members act as they do, or for that matter, why we even have Opposition members?
The fact the PC members of the committee obeyed the Premier's wishes "reflects very badly on this committee and very badly on the premier," Blakeman sniffed, a deeply shocking and hurtful thing to say to an Alberta Tory that will never be forgotten and never be forgiven.
Yes, a week is a long time in politics. But here in Alberta, a political week is eternity!
If only Opposition members, bloggers and the occasional smart-aleck reporter (the CBC’s John Archer, c'mon down!) could be made to straighten up and fly right like a PC MLA, stuff could be disappeared right down the Memory Hole where it belongs before you could whistle a bar of Under the Spreading Chestnut Tree.
On the bright side, from the premier's perspective, this little imbroglio drove the funding cuts to the Child Advocate right out of the news pages. Who can afford luxuries like investigating the deaths of children in care when you have oil companies to look after?
How many Alberta Tory MLAs does it take to screw in a light bulb? Two. One to screw in the light bulb and one to check with the premier to make sure they're supposed to screw it in.
This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.
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