Back in February 2013, then-Alberta-premier Alison Redford announced that, "recognizing the impact of falling resource revenues on our bottom line, my government will lead by example with a smaller, more focused cabinet."
At the time, the usual suspects in the provincial news media seemed to think her reduction of the cabinet from 20 to 19 was a laudable example of frugality.
Back then, only the Edmonton Journal's reporter picked up on the fact the main reason might be to skid a couple of cabinet under-performers and put tough-guy Thomas Lukaszuk, then the celebrated Mr. T. of Alberta, in place to focus on hammering post-secondary institutions with $147 million in budget cuts.
Fast-forward to 2015, and suddenly the Alberta comentariat is awash with anguish and outrage at the thought Premier Designate Rachel Notley's cabinet may be too small!
It turns out that reductions in the size of a cabinet by a Conservative premier was evidence of a laudable "new spirit of austerity," as one commentator put it, but the announcement of an even smaller cabinet by Notley proves her caucus is no good! Who knew?
"Notley's first cabinet will have just 12 members," Tweeted the Edmonton Sun's Dave Breakenridge. "Those critical of her bench depth proven right?"
"Obvious there's a shallow bench," Breakenridge clarified his views in response to another Twitterist who took issue with his commentary.
"Yes. Managerial experience lacking," chimed in still-loyal Edmonton Journal opinion-thingy David Staples on behalf of the Opposition teams.
So this reminds me of a joke, which I will just adapt the slightest bit to local conditions:
Rachel Notley and Jesus are in a rowboat in the Sea of Galilee… No! Make that South Cooking Lake. Notley is rowing, and Jesus is sitting in the back chatting, wearing one of those nice Tilley hats.
Well, the wind starts to blow up, and Notley says to Jesus, "Say, Jesus, you should probably put the chinstrap on or your hat will blow away!"
Jesus smiles, and just then a gust of wind picks up his hat and carries it about 20 feet away from the boat, where it lands in the water with a plop and sits bobbing on the waves.
Notley gives Jesus a reproachful look, puts down the oars, stands up, steps out of the boat and walks over to the hat. She picks it up, walks back to the boat, steps back in, shakes the water off the hat and hands it back it to Jesus.
Jesus thanks her and puts the hat back on his head, this time with the chinstrap firmly under his chin. Notley picks up the oars and begins rowing back toward the dock.
So, how do Breakenridge at the Sun and Staples at the Journal cover this story? The answer: "IT'S OFFICIAL! NOTLEY CAN'T SWIM!"
Meanwhile, yesterday, Calgary Herald political columnist Don Braid worked himself into a frothing swivet because the NDP used a reference to a public swearing in ceremony on the steps of the Legislature on Sunday as a hook to request a donation from supporters. Request. Donation. Supporters.
Is nothing sacred? "The method appeared to be a blatant exploitation of a government event for partisan fundraising purposes," Braid hyperventilated, passing on tidbits from Wildrose Leader Brian Jean.
Well, in his outrage, the columnist got this right: the email referred to a public event.
You could almost imagine Jean's head bobbling in agreement. "Obviously, it's unseemly," Mr. Braid quoted the designated Opposition leader exclaiming. "It's blurring the line between government and party!"
Jean, until recently, was a Member of Parliament for Prime Minister Stephen Harper's federal Conservative Party, standing in the 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2011 federal elections. Since 2006, the federal Conservatives have used $750 million in public funds for partisan advertising to help candidates like Jean get elected.
Now that's blurring the line between government and party!
Am I missing something here? I don't think so.
This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.
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