When then municipal affairs minister Tracy Allard was busted by media when she returned from a mid-pandemic Hawaiian vacation at the end 2020, it was billed the first United Conservative Party (UCP) scandal of 2021.
Now that it’s been revealed Allard was covertly appointed as “parliamentary secretary for civil liberties” by Premier Danielle Smith last week, one could argue the MLA for Grande Prairie has a chance to be at the centre of the first UCP scandal of 2023 too!
Then again, there’s two weeks left until New Year’s Eve and at the rate Premier Smith’s been going, that’s plenty of time for two or three additional scandals, maybe more.
Rumours started circulating late last week that Allard had been appointed to the role of building the case for recognizing pandemic vaccine refuseniks as, in Premier Smith’s notorious words, “the most discriminated-against group that I’ve ever witnessed in my lifetime.”
Saturday, media reports confirmed her appointment.
Needless to say, unannounced appointments of parliamentary secretaries to cabinet ministers are unheard of in Westminster-style democracies.
Appointing elected officials to cabinet roles in secret is the sort of thing you’d expect from a paranoid government in chaos and on the verge of collapse, like … Well, never mind that thought just now.
Whatever it means, the Smith Government has now fessed up. The premier’s press secretary admitted that, yes, Allard is indeed now a parliamentary secretary reporting to Justice Minister Tyler Shandro.
Her picture has now also appeared on the Alberta Government website’s cabinet section, linked to a potted biography that gives no explanation of why she was appointed or what her duties might be. Well, maybe there’ll be a press release on Monday.
She will work, the CBC reported, on “further protecting private property rights,” “campus free speech,” and complaining about federal firearms restrictions.
In other words, dog-whistles that keep the UCP base in a mood to vote and donate.
By the way, “campus free speech,” for those of you who missed it, means the “right” of right-wing ideologues, anti-abortion extremists, racists, and homophobes to disrupt educational institutions on post-secondary campuses.
Former premier Jason Kenney accepted Allard’s resignation from cabinet after only 132 days as a minister on the first Monday of 2021, January 4. The prevailing view at the time, however, was that she wasn’t given much choice in the matter.
He also accepted the resignations of another cabinet minister and a top political aide, and demoted four MLAs, all for taking unauthorized vacations while the rest of us were instructed to hunker down at home to control the spread of COVID-19.
Allard’s lame excuse at the time was that “we have been going to Hawaii for most of the past 17 years since our youngest child was born.” She posted a Christmas video on Instagram four days before her return from Hawaii and tagged her location as the “Alberta Legislature Building.”
The other cabinet member was up-to-then parliamentary secretary Jeremy Nixon, MLA for Calgary-Klein. He is now Smith’s minister of seniors, community and social services.
With both Allard and Nixon back in the bosom of the Alberta cabinet, the clear message to the premier’s supporters is that not only have they been forgiven for their irresponsible behaviour during the pandemic, but are recognized as being among that “most discriminated-against group.”
If Allard is now responsible for civil liberties, perhaps she can look into the Smith Government’s plan to incarcerate people living with addictions in Edmonton and force them to receive injections of opium addiction medications.
Duncan Kinney, writing in the Progress Report, asked: “Are Danielle Smith and the UCP really going to force people to put Suboxone or Sublocade into people’s bodies after all the fuss they kicked up over bodily autonomy and COVID vaccines?”
This would certainly seem to be wildly at odds with the premier’s hostility to mandates that required citizens to be receive COVID-19 vaccinations in order to hold certain jobs, take part in some public activities, or use some modes of public transportation. (No one in Alberta was ever forced to be inoculated.)
Now that Allard has been appointed Alberta’s Civil Liberties Czar, I’m sure we all look forward to her response to this question.