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COLUMN: Excuse me, I'm entitled

"Despite Premier Jason Kenney's failure of leadership, he shouldn’t have to tell responsible, “Honourable” people not to go on vacation."
Jackson Roger
Columnist Roger Jackson

I, _____, swear that I will diligently, faithfully and to the best of my ability execute according to law the office of _____. So help me God.

With these words, government members so designated by the Premier are sworn in as members of Cabinet (Members of the Legislative Assembly give a simpler oath of faith and allegiance). With these words, the chosen openly declare themselves to be people willing and able to carry out their duties with honour and integrity, and according to law. A qualifier, it seems, is to do so to the best of their abilities.

I suppose the great message from the Bible about Adam and Eve is that they’re human, capable of strength and honour, but also fallible, capable of weakness and disobedience. We all make mistakes – behave badly, err in judgement, etc. If our error is bad enough and affects people, and if we’re decent, we apologize and maybe promise to never do it again (I mean, why apologize if you’re likely to commit the discretion again?). Apologies are hard, especially hard if admitted publicly. Public apologies from politicians are not common but when rendered can soften citizen hearts.

But how soft-hearted need we be when someone who makes the rules (or is part of the group that does) demands adherence to the rules, then themselves defy the rules for their own benefit?  

One weak defence for the Alberta ministers, MLAs and staff who left the province for a Christmas break is they didn’t break the law. Gimme a break! There are advisories about out-of-province travel during the pandemic, which intensify during periods of lockdown, when our freedoms are limited to “bend the curve” of COVID infection.  We don’t like it but we get it, most of us, and we abide by it. We don’t want to risk contracting COVID, risk giving it to anyone else, especially elderly people, family and friends. We’re also dutiful citizens, most of us, who abide by logical rules because that’s what civilized people, thoughtful citizens, do. We just know what to do, most of us. It’s basic decency and common sense. The lack of it is the crux of the problem for Jason Kenney and his government now.

Kenney knows where all of his ministers, staff and most, if not all, his MLAs are at any time. He’s a smart man and perhaps a bit of a micromanager. Kenney knew who took off out of province over Christmas. He didn’t stop it. But despite that failure of leadership, he shouldn’t have to tell responsible, “Honourable” people not to go. Common sense and good judgment – basic requirements for elected officials – should have told them not to go. The late, great Bob Clark, former Alberta politician and ethics commissioner, once said if you have ask if something is okay to do, then it probably isn’t. 

Premier Kenney and his team just dug a deep hole for themselves.  As they try to climb out, they may find many citizens are still “mad as hell and not gonna take this anymore.” Mr. Kenney needs Bob Clark, but he’s no longer available to help him, nor by the way our own Mayor and one of our city councillors.