One of the main reasons Albertans voted in the United Conservative Party (UCP) earlier this year was to eliminate the province’s $8.7 billion deficit and pay off the province’s debt, which they estimate will climb to $93 billion by 2023.
You may or may not agree with how the UCP has chosen to do that in its recent budget — cutting corporate taxes while laying off up to 2,000 public sector employees. But the goal is commendable, even if the methods may seem a little hard to swallow.
That said, it’s really hard to reconcile the UCP’s fiscally conservative approach with some of the things they have allowed their underlings to get away with.
For instance, the NDP revealed last week that Premier Jason Kenney’s principal secretary, David Knight Legg, managed to rack up more than $48,000 in expenses over the course of six months, including more than $18,000 spent on four trips to London.
That is absolutely atrocious. The UCP and others have tried to handwave Knight Legg’s hefty expenses by claiming that trips to London and major cities like New York are expensive, but one only has to do a tiny bit of research into flights and hotel prices to see that Kenney’s principal secretary has been living pretty high off the hog.
But that’s not the only concerning information that’s come out about the UCP’s governance over the past six months. We also learned recently that Steve Allan, the commissioner heading up the Public Inquiry Into Funding of Anti-Alberta Energy Campaigns, granted a sole-source contract to a law firm where his son is a partner.
This revelation about this potential conflict of interest came not from the NDP, but from the provincial media. CBC News had asked the province back in September how the firm was chosen for this lucrative contract, and all they got was a canned response.
Now, to be fair, $48,000 and even $905,000 are but drops in the bucket compared to the province’s overall 2019-2020 budget of $48.2 billion. And if you believe wholeheartedly that there are foreign entities attacking Alberta’s oilsands and we need to fight back, perhaps you can even believe these expenses are justified.
But that doesn’t change the fact that the UCP are seemingly spending money like it’s burning a hole in the government’s pocket while telling us regular Albertans that we all need to tighten our belts.
“Sorry, people living on AISH, we can’t index your payments for inflation because we need to balance the budget!
And we’re hearing these things after the UCP has only been in power for six months. Six months! What are the next three and a half years going to be like?