08/01/2014 11:45 EDT | Updated 10/01/2014 05:59 EDT

We Won't Get Fooled Again - Alison Redford and Conservative Entitlement

Rampant entitlement and disregard for the rules are part and parcel of Alberta's conservative political class. What's special about the Redford stories is only that she is getting caught and called out on her bad behavior.


Every Albertan has probably heard someone say that if you don't like the weather you need wait only five minutes for it to change. Over the last few months, a new provincial saying has emerged: if you're bored with Alberta politics you need wait only five minutes for the next Redford story to come out.

Hand-wringing over the endless barrage of Alison Redford's scandals has practically become a sport in Alberta politics. Each of these stories is met with the predictable frothing at the mouth and reddening of the face. This past week, even leadership frontrunner Jim Prentice got in on the action, issuing a stern condemnation of Redford's sins.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not suggesting that Alison Redford's various fiascoes aren't cause for complaint.

But what the pundits would have you believe is that all of this has to do with Alison Redford when, in fact, it has little to do with the former Premier. Or, at least, it has little to do with Redford specifically.

Rampant entitlement and disregard for the rules are part and parcel of Alberta's conservative political class. What's special about the Redford stories is only that she is getting caught and called out on her bad behavior.

Perhaps UFCW Local 401's proximity to the private sector is part of what makes this entire affair seem so familiar to us. After all, conservative politicians and industry leaders go together like very oily peanut butter and very rich jelly. So we deal with conservatives' industry friends every day.

As we work to represent the needs and best interests of our members, we regularly confront managers and CEOs who feel perfectly entitled to exorbitant salaries and bonuses while stiffing their employees on modest raises. Not once have I ever witnesses a hint of shame or embarrassment at the obvious hypocrisy of this situation.

The similarity in behavior between conservative politicians and their industry friends is uncanny.

For months, conservatives demonized frontline public sector workers for demanding modest wage increases during negotiations and went so far as to introduce legislation limiting those workers' ability to bargain collectively. After losing that battle, those same politicians turned around and gave their senior management similar raises with barely a word.

The difference between the two groups? The senior managers are well-paid government bureaucrats, whereas the frontline workers are average Albertans just trying to make a decent living. One of the groups was branded public enemy number one for demanding raises and the other was given a raise as a matter of fact.

Sound like familiar tactics? Birds of a feather, as they say.

Again, it's entitlement run amuck providing one set of rules for those with money and power and another set for those without.

Do we honestly believe, then, that Alison Redford is somehow the rogue conservative out of an entire party? We're talking about a party that has been in power for more than forty years in this province. Entitlement is second nature to these folks.

It is all too convenient to point fingers solely at Redford. Fuming conservatives are provided with an easy and safe scapegoat, while sparing themselves a painful look at the much larger problem of ethical rot that exists within their party.

And before you jump on the Wildrose bandwagon as a solution to this problem, it's worth remembering that Danielle Smith's team is dominate by disaffected Harper-style conservatives who don't feel that the PCs go far enough. A quick look at federal politics reveals just how well that brand of conservatism has served us - entitlement and hubris on a whole different level.

I wholeheartedly understand the frustration many Alberta voters feel. Back in 2012, the election of Alison Redford was supposed to mark a new direction for the province with a different kind of leadership.

Clearly, we were sold a false bill of goods because all we got was more of the same. Let's not fall for the same trick twice.

Progressive Conservatives under different management will still be Progressive Conservatives. And with the Wildrose Party, you can skip right past the "progressive" and go straight to the kind of extremist conservative politics that brought you the Temporary Foreign Worker Program and the Mike Duffy Senate scandal.

Instead, let's take the opportunity of this latest outrage to consider just how utterly conservative politics have failed us and think about voting for a real alternative that will build a better province for all Albertans.

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