Monday, October 01, 2007

Billion Dollar Boondoggle

Alberta's Auditor General brought down a scathing report today that contained almost half a dozen scandals inside of it. If you closed your eyes and imagined yourself in federal politics, or any other province, you'd have to see this as a fatal blow...because this is right up there with the worst reports Sheila Fraser has delivered. Kevin Taft has already called for an election and this report will certainly shift the focus away from Stelmach's impending decision on the royalty review. Because the question is no long whether or not Stelmach will implement the full report - we all know he'll make major changes. That's a no brainer at this point. And I don't mean "no brainer" in the sense of "it's a no brainer for anyone but Ed Stelmach" - even Ed will pull this one off. He'll try to spin it as standing up to the oil industry but, by this point, there isn't a politician alive who wouldn't make major oil royalties changes in Alberta. It's not really "leadership" when any brain dead primate would make the same decision.

The real question Stelmach needs to answer is why a government he was a Cabinet Minister in failed to act. He needs to explain why Ralph Klein and Greg Melchin repeatedly said government studies showed Alberta was getting its fair share, when the opposite was true. You want a billion dollar boondoggle? How about this:

The Alberta government knew as far back as three years ago that Albertans could collect at least another $1 billion a year from the oil industry, provincial Auditor General Fred Dunn said in his annual report.

The report, released Monday, paints a damning picture of lax accounting and accountability in the province’s energy ministry, years before the release of a royalty review panel report last month that concluded Albertans are not getting their “fair share” from oil and gas development, and should be collecting another $2 billion annually in royalties.

The principles of transparency and accountability, I believe, were not followed,” Dunn said. “I’m not impressed.”

Dunn said the province has had all the information it needed to harvest another $1 billion in royalties for years without harming the oil industry, but kept that information to itself.

“Neither this information nor the reasons why changes have not taken place have been made public,” his report said.

Despite this, Stelmach is still backing Greg Melchin. Now, by itself, lying to Albertans to cheat them out of several billion dollars is bad. But there's more:

1. Remember the fuss over golf balls at the federal level? Well, Tory MLAs have been spending up to $50,000 a year on gifts including "including golf balls, fridge magnets, books and watches." One wonders if Santa's gift budget is that high...

2. MLAs have been claiming exorbitant bonuses:

Some MLAs have collected surprisingly high monthly living allowances, or have given huge bonuses to their constituency staff, Auditor General Fred Dunn said today in his annual report.

In one case, a part-time constituency aide earned $18,000 a year, but received a bonus of $21,500. Three other MLAs doled out bonuses of more than $15,000 a year.

"The current guidelines that allow for unrestricted lump-sum payments to be made to employees are counter to the goal of equity and put the integrity of the system as a whole at risk," Dunn writes in the report.

Out-of-town MLAs are using "needlessly complex" rules to simultaneously tap several different pools of cash for their living expenses in Edmonton.

In March 2007 alone, one MLA claimed $5,425 and three others claimed $5,075 for a month for which a monthly capital residence allowance was $1,750.

3. A Mark Norris aide spent $50,000 on the government tab over three years without submitting any receipts. Norris himself racked up $10,000 in undocumented expenses on his own.

All this coming after what amounted to nearly weekly patronage and spending scandals throughout September.

Considering how loudly right wing Alberta screamed against the federal Liberals for similar transgressions, one wonders how much longer they'll put up with this.

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  • Actually, he doesn't need to explain himself because the AG report explains it all in black and white. Albertans need to ask themselves, however, why they kept re-electing Klein over and over again when they were getting screwed. If ever there were a time for Kevin Taft to shine, it's now. It's totally now. He's got to make a huge stink about this.

    On a side note, does anyone think that Harper's snub of the Press Gallery dinner on October 27th might have something to do with a plan to torpedo his government?

    Just being conspiracy minded, that's all.

    By Blogger Sean Cummings, at 10:46 p.m.  

  • "They've been in power so long, they're spending your money on Vegas stag parties. It's time to say enough is enough."

    Put that on the billboards. Even if the billions in unaccounted money doesn't grab people, this will. It's true. It's simple. It cuts deep.

    How can people still vote for these guys?

    By Blogger Par, at 11:46 p.m.  

  • dont tell anyone, but i need the money, and i am seeking a position on the alberta-florida transboundary committee. i believe mongolia also shares a border with alberta, so i will try for that committee too. wish me luck.

    By Blogger kenlister1, at 12:39 a.m.  

  • Considering how loudly right wing Alberta screamed against the federal Liberals for similar transgressions, one wonders how much longer they'll put up with this.

    To Dan & others, especially in Alberta: I'm curious whether you think either of the parties to the right of the Tories (by which I mean the Alberta Alliance or the new Wild Rose Party) are in a position to take advantage of this.

    While the Central Canadian/Toronto media has reported on Stelmach's troubles, little has been said about the potential (or lack thereof) of the parties to his right of him to make any gains as a result.

    I know that Dan, and probably most others, are not exactly in the AA/WRP target audience, so I'm asking you to put aside your personal views for a sec when you answer this one, and give an objective take for us folks "out east": Has Hinman done anything worthwhile since becoming leader, and/or is this new Wild Rose bunch going anywhere?

    By Blogger Jason Hickman, at 9:25 a.m.  

  • Wow Dan,

    I'm not sure if this is something you saw coming or not - it really shocks me, though. I guess I have the feeling that Taft will not be able to capitalize on it, but what do I know.

    At times I almost wonder if the Alberta Liberals should just change their name and disassociate themselves from the Federal Liberals. Make a Liberal "ADQ", more or less; Dumont is essentially a "Conservative", yet isn't. I don't know if that would help, but I'd be inclined to try it.

    I like Alberta a lot, but it seems a real shame to me that it's in this one-party mood right now. No system like that can go for long without big trouble exactly like this finally looming. It's always a lousy idea to let politicians not feel a bit antsy.

    I'm really sorry to hear this, scandals with public money always discourage me quite a lot.

    By Blogger Jacques Beau Vert, at 9:54 a.m.  

  • I would like to know if this comment from the current Energy reflects the official government position.

    "Current Energy Minister Mel Knight said Dunn's report actually reflects well on his ministry.

    He rejected the idea that his senior staff were negligent in failing to act on the department's internal recommendations.

    Knight also claimed Dunn, who is employed by the legislature, was airing personal grievances when he criticized the deputy minister.

    "It absolutely was a personal attack and I really feel that it wasn't necessary," Knight said."

    If the Alberta government truely believe that its auditor is biased and not objective, they should fire the auditor.

    I can't believe that a cabinet minister would say what Mel Knight has said.

    Either Mel Knight should resign or the auditor should be fired.

    By Blogger Down & Out in L A, at 12:40 p.m.  

  • I have a take on this, and its that all this corruption that is erupting is sourced in Calgary, where the Oil Barons guided Ralph Klein by the nose for over a decade. Now that power has shifted northward, they are not happy, and "suddenly" we hear about scandals that have taken place years ago under Klein and that horde of Amerikan Republikans living in Calgary.

    Its no news to me, you do not need the AG report to know that there was a lot wrong with the Klein Government and its relationships with the oil patch.

    Stelmach is the actual "opposition" to Calgary Power, and what is pushing back against the oil lobby is Edmonton, and rural Alberta that is simply fed up with the excesses of the Amerikan Republikans in Calgary that think Alberta is part of Texas.

    Finally about Kevin Taft, he has been given much more material to fight with then Lawrence Decore EVER had. But instead of building on Decores work, its almost like Taft is still working for his old boss Don Getty, because the Liberals do not seem to get any traction under his leadership.

    The Liberal Party of Alberta needs to get rid of the idea that it can parachute in failed Tory leadership hopefuls and bureaucrats and somehow "win" an election. What is needed is "real Liberals" like Lawrence Decore that actually stand for something.

    I can just see Mr. Decore now, waving his wallet in the air, as he criticizes the PCs for all these scandals. IF he were here today, he would WIN BIG, because he understood the people of this Province better than any recent PC leaders, with perhaps the exception of Stelmach.

    What is going to do in Stelmach is not the people of Alberta, rather it will be the scheming Calgary Oil Barons that are not happy putting some water in their wine.

    Remember, Tories love to fight each other more than fighting the Liberals or the NDP.

    By Blogger Unknown, at 12:52 p.m.  

  • I think Dave Bronconnier is a Liberal. Too bad he wants to be mayor again.

    By Blogger Sean Cummings, at 1:23 p.m.  

  • I am not surprised at all.

    I also expect we will soon see letters to the editors from conservative supporters saying that no matter how bad the conservatives have been, the federal liberals are worse.

    And then they will re-elect the conservatives.

    By Blogger Gayle, at 1:45 p.m.  

  • To Jason Hickman

    Paul Hinman represents a neighbouring riding.

    I really don't think he has made an impression and I am not aware of any big name candidates considering running for his party in other ridings.

    For the most part, the parties on the right will be a non-factor. They will only attract sigificant votes in rural areas where the Conservatives can afford to lose a few votes.

    Hinman will do well to hang on to his own seat in the next election.

    By Blogger Down & Out in L A, at 1:59 p.m.  

  • We need Daniel Paillé in Alberta.

    Remember him ?

    By Blogger Down & Out in L A, at 2:16 p.m.  

  • By Blogger 5689, at 9:55 p.m.  

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