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Wednesday, 06 February 2013 13:55

Two leaders — two ways to wipe away the egg

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Sometimes in politics, a decision is made which makes the government wipe proverbial egg off its face.

It’s the dog days of winter and it has not been kind to Alberta Premier Alison Redford and to a lesser extent Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall.
Remember this?
“I intend to balance the budget by 2013-14 without raising taxes.”
Redford told the Canadian Taxpayers Federation in writing and to everyone else who would listen that fiscal responsibility, openness, smart and cost effective government would be her mantra. Nearly three quarters of the way through her first year in office, there’s been nothing but scandal, reports of a self-indulgent government: waste, overspending and all done with a cold, sense of entitlement.
Now, she’s scrambling to not only get egg off the government’s face, but figure out the best way to dig the province out of a fiscal hole.
After spending a lot, including giving money back to education which was cut during Ed Stelmach’s time and promises of various government programs, Redford is running into issues.
There has been some high profile cases of wasteful government spending including more than $113,000
in unused hotel expenses after failing to reclaim a deposit when suits were cancelled at a five-star hotel in London during the Olympics. Even after the Alberta entourage was reduced to 29 people, the government still spent more  than half a million dollars on the trip.
There has been questionable expenses made by everyone from the premier’s sister, to Tourism Minister Christine Cusinelli who along with Enterprise and Advance Education Minister Stephen Kahn were ousted from cabinet. Vermilion-Lloydminster Richard Stark took Kahn’s post while Deputy Premier Thomas Lukaszuk added Tourism to his portfolio.
This in the name of a leaner cabinet.
“Recognizing the impact of falling resource revenues on our bottom line, my government will lead by example with a smaller, more focused cabinet,” said Redford. “These changes will allow us to continue to build Alberta by putting a priority on economic diversification and growth.”
Tee hee.
Yes, they’ve reduced cabinet by one and now Lukaszuk gets extra pay for having two portfolios. That kind of “lean” is like ordering a diet pop with your super-sized cheeseburger meal.
Now the March 7 budget approaches and Redford is doing everything from pleading her case about less-than-expected oil royalties on a paid television address to running a “What would you do?” interactive budget where Albertans can “control” the cutting or increasing of taxes and spending.
At best, it’s signs of her trying to address critics who say she is distant and doesn’t care what the voters want. At worst, Redford is so frustrated, she has thrown her hands in the air and said ‘I don’t want to do it.
Do you think you can do better?’”
Like the website, Redford is living in a world of make-believe.
Either way, she has painted herself in a corner
where a promise of a balanced budget is laughable considering a shortfall of anywhere from $3 to 7 billion depending on the day and which way the wind is blowing.
In Saskatchewan, there’s Brad Wall’s 2012 decision to eliminate the Saskatchewan Film Tax Credit. Film and television producers were returned a percentage
of money they spent in the province in exchange for insuring there are Saskatchewan people hired.
Wall decided to eliminate that credit.
In a case of unfortunate timing, shortly following the release of current Kamloops Daily News and former Regina Leader Post’s sports editor Gregg Drinnan’s book Sudden Death: The Incredible Saga of the 1986 Swift Current Broncos, Trilight Entertainment Inc. has decided to produce a live-action feature film adaptation of the book. The company also announced it would not shoot in Saskatchewan because of the lack of financial incentive, i.e. cutting of the Sask. Film Tax credit.
Not only is it a high-profile project about a famous Saskatchewan event, but the story takes place in Wall's hometown. One can hear “I told you so” emanating from Speedy Creek’s art community.
While suggestions on Twitter and Facebook suggest political gamesmanship by the film company, the fact remains, it’s not good optics for Wall.
This political coincidence won’t constitute too much but cyberspace snickers from those jealous of Wall’s popularity, but it can’t help but put a tiny dent in his seemingly-invincible political armour.
There are rumblings Wall might try to work out something with the film industry as early as this week.
How Wall and Redford handle future decisions will dictate how long they enjoy sitting as the leaders of their respective provinces.
So far, Wall has kept a relatively low profile while Redford continues to politically flail her arms.
Time will tell what approach will work in the court of public opinion.
Ryan Dahlman is managing editor of the Prairie Post. Contact him with your comments about this opinion piece at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Ryan Dahlman

Managing Editor