PC culture of corruption continues
A column by Airdrie MLA Rob Anderson
Just prior to the last election, the Wildrose Caucus summarized the dozens of PC scandals and boondoggles of the prior years into one simple phrase – ‘The PC Culture of Corruption.’
Strong language indeed – but completely accurate as shown this past week by yet another taxpayer funded scandal.
In this most recent scandal, Allaudin Merali, the newly minted Chief Financial Officer of Alberta Health Services (that’s right, the guy who tracks all expenses for the superboard), was let go after it became public through a news outlet that he had billed taxpayers almost $350,000 in expense claims – in addition to his nearly $500,000 per year salary - between 2005 and 2009. These expenses included things like phones for his Mercedes, lavish travel, expensive bottles of wine and – take a moment to breath – butlers… yes butlers.
So, how are the provincial PCs involved in this madness? Answer: up to their eyeballs.
First, the released documents revealed that Health Minister Fred Horne got to live off of the Merali high life when he had a $200 lunch with him. Horne cannot seem to recall having that lunch… I guess he has so many $200 lunches with health officials he has apparently lost track of them all.
Second, Premier (Alison) Redford and her Cabinet offered to hire Merali this past March just prior to the election to be their new - please be seated for this - head controller over Alberta’s Treasury Board.
The Office of the Controller is “responsible for government accounting standards and financial reporting, financial management and control policies, performance planning and reporting and the business process reengineering initiative.”
This was a curious hiring decision as Merali, after his stunt with Capital Health where he dooped taxpayers out of the aforementioned $350,000, was hired as a consultant in Ontario in 2009 and was intimately involved as one of the members of the well documented “health scandal.”
Health was an initiative in Ontario to create an electronic health record, but was criticized by the Ontario Auditor General as a billion-dollar waste with out-of-control spending and no safeguards to protect taxpayers.
During this Ontario scandal Merali charged Ontario taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars including $64,625 over a 24-day period including up to $550 for swanky restaurants in downtown Toronto.
But surely the Redford PCs didn’t know of all this insanity when they offered him the job of overseeing Alberta’s entire treasury? Right? Let’s ask Finance Minister Doug Horner… take it away Doug…
“(I was) well aware of the Ontario situation (but) we were also aware of a number of very positive things he had done…you balance a person’s career in totality, not just over one issue.”
That’s right finance minister, just because someone was in the middle of a spending scandal in Ontario is no reason why he shouldn’t be placed at the head of our provincial treasury…
Our esteemed Deputy Premier, Thomas Lukaszuk, confirmed Horner’s statement saying that the hiring of Merali had the approval of the entire cabinet (which included Redford and her Horne).
Horne, on the other hand, in typical Horne fashion, doesn’t seem to recall participating in this decision while health minister.
And now proving that fact is indeed stranger than fiction – there is yet more to this sad story.
Merali turned down the offer by the Redford PCs to be head controller of the provincial treasury because he had secured a much better deal from the PC appointed Alberta Superboard.
Indeed… for his three-month stint as CFO of Alberta Health, it is expected that Merali will receive hundreds of thousands of dollars in severance for all his great work.
This after he received hundreds of thousands in severance when he left Capital Health for Ontario in 2009.
Oh, and you may be shocked to learn that Merali is a longtime Tory supporter and donor…
Albertans often ask me why we have such poor health care results compared with other provinces when we spend so much more?
It is primarily because of a 41-year culture of corruption, entitlement, patronage and waste that deems itself unaccountable to anyone – and the only ones who can stop it are those who cast ballots in 2016.
Until then, don’t be surprised to see more of these horror stories and more feigned outrage from the very folks who built it.