Ethical whiplash underscores the importance of opposition

Last week, a small group of government MLAs voted in committee to award 7.25 per cent pay increases for senior officers of the legislature

MLA Jason Nixon

Last week, a small group of government MLAs voted in committee to award 7.25 per cent pay increases for senior officers of the legislature. In addition, they voted to give themselves funding for an international Christmastime junket, to attend a conference at the prestigious Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel in Boston. The topic of said conference: Government Ethics.

Official Opposition members of this committee repeatedly warned these MLAs of the gargantuan misstep they were about to commit. I know, because I was one of them.

We pointed out that Alberta’s economy is hurting and thousands of our friends and neighbours have lost their jobs. We warned the committee that handing out a massive pay increase for senior government officials sends the wrong message. I personally made it clear I would not take part in the NDP’s junket, as did my colleagues MLA Nathan Cooper and MLA Glennvan Dijken. Sadly, our efforts to inject reality into the debate were met with blank stares.

So, once the meeting was concluded, we set about fulfilling our mandate as members of the Official Opposition. We took our case to the people; the public outrage at the NDP’s actions was swift and widespread. So much so, that within 24 hours a new meeting was scheduled to reevaluate the issues.

The issue was indeed reevaluated and on September 29 the NDP suddenly reversed the 7.25 per cent raise. The NDP had justified the tax hike as necessary to meet contractual obligations, and that it had been standard practice to vote raises for several years. Both claims were false.

This entire affair underscores the importance of having a strong Official Opposition. Since the election, this government has demonstrated a tendency to remain blissfully unaware of public sentiment. These are the ideal conditions for mismanagement; only a strong official opposition can endeavor to keep this government in check.

Albertans deserve better than this government’s ethical whiplash. So long as this administration remains oblivious to public concerns, our Official Opposition stands ready to take action.

And we can be a tremendous pain in the neck.