rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

Never mind Alison Redford: Alberta Finance Minister Doug Horner needs to resign

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca today for as little as $1 per month!

Doug Horner

If the Parliamentary convention called ministerial responsibility still has meaning in Alberta or Canada, Finance Minister Doug Horner must resign.

Everyone in political Alberta has been focusing on another question: what should happen to former premier Alison Redford in the wake of the many recent revelations about her controversial conduct in office?

This serves a political purpose for those with a partisan axe to grind, but as long as she is not found guilty of a criminal offence -- and as stated in this space yesterday, that is extremely unlikely to happen -- she has in fact already done the right thing in terms of Parliamentary tradition and convention.

That is to say, when it was demonstrated that she and members of her departmental staff had not done their jobs properly, she resigned from cabinet.

If she sticks around or runs for re-election, it is up to the voters -- not the courts or the other members of the Legislature -- to deal with her. Her Progressive Conservative caucus can kick her out if they like, but that is private party business.

Granted, the circumstances of Redford's resignation from cabinet amounted to a palace coup -- or, as it has been termed here, a Sky-Palace coup -- but, nevertheless, she has done the thing that is required of Parliamentary convention, defined here to mean, as my favourite political science textbook puts it, "a constitutional rule based on implicit political agreement and enforced in the political arena rather than by the courts."

So now, despite the interesting puzzle of why she acted as she did, the more important question has to do with Horner, who by all accounts is both an honourable person and a highly capable senior minister.

The trouble is -- as I am sure he well knows -- the convention of ministerial responsibility demands that he now resign from cabinet, although not from his seat in the Legislature.

"According to the doctrine," says that well-thumbed Canadian politics textbook of mine, The Canadian Regime by Patrick Malcolmson and Richard Meyers, "the minister who heads each department must be accountable to the House of Commons (or the provincial Legislature) for the conduct of each and every civil servant working in that department."

And Horner, while not responsible for the appalling and inexplicable behaviour of Redford's Premier’s Office staff, was the minister in charge of the government’s small fleet of aircraft.

As we now know, thanks to the CBC’s unauthorized report of Auditor General Merwan Saher's report on Redford's travel practices, someone made a practice of booking fake passengers on planes on which the premier planned to fly, to keep everyone but Redford's personal staff off the aircraft. (Why they didn't just use the sensible system of priorities that was standard operating procedure under her predecessor, in which premier Ed Stelmach had the ex officio power to bump whomever he pleased, because he was the premier after all, is a mystery.)

While the "ghost riders" scheme, by the sound of the news reports, seems to have originated with Redford's staff, it's hard to see how it could have happened without the collusion of officials under Horner's purview.

Now, this may seem unfair, because it is unlikely that Horner personally knew much about this practice. But, under the ministerial responsibility convention, that does not matter.

"On the most basic level, (ministerial responsibility) means that ministers may be asked in the House to investigate allegations of incompetence or impropriety in their departments and take appropriate measures," explain Professors Malcolmson and Meyers.

"If the incompetence or impropriety is substantial and may be attributed to poor management, however, the stakes become much higher," they write. "Under the doctrine of ministerial responsibility the minister must take personal responsibility for major problems of mismanagement." (Emphasis added.)

"In more serious cases of mismanagement, this means the minister must resign."

This is undeniably a serious case of mismanagement. Indeed, in the political arena, the fate of the whole PC government may rest upon it.

But in the Legislature, it means the minister must resign.

If Horner won’t resign, Premier pro tempore Dave Hancock has the responsibility to fire him.

This is undoubtedly not the way that Horner would like to end a long and distinguished career in public service. Moreover, if his party is not re-elected, he is not likely to be able just to step back into a cabinet position, as the tradition also permits.

And, no, it's not entirely just. But those are the rules of the game.

If Horner won't do what Parliamentary tradition demands, that too will have an impact on how history views his many accomplishments.

So, unfortunately, Horner needs to resign.

 

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, Alberta Diary.

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.

Comments

We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:

Do

  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.

Don't

  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.