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Tales from the Political Crypt: Vote for me and I'll give it all to charity!

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Carl Benito

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Now that Jason Kenney, would-be uniter of Alberta's right, has promised to give his pension to charity for the duration if he manages to get elected to public office in Alberta, I suppose we should all be turning our minds to ensuring such promises are actually kept.

I am not implying that Kenney does not intend to keep his rather carefully worded vow -- in which he said he would donate his pension payments, which won't start for another seven years, only while he holds public office outside Ottawa.

In the meantime, take note, Kenney seems determined to continue collecting his salary as MP for the federal Calgary Midnapore riding while he campaigns to become leader of the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party with the intention of shutting it down and merging it into the Wildrose Party.

Of course, this may be because, thanks to the new leadership-election rules just adopted by the PC Party's officials, Kenney's election as the Boss Tory won't be the slam dunk he originally expected. If that's the case, he might just be being prudent by hanging onto a good job in his native Ontario. I'm not certain this is so, actually, so I promise to write more about this topic in a future post.

For the time being, though, it behooves us to remember that sometimes it easier to promise such a thing in the heat of an election campaign than to actually follow through when the cheques start to show up in the Canada Post super-mailbox at the end of your street in the dark of an icy Alberta winter.

As alert readers surely recall, such promises have been made in Alberta before -- only to yield bitter tears of disappointment and sarcastic blog posts.

I speak, of course, not just of Kenney -- who made his pension promise to the National Post while I was soaking up the culture in Germany -- but of another provincial Tory politician, one Carl Benito, erstwhile Progressive Conservative MLA for the riding of Edmonton-Mill Woods.

Back in 2008, while running as a PC for the provincial Legislature, Benito made the spectacular promise to donate his entire MLA salary to create a scholarship fund for students in his southeast Edmonton riding.

"Carl's personal pledge is to DONATE the salary allocated for his MLA position to a Scholarship Fund/Program to provide opportunities to our Youth with financial limitations who has the passion and determination to pursue higher education," Benito's campaign literature stated, without qualification.

Alas, once elected, Benito revised his promise somewhat, first telling the Edmonton Journal he didn't mean to donate all of his salary every year. "Basically one year salary is my commitment," he told the newspaper.

In fairness, it is important to note that in 2009 Benito did in fact donate $500 each to 12 high school students from his riding, which was very generous although considerably less than his entire MLA salary.

Nevertheless, a certain amount of sarcastic commentary was inevitable, followed by sharp rejoinders from some opposition politicians who nowadays hold considerably more important jobs.

Still, with such things happening in our fair province within memory, surely it is fair to ask Kenney to confirm that what he has in mind for a donation is, in fact, all of his pension, and for as long as he serves the public in an elected capacity. No?

For Benito's part, not long before he lost the PC nomination to run in the 2012 provincial election, he was involved in another controversy, in which he failed to pay municipal taxes on four rental properties he owned and then blamed his wife for the oversight when the matter came to public attention.

This did not go over well, and may have contributed to Benito's loss of the Tory nomination to businessman Sohail Quadri, who served one term as the MLA for the riding until the election of the NDP in May 2015.

Well, that at least is something Kenney will never do. Not only has he promised to provide the public with his tax returns, but as a confirmed bachelor he of course has no wife to blame for any administrative oversights.

Indeed, Wildrose Leader Brian Jean -- the only other contender at the moment for the job of leader of the united right, should the right indeed manage to unite -- subtly made this point recently when he published on his Facebook page photos of his recent nuptials to his former special assistant back in the days he was a Conservative MP in Ottawa.

For his part, Kenney implied to an Ottawa newspaper in 1999 that he had taken a personal vow of celibacy -- although he later tried to pass off the tale as a bit of mischief by the Liberals. "I'm a practising Catholic, and I take the teachings of my church pretty seriously when it comes to applying them to myself," he nevertheless told the Ottawa Citizen.

So … no problem there.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

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