Letter – Politicians need to lead by example

UCP Travelgate brings up some interesting issues.

I have been thinking about this since it hit the news and have come to some conclusions about my feelings and opinions on this. My feelings and opinions may not reflect the views of family and friends. This is going to be long so settle in with your beverage of choice.

I happen to know of a few people who have travelled across country or out of country, whether for a short trip or the snowbirds. While I would not choose to travel in this way at this time, both the federal government and our provincial government have “cautioned against” travel but have not outright banned it. So for those of you who have chosen to travel please be safe while gone, please be safe coming home, and quarantine when you get back.

Where I find my anger rising is with the people that we, as the public, have chosen to represent us at both levels of government. When you chose to step forward and “represent” the people in your riding, you are immediately held to a different and higher level of accountability. You immediately forfeit your right to privacy [whether you like it or not] as well as your right to express your personal opinion [ we all know about towing the party line] or to do whatever you want, consequence free.

This brings me to one of the challenges I am facing with our premier, Lesser Slave Lake MLA Pat Rehn, as well as the MLA for the Grande Prairie region. I now know there are more representatives that have traveled but lets focus on these three.

Let’s start with our premier. To put it bluntly, the cabinet ministers do not take a shit without the ministers team knowing when and where they do it. The premier and his office control everything that a minister says and does and you can guarantee any trips that are taking his political team out of the country have been approved by someone on his team, more than likely his chief of staff. This is just another point indicating how absolutely out of touch the premier is with Albertans today.

Let’s move on to MLA Rehn. Hey buddy, I wasn’t sure if you actually existed in our riding, I was beginning to think you were like Snuffleupagus, a figment of most peoples’ imagination.

While I may not have agreed with a lot of the NDP policy from the previous term, our MLA did an outstanding job being in all of the communities throughout the riding and brought forward our concerns [often knowing full well they were not going to fall within party policy]. She was still our voice and brought our concerns forward.

On the other hand, Rehn [note I did not recognize his station] has been elusive in our riding and definitely is a backbencher within the cabinet. He is very good at going to home visits with his ardent supporters but is not around to handle the tough questions, or to represent us with a voice in the legislature.

If you take he time to read the Hansard, he is almost non-existent in any way. It is actually pretty sad. The fact that he is so oblivious to the challenges in his riding that he heads off on an out of country vacation is laughable. Shame on you, but I guess it doesn’t really matter because you are not doing your job when you are here.

Where my anger really starts to boil is with the stupidity exhibited by Alberta Minister of Municipal Affairs Tracy Allard. Again, while I do not agree with her decision to travel, and think it is disrespectful to the people she represents, it is her statements in her press conference today that have my blood boiling. Until the interview my opinion of her was fairly neutral, just another dumb politician unaware of the mood of the people. After the interview, I truly believe that she should literally resign in her riding and get out of public life and her speech writer should be fired.

Let’s break this down. Here is the statement that made my head explode:

“During a media conference Friday, she said the trip was part of a long-standing tradition for her family”.

Really, are you that ignorant that you think the word “tradition” would mollify people as to your trip abroad.If you developed this speech with your speech writer then you better fire that person because you pay them to prevent a statement so utterly stupid and if you, yourself made the decision to use these words then this is just another checkmark against you.

Here is why the statement is a problem. I am not here to argue about the validity of COVID or how the government and Albertans are handling it specifically. Where the problem lies for me is in the word “tradition.” It has been tradition for her family to got to Hawaii for Christmas, great, I am sure all families would like to go on a trip like that every Christmas.

The bigger problem with the words long-standing tradition is as follows. I have tried to list these from most fun to most devastating:

  • it is tradition to stop by at the neighbours for a coffee on a dreary day;
  • it is tradition to have a birthday party or a gathering to celebrate life milestones with friends and family;
  • it is tradition to go and visit family and friends and have large family gatherings on major holidays;
  • it is tradition to celebrate graduations with your classmates and friends;
  • it is tradition to go and visit grandparents, parents and old friends at seniors facilities;
  • it is tradition to have fathers and often moms in the delivery room as a mother brings a new life into the world;
  • it is tradition for us to help our medical teams when we have family with diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia;
  • it is tradition to sit by someone’s bedside as they are facing the last weeks, days and hours of their life;
  • it is tradition to have a funeral when a loved one dies to share in the grief and memories, to begin the healing process together.

There are so many things in life that have been taken away from us right now and the sheer stupidity of this MLA to justify a poor decision of taking an unnecessary trip on tradition is mind blowing.

You, fine lady, could have apologized and admitted to your bad judgement, but instead you slapped every Albertan in the face who has not been able to partake in traditions that are far more critical to the well being of the citizens you represent than a trip to Hawaii.

Tammy Henkel,
High Prairie.

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