Cabinet Ministers are not merely abject followers

Today’s Edmonton Journal (A20) carries a Letter to the Editor (Blame former Premier only) that epitomizes how challenging it is to understand politics in Alberta.

The writer argues that former Premier Redford is solely responsible for the current situation faced by the provincial governing party:  the Minister responsible for the government’s air fleet should rightly remain ignorant of the questionable actions or, if not ignorant, certainly silent  “…Like any experienced politician, (Finance Minister) Horner is fully aware that even the slightest criticism of the ex-Premier’s rash decisions would be an exercise of futility, and would probably mean demotion from his Cabinet post…”

Cabinet Ministers, like the directors of corporations and not-for-profit societies owe the duty of care (using skill and being diligent) and the duty of loyalty (and both duties are owed to the people of Alberta, not to the Premier).  The Minister responsible for the government’s air fleet owes it to the people of Alberta to assure his staff that they could safely tell him if they feel they are being coerced by other Ministers or the Premier (or their staff):  that is the duty of care.  The Minister also owes the people of Alberta his first loyalty, if it appears that anyone, including the Premier is misusing public office:  that is the duty of loyalty.  The Minister of Finance is not alone in owing the duty of care and the duty of loyalty to the people of Alberta.  Every Cabinet Minister has owed the same duties to Albertans, through this entire episode, just as previous Cabinets have similarly owed it to Albertans in earlier episodes.

In days gone by, Ministers of the Crown stood up to Premiers and Prime Ministers, and resigned rather than abandon their duty of care and loyalty.

It is a shame that any Albertan would promote the proposition that keeping one’s position as a Minister is more important than the duties of care for, and loyalty to, all Albertans.

Also in days gone by, Premiers were often referred to as, “first among equals”, the implication being that all Cabinet members were equally part of a leadership team and shared mutual moral responsibility for what happened.  The concept of “first among equals” means that the duties of care and loyalty — to the people of Alberta — are shared by all Ministers, not carried solely by the Premier who is then solely responsible for failures.

The current dissociation represents an affirmation by the entire Alberta Cabinet that it believes in the concept of the paramount leader, and abandons any moral responsibility for the character of that leadership, whether represented by Ms. Redford, or Mr. Hancock, or the next Leader.  Apparently, there was no time in Ms. Redford’s tenure that any member of Cabinet considered himself or herself her moral equal — a leader as much as she was — on any issue.  Apparently, Cabinet operates on the basis that where ignorance is bliss, ’tis folly to be wise.

That is not a standard Albertans want to accept from their government, let alone advocate on behalf of Cabinet Ministers.


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