Braid: Dissenters deeply resented by Tories

Braid: Dissenters deeply resented by Tories by Don Braid, February 21, 2013, Calgary Herald
The PCs don’t forgive readily, and they never forget. … During the 2008 election campaign, Jack Davis, then CEO of the old Calgary Health Region, declared a medical emergency and demanded extra funding from the government. Again the PCs were livid. Within four months, the health regions were abolished. There were many reasons for that decision; but one was the growing tendency of the health regions to speak up about local problems. Since then, with the rise of much stronger opposition and the general weakening of the old PC consensus, the campaign against dissent has become more zealous.

Last February, you might recall, Griffiths called for a boycott of an Alberta Urban Municipalities Association breakfast by all PC MLAs. His reason? Linda Sloan, the AUMA president, had said local funding decisions were tainted by “pork-barrel politics.” But Stephen Carter, then Redford’s chief of staff, posted a remarkable tweet: “Let’s be clear. Linda Sloan didn’t just criticize the budget. She lied. Maliciously.” Many Albertans were shocked. Carter had to apologize. The ridiculous MLA boycott never happened. The PCs retreated, but they had shown their claws, and it was disquieting.

The worst thing about these episodes — the dangerous thing — is that they take advantage of the power relationship. The province is a major funder of the municipalities, and almost the sole money spout for health care and education. Always the government’s instinct is to keep full control over these sectors, using their monopoly on your tax dollars for leverage. As northern MLA Hector Goudreau once said bluntly in an e-mail to a school board, stop criticizing or you risk losing that new school. Calgary has produced a few brave public figures who, like Mayor Nenshi, will put a toe across this line. And every time, the government stomps it. [Emphasis added]

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