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Saturday, July 18, 2009

Stelmach Boots Boutilier Out of Caucus


So Boutilier was bounced out of caucus by the Premier. Quel surprise! What are we as citizens to read into all of this? What is the real motivation behind this move by the Premier?

Is it an internal party and caucus matter only? Is it a bigger issue about representative democracy versus leadership dominated politics? Is it about being a unified team (aka message mouthing sheep) as a governing party apparatus? Is it personal to Boutilier, since he has a very checkered political record and has not a very effective Cabinet level politician anyway. Could it be the last straw about Boutilier that goes all the way back to his questionable intervention while serving as Minister of the Environment and his ill-advised direct testimony "as an MLA" in a regulatory hearing on a Suncor oilsand project? Could it be because he supported Oberg in the leadership? Could it be all those thing...and more?

I'm betting all of that and more is behind Premier Stelmach last straw decision with the political future of Guy Boutilier as a Progressive Conservative. I expect Boutilier will be courted by the Wildrose Alliance and his Independent status will not last too long as he seek revenge by sitting as a WRAP MLA. Boutilier was one of the few caucus members to support "Ralph can't fire me because I know where the skeletons are buried" Lyle Oberg in his leadership bid for the Progressive Conservative Party.

Oberg you will remember besmirched the entire PC caucus with those comments. In a stroke of political theatrical brilliance Klein had the PC caucus expel Oberg from their ranks. Klein stayed "above the fray" and rightly so because Oberg's skeleton remarks insulted every other PC MLA in the caucus. Boutilier has only targeted the Minister of Health and since Stelmach made that appointment, the Boutilier challenge is directly at the Premier too. Stelmach picked up Guy's gauntlet and was a one-man bomb disposal crew as he personally dumped Guy from the PC caucus.

As for Guy, he got was was coming to him. It was incumbent on the Premier to fire him under the circumstances. I am all for more open debate and public discussion by governing MLAs on public policy but Boutilier was over the line and was asking for the obvious political consequences. It is entirely appropriate for an MLA to push politically for your constituency needs but it is about time, place and technique.

The timing tone and content of Boutilier's criticism of the Minister of Health and the personalization of his media comments, like accusing the Minister of "gibberish", went over the line. Stelmach has no choice but to boot him. Boutilier wants to talk to caucus who he implies are his "accusers." That was a request appropriately denied by Stelmach. The Premier is Boutilier's accuser and Stelmach is rightly in his rights as Boutiler's political nemesis. Stelmach has spoken on the issue of Boutilier's future with the PC caucus with great clarity. There is none! Move on!

Boutilier is no hero, nor is he an innocent victim, nor is he a martyr in this medieval morality play of partisan politics. He is merely a guy who doesn't get it and is quite frankly very late into the game of constituency representative democracy. For years he fiddled and frittered while his constituency, Wood Buffalo and particularly Fort McMurray, burned with growth pressures, infrastructure shortfalls and enormous safety and social crisis.

There are no winner is this embarrassment for all ofus who are of a PC persuasion - from the Premier down to mere members like myself. There are lots of loser however. The good folks of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo still have serious social, growth, infrastructure, safety and capacity problems. Now they have nobody in the critical government caucus meetings to keep them up keep up to date on what is really happening that impacts them. They are the big losers in all of this. Their continuing efforts to respond to these enormous challenges for their unique and hard pressed community are caught hard in these recessionary times. We now have many more Alberta communities facing challenges just like Fort McMurray. But that does not solve the problem nor fix the consequences of the systemic neglect inherent in the Fort McMurray reality of over two decades of gold rush growth in the oil sands.

Stelmach has done the only thing the partisan political circumstances allow him to do. He had to turf Boutilier, and for so many reasons. In the hothouse of partisan politics it was a decision that is totally justified. This result is more attributed to Boutilier's doing than Stelmach's. It is not a situation that enables a more enlightened discussion about presenting a more open and representative democracy. It is all about asserting leaderhisp in a climate that is all about raw power in politics. Guy played his hand and was trumped by ht ePremier. That trick is over but the game goes on. Guy, however, is no longer at the table and will no longer be dealt any political cards by the Stelmach government.

As for a better governance model, we have nothing to learn or applaud from the travesty of these recent events. It is time for citizens to act like owners of the oil sands, the water, the land, the air and the democracy that makes up Alberta. It is too serious a situation to leave to petty politics and partisan infighting...regardless of your political persuasion. Without a re-engagement in politics by Albertan these events will rule, become the norm and everyone loses. Please tell me citizens of Alberta that your sense of being Albertan and you sense of shared and personal responsibility for this place is greater than indicated by these offensive events.

I hope the lessons for Albertans is such that they will re-engage in the political culture of their province. Politics stinks because you and I have abdicated our shared responsibility and have allowed it to rot.