In launching his campaign for the Alberta Progressive Conservative leadership on Wednesday, former federal cabinet minister Jim Prentice spoke of the need to repair the “bond of trust” between Albertans and their elected representatives.
On Thursday, Alberta’s former jobs minister Thomas Lukaszuk, who is seeking the PC leadership as well, also vowed to work to rebuild voter trust. Earlier this month, former infrastructure minister Ric McIver, in announcing his candidacy for the PC leadership, similarly targeted the excesses which marked Alison Redford’s stint as premier by repeating that Albertans are “the bosses.”
Regardless of who winds up wearing the mantle as the Tories’ new leader, they will have some work ahead of them to regain the trust of Alberta citizens.
Prentice said Wednesday that anyone who wants to be part of the government he hopes to lead “will be held to the standard of being a servant of the people of Alberta.”
Unfortunately, the idea of elected representatives being servants of the people seems to be lost on some politicians, and that has contributed to much of the cynicism on the part of the voting public who feel their government representatives have lost touch with average citizens. This notion reached an apex during the Redford era and stirred the public outrage which led to Redford’s resignation as leader.
But grumblings about the aura of entitlement in political circles has existed long before Redford became premier, and it’s found at the federal level as well as provincial politics. In Alberta’s case, it has been suggested that the long reign of the Progressive Conservatives – closing in on 43 years – has produced a governing party that has become so complacent that it no longer respects the electorate it serves.
That’s the key word – serves. Elected officials are chosen to represent the interests of the voters. When they begin putting their own interests ahead of those of the public they serve – there’s that word again – they have stopped being the “public servants” they are paid to be.
Prentice, McIver and Lukaszuk are correct that there are changes needed to restore public trust in government. They’re saying all the right things in the early going of their campaigns to become leader of the Alberta PCs and ultimately lead the Alberta government. But Albertans are likely getting tired of promises. They made it clear they were tired of cronyism and luxury perks at their expense in the uprising that forced Redford out of the premier’s office.
It’s going to take some real changes to repair the broken trust between Albertans and the people who are supposed to serve them.