A political insider who once worked to defeat Alison Redford says the way her former allies have lined up to denounce her and call for a police investigation into her actions as premier is unfair and could damage Alberta’s reputation abroad.
Tom Flanagan, a distinguished fellow at the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy, made the comments on Thursday’s Calgary Eyeopener.
“I just think we should take more care with the reputation of individuals. And what kind of image is this for the rest of the world that Alberta now is siccing the police on to a former premier,” he said.
“You know, this really has overtones of banana republic on it.”
Flanagan, who was the campaign manager for the opposition Wildrose Party in the 2012 election, said it was premature for some Alberta politicians to suggest the police should investigate her use of government aircraft and other spending during her tenure before the auditor general released his final report on the matter Thursday.
“I think people in authority could wait a few days, get better information about what exactly the allegations are, and then say something responsible at that time. But when prominent political figures jump in like that, I don’t think it does any good and I think it can be very destructive.”
Instant media cycle
Flanagan said part of the problem is the media’s voracious appetite for rapid-fire news developments.
“I think we have this hyped up media cycle today which politicians are part of, and everybody’s trying to react instantly to news reports which may or may not be well verified and which may or may not have adequate context around them for interpretation,” he said.
In the 2000 federal election, Flanagan was in charge of the Conservatives Party’s rapid response unit.
"So I’ve seen this from the inside as well as from the outside,” he said.
“I’ve been a player, I have to take my share of responsibility for any of that. But now that I’m outside it, you can see how destructive this is, can be, to individuals.”
Flanagan knows what it’s like to suddenly become a pariah. Last year he was heavily criticized for comments he made about child pornography, suggesting it was not always appropriate to jail people for viewing such pictures.
Flanagan was dropped as a regular commentator on CBC television, and his longtime political allies in Ottawa and Edmonton condemned his views. Flanagan later apologized and said he absolutely condemns the sexual abuse of children.
“I guess what happened to me makes me more sensitive to these kinds of situations,” Flanagan said.
“Let’s hypothetically say that what Ms. Redford did was perhaps bad judgment, but she’s already paid the price for that. She’s lost her job as premier. Do we have to pile on and damage her reputation further? You know, I just think a little more care should be taken before calling for these very serious consequences like police investigations.”
Politically, the Progressive Conservatives might end up regretting the decision to call in the RCMP to investigate Redford’s spending, Flanagan said.
“But police investigations go on for a long time and they often give rise to further stories. So this thing could drag on create lots of further embarrassments for the party down the road,” he said.