Ric McIver talks expenses, health care with CBC editorial board
PC leadership candidate Ric McIver spoke with the CBC editorial board, a panel of senior journalists, on Aug. 29, 2014. Here are some excerpts from the interview.
McIver said it is not just the person occupying the premier 's office who must be held accountable.
CBC Editorial Boards
Jim Prentice, the third candidate in the PC leadership race, declined to take part in an editorial board with CBC News.
"The saying that sunlight is the best disinfectant is a good saying. The fact that we disclose our expenses online on a regular basis is a good thing. Sometimes it causes us some grief, but I think that’s probably a good thing too. Because if one’s expenses causes one grief, then one’s likely to consider more carefully the next time they file an expense report. That’s in the public interest, which is what we’re actually here for, is to serve the public."
"The big difference that I want to make as premier is set a tone of public service. That we are spending money only for the public’s benefit, working only for the public and I think again the best predictor of future performance is past performance. We need to make sure that our past performance is what the public wants by 2016."
On the so-called Skypalace
On Aug. 27, CBC published a story that McIver did not “kill” the construction of former premier Alison Redford’s so-called Skypalace, despite repeated claims during his campaign. However, in the editorial board, McIver was adamant that he did in fact kill the project.
"It’s dead. Meeting space rather than residential space. The fact is, if you look at the room here right now, it’s a meeting room. If you were remove the tables and the chairs, and bring in a bed and a dresser, it would be a bedroom. But it’s not a bedroom. The only one that will be sleeping in the federal building will be somebody who’s in a boring meeting and falls asleep."
McIver was asked about the memo produced by Infrastructure deputy minister Marcia Nelson more than a month after CBC News broke the story about the Skypalace. It was released the same day he resigned to run for leader.
"I was asked in the house about the costs of the Skypalace. I thought the public frankly deserved to know how much money was wasted. I asked my ministry to prepare a report on how much money was spent. I got the report and I tabled it."
On Redford’s ‘aura of power’
In the scathing report into Redford’s travel expenses, Auditor General Merwan Saher said there was an “aura of power around Premier Redford and her office and the perception that the influence of the office should not be questioned.”
McIver said that if elected premier, he would set a “different tone” for the government.
"I resisted the aura of power when I killed the Skypalace. As premier, I would make sure I would set a different tone from the top. As the Canadian Taxpayers Federation said this week, that they found no concern with my expenses, having looked at the ones from both [Calgary] city council and from the provincial government. I described my expenses as boring. My goal as premier would be to make sure everyone’s expenses are boring."
"I intend to set the tone from the premier’s office and I’ve done things right from my opening speech, when I was going to run for leadership. I said that I would try to set an example. That the chief of staff for the premier would not make more than the premier. I said that those that were registered to lobby government would be ineligible for government contracts. I made senior members of my campaign team that neither they - and here’s the real important part - or any company they own would be eligible to receive government contracts. These are some of the tone-setting that needs to happen from the top."
On government aircraft
When it comes to the fleet of government airplanes, McIver said the auditor general needs to evaluate whether or not they are worthwhile for the taxpayers.
"I think we need a little more context on that because from what I read on that, most of the problems are based on bad decision-making. The best system in the world will not eliminate bad decision-making. The bad decision-making will go away when there’s a different tone at the top that I need to set that we serve the public and we spent the public’s resources for the public’s benefit and only for the public’s benefit. The airplanes are some of the resources that we should only spend for the public’s benefit. Not for, frankly, for free rides for family members."
"If it’s good for the taxpayers, we keep them. And if it’s good [bad] for the taxpayers, we get rid of them."
On whether to keep the Michener Centre open
In March 2013, the government announced it would be closing the Michener Centre and transitioning residents to other community facilities around the province. There have been many calls for an investigation into how residents, most with developmental disabilities, are transitioned out of the Red Deer facility. We asked McIver if would keep the Michener Centre open.
"If I’m premier, it will be. At least as long as the people that are there want to stay. I’ll tell you what’s not realistic, is to take people that in many cases have lived there all or almost all of their life. This isn’t just where they live, it’s their whole world. And at the age of 50, 60, 70, or 80 saying, you’re going to move now - their families are telling me it won’t be good for them."
"Their families tell me they’re happy, they look happy to me, they obviously need specialized care. Every client is individual and the care they need but the staff is there, the equipment is there, the expertise is there, and the knowledge of the person’s history. What they need."
In May it was announced that the government’s controversial public service pension reform bill would be reviewed by an all-party committee. The bill was slammed by the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees and opposition parties. McIver said he would set the bills aside.
"On Bills 9 and 10 I said I would set them aside until we talk to the employees whose money it is and find out how they want to solve the math problems."
"I know one of the questions I asked was how do the employees feel about this? What we were told was no, everybody is fine. We talked to everybody, we did lots of consultations and they’re fine. Well, no, they weren’t fine. They’re not fine. They’re very much not fine. And therein lies the problem. Therein lies the reason, part of the reason that I said when we’re doing things, we need to include people."
"People who will suffer with the consequences or gain from the consequences need to be at the table for that discussion. It’s a math problem. If there’s not enough money going in to pay for what comes out, that’s a math problem. So we need to sit down together and solve the math problem."
On health care and Alberta Health Services
McIver was stern on the fact that another AHS board should not be appointed. However, when asked about returning to the previous system of regional health boards, he said he would consult with experts and see what other provinces are doing.
"I’ve been pretty clear - a new superboard is a bad idea. And if I’m premier, it won’t happen. If there is a problem that I have heard as I have travelled this province talking to people, and again it’s the disconnect thing."
"I think we need to put our pride in our pocket and beg, borrow and steal all the ideas that we can from other provinces, who working under the Canadian Health Act are getting better results for their people for the money they’re spending."
On getting the public more involved in government
McIver said elected officials are “supposed to be experts at connecting what the public needs with what the administration can deliver.” He said there is often a “disconnect” between politicians and people affected by legislation that he hopes to fix.
"I want to put them in a position to go into the legislature and bang on the table and say this is what I heard and this is what we should be doing. To go into cabinet and bang on the table and say this is what we heard and go into caucus and bang on the table and say this is what we heard."
"I think we’ll get better results. I think what government does will more closely reflect what the public is asking for if we put the publically selected experts at listening to them, more out front in that process. So that’s where you start and then when we’re making policy and legislation, I want them more involved in that process too. So that they can remember what they heard from the public - our bosses, my bosses - and the more you do that the more it will infiltrate if you will the decisions that we make, the policy that we put in place and the legislation we write."