Friday, May 7, 2010

Why Hehr Shouldn't Step Down

Nation, it hasn't been 72 hours since Kent Hehr announced he was going to be running for Mayor of the City of Calgary, and already the naysayers are coming out to decry the move as an effort to "double-dip", at the taxpayers' expense.

"Hehr should resign his seat as an MLA to run!" goes the loudest cry. Slightly quieter, hoping to be taken more seriously as a "moderated" opinion, is the insistence that "he should at least take a leave of absence!".

Here's the thing...

Kent Hehr shouldn't do EITHER of those things at this point - and very probably, neither at ANY point.

Let's imagine Kenny Ware, cab driver. Kenny, like most of the cab drivers I know, thinks he's got a lot of solutions for what ails our society. So he decides to run for Alderman in the upcoming municipal election. Kenny's boss calls him into the office the next day and says... what? "I want you to quit working for us if you're looking for another job"? Or, even better, "I want you to keep working for us, but we won't pay you as long as you're looking for other work"?

Are you KIDDING me?

Kenny would sue the pants off his boss - and he'd win.

The insinuation that people are making about Hehr is that's he's either unwilling or unable to separate that work that he does in political circles as an MLA with his efforts to obtain another political job - that of Mayor. They figure that he should move to avoid any semblance of impropriety, and resign his Legislature seat while running for another office. This is the same sort of logic that Ralph Klein used when declaring that anyone who wanted to run for the PC Leadership to replace him should first resign from cabinet, if they were a member.

The PROBLEM with this approach is that the proponents of this action want their target (in this instance, Hehr) to basically admit that he either lacks the ability or the scruples to not do his own thing while on company time. "You're all right, I'd compromise my position as MLA for Calgary-Buffalo while working on my own mayoral campaign. That's the kind of guy I am. Vote for me in October!". These kinds of determinations - about whether you can trust Kent Hehr to be honest on his timesheet - are up to the voters, not the critics.

Of course, there's a lot of irony in that these calls for Hehr to resign are coming mainly from the right - the same people who have watched for YEARS as "their" candidates for mayor have collected the salaries they were paid to be Aldermen, all the while positioning themselves for a run that they've known they were making for a LONG time, regardless of when they decided to let the rest of us in on it.

My favourite irony about this situation, though, has to be that a lot of the people calling for Hehr's resignation as MLA for Calgary-Buffalo are members of the Wildrose Alliance. The same party that trotted out the "we don't want the people of this riding to be without representation in the Legislative Assembly" excuse to rebut calls for by-elections when they accepted 2 members who crossed the floor from the Progressive Conservatives.

One of those crossers claimed to have been mulling the floor-crossing since the summer 6 months' prior, during which time they were pulling in an extra $1500 per month to chair a Category A committee of the Legislature - money that, had they shown the sort of "courage of conviction" that WAP supporters now expect of Kent Hehr and resigned from the PC's 6 months earlier, they never would have received (as they wouldn't have been chairing the committee). The same goes for the other floor-crosser, who was receiving extra pay to be a member of the PC-only Treasury Board while feathering their nest and preparing (quietly) to cross the floor at an opportune time.

The fact that Hehr is being open about his intentions doesn't mean that we get to expect things of him that we didn't of the others. If you're looking at making a move, whether it be public or private, that's your business. If you let it affect your job performance, that's OUR business, as your boss, the voters.

At this point, Kent Hehr has missed not one day of work in the Legislative Assembly since announcing he was running for Mayor.

Until and unless he starts to do so, he should be extended the same benefit of the doubt that the floor-crossers received from their own supporters back in January.

They argued then that Rob and Heather were fully capable of doing their jobs as Government MLA's on the Treasury Board (open to PC MLA's only) and as chair of the Standing Committee on the Alberta Heritage Savings Trust Fund Act (job as Chair open to PC MLA's only) while planning a dramatic floor-crossing to the Wildrose Alliance, which they had already decided to support weeks or months earlier.

If that's true - if the private and non-publicized decision to leave the PC's, and in fact work AGAINST the interests of the PC's, didn't compromise their ability to do jobs that only PC MLA's were allowed to do... then how does Kent Hehr deciding he wants to be Mayor of Calgary compromise his ability to work on behalf of the constituents of Calgary-Buffalo?

What's good for the goose is good for the gander.

If we don't expect Joe and Ric to step down, to avoid the appearance of collecting their Alderman salaries while working for their own advancement... if we don't expect Rob and Heather to resign and run as WAP candidates in a by-election, to answer for their decision to accept bonuses available to them ONLY as PC MLA's even after they had decided to cross the floor... then we can't expect Kent Hehr to leave the residents of Calgary-Buffalo without representation, and Hehr himself without a paycheque, just because he's applying for another job.

WE, those who make politics a part of their daily lives by choice, don't get to make that decision for Kent.

The voters among Calgary's one million residents do, this October.

And, if he's unsuccessful, the voters of Buffalo get their say about the move in 2012.

But it's their call, as the 40,000 people paying Kent's salary... not ours, as partisans.

- E.S.

(This post cross-posted to


Anonymous said...

I have mixed feelings about this.
While my initial reaction is that he shouldn't have to resign or take a leave, I do know that as a civil servant, if I chose to do the same thing, I would have to take a leave of absence, so I wonder why Hehr should be treated any differently than anyone else who draws a paycheque from the public.

Mandy said...

I believe that civil servants need only take a leave of absence during the actual official campaigning period. In provincial politics it's 28 days - I'm sure municipal politics have something similar.

I don't think that Kent is going to be running against any other unemployed candidates. There are MLAs that are doctors, real estate agents, etc. If their constituents think that they are unable to wear two hats, they can vote them out. I don't really understand the 'ethical' issue here.

Good post Joey!

Anonymous said...

Shame on you for this hyperpartisan blog. How much is Kent Hehr paying you?