Byron Hackett is the Managing Editor of the Red Deer Advocate.

Hackett: We all make mistakes, we’re just not premier

In the comfort of my parent’s basement, among a group of friends one Christmas, I’ll almost sure I shared an opinion that the current version of myself doesn’t share.

There are words that I used in the 90s, that I no longer feel comfortable using.

Heck, I’m sure I’ve tweeted things in the past 10 years I probably don’t agree with anymore.

I have evolved.

Our Premier asked a similar task of Albertans this week, to forgive and forget anything she ever said before she became premier, at least the controversial bits anyway.

“I know that I am far from perfect, and I made mistakes,” Smith said in the short TV address earlier this week. “And having spent decades in media and hosting talk shows, I discussed hundreds of different topics, and sometimes took controversial positions, many of which have evolved or changed as I have grown and learned from listening to you.”

It was all said for entertainment and clicks and now that she has a “serious job,” she’s changed.

At least that’s what she wants you to believe anyway.

On the surface, there are two very distinct problems with this. Are we supposed to believe that things Smith said on the UCP leadership campaign trail are no longer true, the promises she made then are somehow null and void? That should really rattle the 54 per cent of the party that elected her leader earlier this fall.

Peeling the onion back a little bit, the Premier is using this one address– one apology is a easy mea culpa to anything her opponents will drudge up during the next campaign trail, where she has to fight for the votes of all Albertans, not just conservatives.

It’s an attempt to gloss over any disastrous policy positions she took in her past life as a pundit, without bearing any consequences for those words, without any responsibility. Her apology did not seem heartful, it did not seem meaningful, which tends to be the case with a blanket apology. I’m sorry for all the bad stuff I did/ said, I’m a changed/ reformed person now. Please forget all that stuff. Without mentioning the stuff, the mea culpa is far less impactful.

When Smith wrote a serious policy paper on changes to Alberta’s health care for the University of Alberta Public Policy, just last year– does she seriously expect us to believe that was all hogwash? That was just a pundit trying to gain clicks and ruffle feathers. Seems to me that was a conservative jockeying for position trying to show her party that she’s someone who they should take seriously. Why else to you write an essay? Nobody writes an essay for entertainment.

Smith’s paper, titled “Alberta’s Key Challenges and Opportunites” outlined the history of the province and resource development. There’s a section on “reinventing government”.

In that section, Smith muses that Alberta has been lead down the wrong path by over inflated governments and would do well to trim the fat, particularly in at Alberta Health Services (which she has already done by firing the AHS board in her first month as Premier)

“A culture of complacency is the problem in health care,” she writes.

Smith proposes changes to resource management, a constant juggling act by Alberta governments for decades.

But she also wants Albertans to re-think health care in what she calls a “patient-centred” system.

“What the government needs to do is create matching Health Spending Accounts for all Albertans. The government should pledge to match up to $375 per person and challenge individuals and employers to do the same,” Smith writes.

“The benefit of a Health Spending Account is that it allows people the means to pay for services that are uncovered and largely preventative – massage therapy, physiotherapy, dieticians, prescriptions and so on.

“By taking responsibility for their health and giving people the means to do so, it should translate into less pressure on the hospital system and better chronic care management which will bring costs down.”

How are we not led to believe that Smith wants to fundamentally change our public health care system into a pay-for-play, two-tiered system that is an epic failure in many parts of the world?

She wrote this last year, nine months ago it was published! For those who want our health care system to stay free as it is, how can you not view this as anything less than a red flag designed to make life more difficult if you ever face unexpected medical costs?

Smith said long ago that cigarettes are actually good for you; maybe she’s softened or changed her tune since that column. I’ll give her that. Just over a year ago, she essentially said that cancer patients could do more to prevent a Stage 4 diagnosis and even closer to the present day, she said that the unvaccinated are the most discriminated group she’s seen in her lifetime. She has issued half apologies/ statements of regret on those statements, but are we really expected to believe because now her job is serious, she’s suddenly softened on those positions in less than a year?

And when she criticizes her opponent for misspending in the past, how are they not afforded the same forgiveness that she’s asking for from citizens? You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

I’ll all for forgiveness. When somebody deserves to be forgiven, I’m all in. It’s painful to carry a grudge. It takes too much time and energy to be angry for that long.

Someone can ask for forgiveness for past remarks all they want, but forgiveness is earned; it’s not freely accepted with a few words at a podium on a Tuesday night while the whole province is watching.

Byron Hackett is the Managing Editor of the Red Deer Advocate.

Opinion

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