In a letter to the editor (Allegations ‘a drive-by smear,’ Stettler Independent, Nov. 20), former MLA Jack Hayden suggests taxpayers in the province should wink, or perhaps benignly smile, when we learn about county or municipal employees who, while at work, use their taxpayer-funded time and the resources of local government to engage in activities on behalf of a political party.
Mr. Hayden further suggests that to inquire about such behavior is a “witch hunt,” and that bad judgment by local officials in that regard should be overlooked because who “hasn’t taken a personal call or sent a personal email or text during working hours?”
Mr. Hayden fails to mention that it was not a single phone call or text message that was talked about in the newspaper column about which he is now critical (‘This is corruption’ in County of Stettler, Derek Fildebrandt, Canadian Taxpayers Federation, Stettler Independent, Nov. 13).
Nor is it a single email or text message being discussed when it is suggested that the serious nature of the situation merits an inquiry.
There are more than 100 pages of emails in question, and Mr. Hayden himself was cc’d on repeatedly, indicating that he knew partisan political activities were being co-ordinated and/or facilitated from within the county office.
Surely, Mr. Hayden doesn’t object to the rights of taxpayers to know what’s been going on. And surely he recognizes that if county officials won’t be forthcoming, a formal Freedom of Information request is appropriate.
Mr. Hayden also overlooks mentioning the many tens of thousands of taxpayers’ dollars that, over time, were transferred from local governments and provincial government agencies to the Alberta PC Party.
This is Third World politics at its finest. Yet Mr. Hayden’s solution is to sweep the whole thing under the nearest carpet.
In effect, he then tries to draw a kind of parallel between this sort of political gutterball “fundraising” and the virtue of raising money for Special Olympics. The two are clearly unalike and unrelated.
The point is, that the way public officials do things does matter.
And whether Mr. Hayden likes it or not, municipal or county employees using taxpayer-funded resources and their time at taxpayer-funded jobs to pursue the interests of their favourite political party is unethical. Period.
It’s also illegal. Period.
Similarly, locally elected government officials using taxpayer funds to attend fundraising events held by a political party is unethical. Period.
And illegal. Period.
Mr. Hayden’s argument that everyone was doing it, that it’s in the past, or that the individuals responsible were well-intended, is fine and good, but good intentions never justify turning your back on the law.
It is never the right time to do the wrong thing, and every elected official (and ex-elected official) ought to know that, and say that.
Rick Strankman, MLA
Wildrose Official Opposition