A story broke that United Conservative Party MLA Derek Fildebrandt rented out his taxpayer-subsidized apartment on AirBNB. Most people saw this as a wrong-doing by Fildebrandt, as they should. Fildebrandt made $2,555 from AirBnb, which he donated to Alberta’s debt after the income became controversy. Fildebrandt is especially hypocritical, since he used to look for very similar spending/double-dipping habits while at the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.
This is not a new story though, as frivolous spending happens often with politicians–and surely happens all the time with public-sector employees, though the media barely reports on it.
We really care about a few hundred or a few thousand bucks our politicians make through questionable decisions. And we really care if a politician gives him/herself a pay raise of several thousand a year. In fact, there is a large portion of our electorate who cast their ballots solely based on these issues.
I agree the abuse of power for a (oftentimes) small personal gain is wrong. It. Is. Wrong.
But we have got to stop sweating the small stuff–no matter the political stripe. We spend countless hours outraged over this and hardly any talking about our ballooning $50 billion+ debt. To us, $5,000>$50,000,000,000. These narratives are almost always pushed by lobby groups or politicians solely to score political points. And we actually buy into it. We are drinking their kool aid.
This year, Alberta’s NDP originally projected a $10 billion deficit–and even though revenues are coming in $1.5 billion higher than expected, they are still forecasting a $10 billion deficit. Is that not a huge deal? Where did the additional spending come from?
What about the provincial government recklessly (year after year) forecasting overly aggressive crude oil prices in their budget? Premier Redford forecasted $99/Bbl oil in 2012, and most recently Alberta’s NDP budget oil to reach over $18/bbl higher than strip prices for 2020. Their constant misses have added billions to the provincial debt each year. Is that not a big deal?
What about tougher regulations? Changes to the tax code? Unemployment?
A lot of people will read this column and immediately conclude that I’m just trying to focus people’s attention away from $2,555. To those people I say, ‘That’s exactly what I am trying to do because you don’t care nearly enough about way bigger problems! But keep drinking the kool aid if you prefer.’