Alberta Health Minister Fred Horne
Credits: IAN KUCERAK/QMI AGENCY
Yes, we're not getting what some of us think we're getting.
No sweat. Fred Horne, Alberta's health minister, says Albertans don't want him to dig into the past, dirty though some of it could be.
Horne says Albertans want him to "focus on today."
The province has new rules where they will soon post online the expenses of government bigshots, including politicians.
The message? There's nothing more to see here, so move on.
And the provincial Tories have a new poll in their hot little paws.
They are pleased with the nosecount. If an election was held today they'd win by a bigger margin than they won in April. None of the many punches thrown against them in the past few months have landed.
They are in the Land of Happy.
Others following the bouncing ball are not happy.
A big deal is made of an independent look-see.
It's where we supposedly would not only learn about whether former health exec Allaudin Merali or anyone else broke any rules with his $346,000 in over-the-top approved expense claims but we might also find out about others running the health care system a few years back in Edmonton and maybe Calgary.
How much taxpayer dough did they spend and on what? Who signed off on what?
Who was responsible for the free-for-all when it came to filing expenses where opera tickets and butlers were deemed as legit as fine liquor, groceries and fixing up the Mercedes?
Some who were thought to be possibly going under the magnifying glass have long ago headed to the exit with sweet bye-bye cheques and pensions large families could party on.
Others still work as execs in Alberta Health Services or are highly placed on the provincial payroll.
Merali was hired by Alberta Health Services this year. He is gone but only after a get-up-and-go newshound goes hunting and comes back with a whole slew of tasty receipts.
In the minds of some citizens paying attention, the puzzler isn't whether any rules were broken. The Merali receipts were thumbs-upped. His boss Sheila Weatherill says there is nothing wrong.
But were the expenses inappropriate by the standards of any reasonable person?
Ask this question while examining the spending of the brass of the former Capital Health Region in Edmonton and the former Calgary Health Region.
Put it all out there for the public to see. Maybe something can be done, maybe not. The truth may hurt but it is the truth.
Horne, who can't recall the $200 dinner he had with Merali, says he just wants to know if Merali's tabs violated the policy of the day. If the outside auditor wants to suggest further investigation that's fine but Horne wants the answer about Merali - full stop.
There is no direction to go further. Horne says he understands the "public outcry" but all eyes are on the government's new rules on expenses released Wednesday.
"I expect the Alberta Health Services board and I expect myself to run a health-care system efficiently and effectively in 2012," says Horne.
"While I appreciate the outrage many people felt when they heard the story they did in the summer, and we've taken appropriate steps to confirm the expenses complied with the policy of the time, our job today is to make sure there are open and transparent standards for expenses. The premier delivered on that."
"The majority of Albertans want to see us focus on today, their needs, the needs of their kids and their grandchildren and their aging parents. So that's our focus."
Horne says he was feeling "comfortable" before the Wednesday announcement about posting future expenses online. He is "even more comfortable now."
Alberta Health Services meets in Grande Prairie next week to decide how the expenses investigation will proceed.
Take a guess on how far the potentially painful probe will go.
For the record, all this happens as the Tories do another photo-op at the south Calgary hospital where the beds and emergency room aren't open, the trauma centre doesn't exist, the price tag has gone from $552 million to just under $1.4 billion and it takes 14 years to get where we are now.
As for those past expenses, Scott Hennig, punchy pugilist from the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, advises the Tories to get ahead of the game and reveal what needs to be shown.
The info, good or bad or ugly, will surface.
As for the "majority of Albertans" Horne figures want no part of the past, Hennig says: "I'm hoping the public is not going to roll over."
That will take a whole lot of hope.