There are few character failings more unappealing than those of people who say one thing and do another.
You know the kind. They critique the questionable behaviour of others, but have no problem doing the same thing themselves.
That’s why Premier Jason Kenney’s conduct is so troubling when it comes to the staffing of his office.
The premier quite rightly pilloried the spendthrift ways of the previous government, and identified the need to reduce public spending as a priority on the way to balancing the budget.
The figures have been available for some time now, but observers have only recently tallied up the salaries of all those who occupy desks in Kenney’s office.
It turns out the same premier who regularly lectures about fiscal responsibility has 19 people in his office, who collectively receive $2.9 million in taxpayer money. One of the positions is reportedly vacant.
It’s to Kenney’s dubious credit, that while he hasn’t put ordinary Albertans back to work, instead, he has created plenty of jobs for the politically well connected, all of them on the public dime.
The premier’s principal secretary and chief of staff earn more than Kenney himself, each about $224,000.
Don’t shed a tear for those who toil in less lofty roles. His special assistant and the person who oversees his travel are both compensated with a more-than-generous $114,000 a year.
And it’s not as though the individual who manages his travel has too heavy a workload. There’s another person who is responsible for Kenney’s schedule and recommending which events he should attend. This salary: $149,422.
And just to make sure only the best and brightest land in such comfy, plum positions, there’s a director of talent who is paid $149,425.
It seems remarkable that among a staff of 19 people, there’s a need to spend almost $150,000 a year to ensure that capable applicants are employed. It doesn’t speak well of the judgment of those in the office earning well beyond that amount.
That’s especially true when most of these people are insiders, whose qualifications can be judged as much by their connections as by any tangible credentials.
One of the premier’s plenty of spokespeople has defended the expense by saying the NDP spent more during its time in office.
Even if that’s true, it’s hardly a fulsome justification from a leader who goes around telling thousands of public workers — nurses, doctors, professors, prison guards, and such people — that they are over paid.
Former premier Rachel Notley didn’t build her brand by hiring consultants to tell Albertans we need to reduce the cost of government.
Like the fire-and-brimstone preacher who wags his finger in false moral outrage, and then is found lacking, Kenney put himself in a position where voters would naturally question such extravagance.
He never did have the support of the sizeable number of public workers who are quite happy to cast their lot in with the Opposition.
He won over many voters when he peddled a message of financial restraint and balanced budgets.
The COVID-19 pandemic and stubbornly low oil prices have taken the air out of many of Kenney’s promises.
The least he can do is try to live within Albertans’ means when it comes to equipping his office during challenging times.
Albertans, of all people, have no time for blowhards. Not so long ago in the West, Kenney would be called out as all hat, no cattle. In other words, he’s full of bluster, but falls short when it comes to action.
David Marsden is managing editor of the Red Deer Advocate.