Ralph Klein has gone and it is time to retire Ralph's World. Thanks to all of you who have supported this venture by contributing material and through your comments. It has been fun.

Should we get another blog underway? Let me know your thoughts by e-mailing me at johnnyslow@gmail.com.

John Slow
January 1, 2007

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

It Isn't Just a Cup of Coffee Anymore 

It has been widely reported that Tory MLA's have been attending Wednesday night socials with various groups that compete for their attention. It doesn't seem to have raised too much fuss with the public. However, this is precisely the kind of thing we should be concerned most about.

There is an inherent conflict of interest when people in positions of power are allowed to receive payment of goods or services, even if they have done nothing for the person who gives them the freebie. What we are talking about isn't usually money or a huge gift. If it was, we would be getting into clearly defined ethical issues. In other words, there are rules against these things. What we are talking about is food, alcohol, and other things that we commonly associate with hosting. The government would have us believe that because these are not behaviours that are on "the list" that this makes things so much better, but it doesn't; and you can't tell me that because all associations are doing this that it levels the playing field, as not all groups are doing it. The simple, yet somehow missed point is that when any person is treated very well with food and drink they may somehow feel obligated to reciprocate with a favour in the future. This becomes improper when it involves someone who holds public power. There is no question that this can interfere with that government member's balanced decision making ability, (Those people treated me so well, and now I have to decide against them) and more importantly, puts the question into the public mind: Does this decision maker make decisions based on who has access to him? This leads to distrust and cynicism about all decision makers at a time when we need to trust them the most.

No one is saying that a government leader can't have a free cup of coffee, a bite to eat when hungry, or even be thanked with a small token of appreciation by a group that receives a visit. And leaders should be meeting regularly with a myriad of different groups. But many of our provincial Tories are making a habit of eating and drinking every Wednesday night they can schedule. It makes me wonder if these same decision makers are scheduled to go down to the inner city for a meal from the food bank every Thursday night. I am sure the people down there would have no problem scheduling it...and somehow it wouldn't feel to me like it was a conflict of interest. Funny how that is.

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