There are few more effective ways to destroy a political career than to get busted in a sex scandal. Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo MLA Mike Allen pretty much eliminated any real political future for himself when he got arrested in a prostitution sting while on government business in Minnesota. Whether charges get laid or not, the damage is pretty much done at this point.
While Allen has resigned from the Progressive Conservative caucus and all committees (to save Redford the task of kicking him out of those roles), as of this writing Mike Allen is still sitting as a member of the legislative assembly.
In light of this scandal there really are only two possible paths in Allen’s future; he can resign from the legislature altogether or he can sit in shame as an independent lame member who gets the odd opportunity to ask a question during sessions.
I can only see two reasons why Allen would choose to remain in the legislature for the remainder of his term. Mike Allen may simply really really need the job and the money and is willing to endure the shame of sitting in there or Allen may remain in his seat as a favor to Redford to ensure a by-election does not add yet another Wildrose MLA to the opposition that has been so effectively bringing the Redford administration to task this last year.
If we had recall legislation in Alberta Mike Allen could have had a third option ahead of him. Allen could have legitimized his place in the legislature by withstanding an effort to recall him or even have won his seat again in a by-election triggered by a recall.
People usually view recall as a means to get rid of an MLA who no longer enjoys much support among their constituents but it should be remembered that recall can vindicate a member who is caught in a controversy as well.
Recall is a mechanism that allows the electorate to potentially get rid of an elected official should they have done something so odious while elected that a large segment of the electorate feels that this person should no longer be able to serve out the rest of their term. Mike Allen’s prostitution bust is a perfect example of this. The situation and perception of Mike Allen as a person has dramatically changed and many within Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo may now feel that they do not want somebody who indulges in such activities to represent them any longer. The package that was presented to voters in that constituency just over a year ago looks much different today and voters may want a new choice.
I have seen some people defending Mike Allen and speaking to how well he has served the community in a municipal role and then as an MLA. Some people have expressed the view that Allen’s transgression is not serious enough to warrant his resignation as an MLA. The decision of how serious this issue is can only be left to the electorate and not to straw polls and pundits. Recall legislation would have allowed for this.
Mike Allen may remain in his seat and weakly try to claim that he has heard from constituents that they want him to remain. I suspect that most of Alberta would look at such claims with a jaundiced eye at best.
Recall legislation must be crafted so that the bar is not set unreasonably high nor so low that it is done frivolously. This has been managed in many jurisdictions before and there is no reason that it couldn’t be brought into legislation effectively within Alberta.
Only though a full accounting to his electorate can Mike Allen now claim to be entitled to his seat as an MLA. It is too bad that we don’t have the means in an effective recall legislation to have given Allen the chance to have vindicated himself through his constituents. A failed recall effort would shut down any further claims that Allen is not entitled to remain in his seat as an MLA.
Given Fort Mac is supposed to have the largest number of prostitutes of any city in Alberta, this may well be a non-scandal for many of his constituents.