Redford announced late afternoon Wednesday that she would make an important announcement at 6 pm. Promptly at 6 pm she announced, in front of a packed rotunda at the Alberta legislature, that she was resigning as Premier of Alberta effective Sunday March 23. The announcement came on the tail of a poll published Thursday, where Redford’s popularity had slipped to 18 percent.
“Quite simply, I am not prepared to allow party and caucus infighting to get in the way of building a better future for our province and for all Albertans,” said Redford. “That is why I am announcing today that, with a profound optimism for Alberta’s future, I am resigning as premier of Alberta.”
Redford said that she was not going to apologize for her efforts to move the province forward, a forward looking vision and efforts to engage customers around the globe to do business withe the province. Along with external pressure, both from the public and the official opposition Wildrose Party, there was discontent within the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta (PCAA). The party executive had scheduled a vote for Wednesday evening to determine if Redford should resign. Premier Alison Redford beat them to the punch.
As highlighted in an article in Politisite yesterday, Redford has come under fire for her extravagant expenditures during her constant travel. She traveled to London, England during the Olympics, renting 13 rooms that were not used by her and her staff. She has made several trips to Chicago, New York and Washington, D.C. in an apparent effort to sell the XL Keystone pipeline.
The crunch came with her trip to attend Nelson Mandella’s funeral in South Africa. She charged the taxpayer $45,000, which she has now repaid under pressure. She also repaid $3,156 for a trip to the West coast, which included a friend of her daughter’s. She defended the breaking of expense rules by claiming that it was the cost of being a mother. Unfortunately there are a lot of working women in Alberta that don’t have the benefit of subsidized childcare.
There was growing dissent within her caucus with two recent departures of two members of her government to sit as independents.
Len Webber left the PC caucus last week, describing Redford as a bully, one who treats people and tax payers dollars poorly. There is more dissent within the party and it is estimated that as many as 20 MLAs were considering departure from the caucus.
Donna Kennedy-Glans, the MLA for Calgary-Varsity and Associate Minister for Electricity and Renewable Energy announced yesterday that she is leaving the caucus to sit as an independent and apparently there are at least ten more MLAs facing this very difficult decision.
“This is a very difficult choice. This choice didn’t come lightly and it didn’t come quickly,” said Kennedy-Glans from outside her northwest Calgary constituency office on Monday. “I just can’t see how I can make, support, advance change from within this party system at this point in time.”
While the South Africa trip was quoted as the final straw and it was felt by both the opposition and members of her caucus that her apology and repayment was forced and not sincere, there were many other causes that led to her resignation.
With her popularity declined to an all time low of 18 percent, the pressure by the public and now within her party, Progressive Conservative Party Riding presidents had scheduled a vote on whether Redford had lost the confidence of the membership and should be asked to resign.
The National Post’s Jen Gerson reported that Redford was chased out of office because she couldn’t understand how others perceived her.
There is no question that Redford lacked the ability to connect with Albertans. What is missing from the picture though is the fact that Redford, who described herself as Progressive Conservative, underlining progressive, last night during her resignation speech, alienated the very people that got her elected. Her support included nurses and teachers and doctors, of which most had never voted PCAA before. In her first austerity budget she reneged on her promises by imposing a zero percent wage growth on their salaries. This included the Alberta Union of Public Employees (APUE). The war she declared on their unions became very public.
Wildrose leader Danielle Smith took the opportunity to deflect blame from Redford to the PC party. In a statement she said the PCs, who have been in power for 43 years, are the problem. She said she didn’t doubt Redford’s motivation to fix the party, but ran into the party machine.
“What we witnessed in her short 29 months as premier is the clearest indication yet that the PC party simply can’t be fixed,” she said.
“The problems with their party and their government run far too deep for one leader to change, no matter how noble their intentions are or how deeply they’re committed to them. The business of governing this province and leading it through its challenges will now once again take a backseat to the internal politics of the PC party as they will again change their leader to try and solve a problem.”
Smith’s deflection was an obvious choice. While Redford was in power she became the target, but now the blame had to shift. This sentiment is also echoed by Liberal leader Raj Sherman and New Democrat Brian Mason.
National Post’s Jen Gerson sums Redford’s paradox to a single receipt.
The paradox of Alison Redford can be summed up in a single receipt: an expense claim that revealed the Alberta premier spent $16,353.71 to visit Chicago and Toronto in December, 2012, with an aide — for three nights.
A sharp-toothed Alberta blogger, Kathleen Smith, dug it up a few days ago, amid the Alberta Tories’ mad season of restiveness.
Ms. Redford and aide Ryan Barberio squandered the equivalent of a used truck in one short span.
Whether or not the PCAA can survive remains to be seen. It will largely depend on the new leader. Danielle Smith’s Wildrose Party is currently a high, but it may not be where Albertans are. Both Calgary and Edmonton are led by progressive left of centre mayors that are very popular.
Alberta is a diverse forward looking province, which has embraced the large tent progressive conservative party. They have stayed away from both the Liberals and New Democrats. Given, what many consider the current best alternative, the right of centre Wildrose Party, the PCAA may be able to reinvent itself before the next election in two years. The ball is in their court.