Alison Redford steps down as premier

Politics: Foothills leaders worry leadership race will affect government's operations

By: Don Patterson

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Mar 26, 2014 06:00 am

Former Premier Alison Redford speaks to students at the Foothills Composite High School in January, just as pressure on her leadership started to increase over a $45,000 trip to South Africa to attend Nelson Mandela's funeral. Redford stepped down as premier on the weekend as pressure over the trip and her leadership increased.
Former Premier Alison Redford speaks to students at the Foothills Composite High School in January, just as pressure on her leadership started to increase over a $45,000 trip to South Africa to attend Nelson Mandela's funeral. Redford stepped down as premier on the weekend as pressure over the trip and her leadership increased.
Wheel file photo

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Embattled former premier Alison Redford will step down on Sunday after months of criticism over expenses, plunging public support and infighting over her leadership within the Progressive Conservative caucus.

Deputy Premier Dave Hancock was chosen to fill Redford’s shoes and the Progressive Conservative Party will pick a new leader within six months.

In the meantime, foothills political leaders are concerned a leadership contest could slow work on flood recovery and other important projects in the area.

Redford defended her record and the work the government has done to build the province as she announced her resignation on March 19.

“I love Alberta, I am honoured to represent Alberta as your premier and I’ve given my heart and soul to this province for the last two-and-a-half years,” she said.

Redford said too much time had been spent focusing on issues of “loyalty” and “character” that were causing a distraction from the work of the provincial government.

The move came after months of criticism over a $45,000 travel bill for Redford to South African to attend Nelson Mandela’s funeral. While the premier did eventually repay the cost of the flight, it wasn’t enough to stop a hemorrhaging of support for her leadership in PC caucus or among Albertans.

A poll by pollster ThinkHQ showed support among Albertans for the PC Party dropped to 19 per cent.

Highwood MLA Danielle Smith said the $45,000 South Africa flight was just the last straw after a number of poor policy decisions

“It just opened the floodgates of people talking about all the other grievances that they’ve had for the last two years and the pile-on became really intense,” she said.

Smith said the culture within the party is broken as it enters its third leadership race in eight years. She said the level of infighting and turmoil Albertans have seen within the PC Party does not serve Albertans’ interests.

“I hope Albertans don’t give them another mandate, they don’t deserve it,” she said. “The culture of entitlement goes beyond the premier’s office.”

Smith predicts Albertans could go to the polls as soon as a year from now.

The next provincial election isn’t scheduled to occur until Spring 2016, however, Smith expects the government will call a snap election six months after the leadership race is complete.

In the meantime, she is concerned work on the flood recovery could get derailed if key ministers involved decide to seek the party leadership.

She said she doubts whether there will be any decisions on any major projects or initiatives needed for the foothills area while the leadership race is underway.

She said no one will likely “stick their neck out” on any particular issue without knowing if it will go forward or who the new premier will be.

“That’s what’s so frustrating is there are important issues that need to be dealt with on an urgent basis, but when you have a leadership race all of the mechanisms of new decisions come to a halt,” she said.

Smith said she will work to keep the government’s attention on recovery efforts and said the selection of a Conservative Party candidate in the upcoming Macleod byelection will ensure continued attention by the federal government.

John Barlow, Macleod Conservative candidate and former Highwood PC candidate, said the premier’s resignation is unfortunate given the amount of work that needs to be done on flood mitigation projects.

“I want to make sure with this interruption of government that they don’t lose focus,” said Barlow.

Okotoks Mayor Bill Robertson is concerned the leadership race will delay work on a water pipeline from Calgary.

“I’m worried this is going to slow down our process to get a water solution for the Town of Okotoks, that’s my fear,” he said.

Robertson also questions whether the implementation of the Calgary Metropolitan Plan could end up being delayed even further by the leadership race.

MD Reeve Larry Spilak said the MD has already received approval for most of its key flood mitigation projects.

However, he doesn’t see the Redford’s resignation or the leadership race slowing the work of the government much.

“Of course many of the important bills will probably sit on the way-side until that is accomplished, but most things are moving forward and I’m certainly not worried about any of the flood mitigation, those funds are in place,” he said.

The president of the board of the Highwood PC riding association defended Redford’s record and said the party will be prepared for the 2016 provincial election.

“This gives time for regrouping, this gives time for bringing about clarity to gain a position to get confidence,” said Suzanne Oel, who is also an MD of Foothills councillor.

She said Redford did a lot of good work to get Alberta on course for the future and to promote building new pipelines to get Alberta crude to market.

Oel said the Redford lead government was also successful in getting a number of projects that have been on the books for a long time moving forward, particularly the southwest portion of the Calgary ring road.

“Where no one has gone before, she was able to work with the Tsuu T’ina Reserve,” she said.

Oel said the constant trial by media and public opinion targeting Redford only served to destabilize the government at a time when it needed to be focused on the future.


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