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Wednesday, 26 March 2014 14:48

A lot of time to repair, but will they?

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Alison Redford’s resignation comes as a surprise to those who thought she was too arrogant to ever admit defeat by actually stepping down.

But there it was last week. Redford did quit after what was perceived pressure from within her party. Polls were indicating the Alberta Progressive Conservative leader was at an unheard of 18 per cent of all party leaders in the province.
Her perceived aloofness and spending issues are being blamed for Redford’s departure.
It is being suggested, such as by Ontario premier Kathleen Wynn, that her resigning is due to “gender bias.” In short, if that was the case, B.C. Premier Christy Clark wouldn’t still be in office and Wildrose leader Danielle Smith wouldn’t be the odds-on favourite to become the newest-elected-by-the-voters premier over some of the re-treads being suggested to take over the P.C. leadership.
Redford’s arrogance did her in because she didn’t realize she was also subject to the political can of worms she opened. Why?— only she totally understands. Maybe she thought because she was a Conservative, she couldn’t be toppled either by her own party or the voters, or she believed what she thought were progressive steps and moving the Conservatives to a more central party would be the winning ticket. There can’t be too much argument she believed she had a sense of entitlement, much like what many Conservative bashers will accuse the ahem “old boys’ club” of having.
To defuse this, Redford came up with the “more open” government policy where information about government officials’ travel expenses would be readily made more public. This, along with having salaries of public employees made public had the reverse effect she intended.
Not only did it probably raise the ire of those effected, but the public probably didn’t like being able to see the cold, hard financial reality of expensive trips, luxury hotel rooms and perceived lavish eating. Now, this isn’t in all cases, but that’s what the perception is and as we know, especially in politics, perception is nine tenths of reality.
While optimistically she was being noble, more open and honest —perhaps to score points with voters — she couldn’t get past the fact one can’t make things public and then spend $45,000 on a trip to Nelson Mandela’s funeral when the premier of Nova Scotia Steve McNeil spent about $900. One also can’t hesitate to pay it back, even after public pressure. Then it was made public that Redford flew her daughter and her friends around in the government jet and the government had sent an entourage of more than 30 people to the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. It was then revealed the government decided (again, after public pressure) this was too much money to spend. However, the government could not get the deposit back from the London hotel they were staying at thus losing $113,000 in the process.
Top this off, there was a March 20 report in the Edmonton Sun’s that executives in the health system spent $100 million in 17 months while Redford was in government.
Staggering numbers. More open yes, but hearing and reading about these expenses is mind boggling and seems wasteful to those who struggle with their $30,000 to $50,000 a year salaries.
Now Ken Hughes, long-time PC supporter who is a good friend of Redford and has received a number of well-paid, errr ... positioned titles with Alberta Health before being elected and currently is Minister of Municipal Affairs, who sent up the first trial balloon saying he was mulling over the idea of running for party leader. Other candidates’ names including Jim Dinning, Thomas Lukaszuk and Doug Horner are being bandied about.
Currently, Alberta’s premier in the interim is David Hancock who was the deputy premier under Redford and is a long-time Tory loyalist who has been with the PC Youth in the Lougheed years to the present. He says he’s not interested, but you never know.
If the Conservatives decide to go back to “old school” familiar names, will that get them back in office and will it pacify the electorate?
The voters have changed. There are a lot of new people in Alberta from different provinces and different countries. Voters are also more informed than ever before and perhaps the message is no longer resonating with people.
Or maybe it’s just a matter of people not liking Redford’s personality. Maybe it’s got something to do with a leadership system where the most popular leadership candidate did not win. The last two premiers who were ranked third in the popular support of the leadership convention won the leadership crown because they were second on everyone’s ballot and snuck in to the overall top spot.
Honesty about overspending did Redford in, only she just didn’t seem to care who knew.
Did Ralph Klein, Don Getty, and Peter Lougheed overspend with government expenses? It’s hard to know definitively, one would assume, but you can’t necessarily make a blanket assumption.
In the Conservatives’ case, ignorance is truly bliss.
Ryan Dahlman is managing editor with the Prairie Post. Contact him with your comments about this opinion piece by emailing him at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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Ryan Dahlman

Managing Editor