Mounting pressure from within her own party and Redford’s lavish spending practices may have been the fatal catalyst that lead to her resignation, and it is next to certain that some government MLAs were quietly and discreetly toasting her departure last week.
Some might be mindful, however, of just how much Redford’s fall from grace is indicative of a profound admission of failure on the part of the party itself — not just the leadership — and its attempts to win over many Albertans that more and more seem to be yearning for change in Edmonton in 2016.
Or even earlier, depending on the strategic whims of the governing party. A recent drive to legislate fixed election dates was another end-run Redford legacy, allowing the ruling party to still choose their own date during an election “season”.
Many governments that elect a new party leader mid-stream — as the PCs will be doing on Sept. 6 — choose to go back to the polls early to gain a mandate for a leader who may have been endorsed by the party faithful, but still has much work to do to gain the trust of the broader electorate.
Whoever that leader will be, he or she will have a titanic task ahead of them to try to make light of more than 43 years of PC domination, the past decade of which has still seen resounding PC victories at the polls, but also an impending sense of the inevitable growing steadily in the minds of government MLAs, as well as Albertans — no good thing lasts forever.
During the 2012 provincial election campaign, voter polls had predicted a photo finish between Redford’s more centrist ruling PCs and the upstart right-leaning Wildrose Alliance Party under Danielle Smith.
Although the pollsters had it drastically wrong and the PC party returned another landslide election victory, much emphasis was placed on the large percentage of “undecided” voters polled just prior to election night. Although commentators were hesitant to suggest it, it was hinted that many Albertans might have chosen to vote tried-and-true Tory blue in a last-minute poll booth decision rather than cast a ballot for the untested Wildrose.
What was perhaps more tangible than voter speculation was the perception that although the PCs under Redford had been given a resounding majority, they were also entering a period of probation for Albertans, who without seeing major change in the party and its direction, might choose another path in a future election.
There was a very real sense that the 2012 provincial election might be a last chance for the ruling PCs.
Despite a leadership platform of boosting social spending and investing in education, Redford’s premiership was haunted by a trail of broken promises punctuated by plummeting popularity. And her spending policies, pushing Alberta into deficit, debt and beyond, irritated fiscal conservatives and will leave an undesirable legacy for a future generation.
And finally, Redford failed dismally to deliver on what might have been viewed as her most important promise — to change and reform the way the PC party does business, and take the province in a new and brighter direction for the future.
Time will tell if Redford’s resignation will be a final nail in her party’s political coffin that many observers — both from within and without her party — believe she was at least partly responsible for helping construct.