Once viewed as an uncompromising reformer destined to take her party and the province in a new direction, the resignation last week of Premier Alison Redford cut short that vision and opened widening questions about the future of Alberta’s four-decade PC dynasty.
After only a mere two-and-half years in office, questionable expense practices and heavy criticism of her leadership style from within her own party prompted Redford to throw in the towel.
“I didn’t think it was going to happen in the way it did. I don’t think a lot of her members knew it was going to happen,” said Little Bow MLA Ian Donovan. “I think she figured out she had to do this for the province, and I have to respect her for that.”
As of Monday, the premiership has officially passed to former Deputy Premier Dave Hancock, making him Alberta’s 15th premier.
“I am honoured and humbled to have been asked by caucus to serve as Premier of Alberta,” said Hancock in a short media statement last week. “It’s a role that I accept with optimism and great confidence in the ongoing work and vision of this government.”
Party infighting and rumours surrounding Redford’s role as premier had been making headlines across the province for weeks prior to her announcement, adding fuel to a party fire that was already on the verge of burning out of control.
The recent departure of PC MLA Len Webber amid allegations of Redford’s heavy-handed leadership tactics appeared to be a watershed moment, prompting 10 more government MLAs to consider leaving the party to sit as independents just days before her resignation.
“Obviously, the infighting in her own party and a lot of the questions on her accountability on spending has raised a lot of eyes,” said Donovan. “I’m not going to kick her while she’s down, I’ll respect the fact that she saw the bigger picture for the province and her party.”
First elected in 2008 representing the riding of Calgary-Elbow, Redford served as justice minister before securing the PC party leadership in 2011 on the heels of the resignation of Premier Ed Stelmach.
Appealing to the more progressive elements of the PC party, Redford had been considered something of a dark horse candidate at the time of the party leadership race, vaulting past more popular candidates due in part to unusual party voting practices.
She would go on to lead the party to an unexpected landslide election victory in 2012, stealing the fury from the Wildrose Party’s seemingly irresistible campaign that had many pollsters predicting the end of the PC party’s reign at the commanding heights of Alberta’s government.
The third premier to make a departure in the last eight years, Redford’s resignation should be viewed as an admission of failure on the part of the party itself, according to Donovan.
“It’s not the leader, it’s that the party is 43 years old. I think it’s past being fixed. When a minister decides to step down from a portfolio because of the internal stuff of how the party runs, I think that’s a pretty strong indicator of where they’re at right now.”
Donovan pointed to Redford’s failed promises to change her party and the province for the better as a sign the Progressive Conservatives are past their “expiry date”.
“She came in with a plan to change the party and take us in a new direction, and it just wasn’t something that was possible to do. I think it just goes to show again that the party is past its expiry date, and hopefully we can move forward and get back to the business of the province, and get back to — for me — focusing on the constituents of Little Bow and what we need to do there.”
Donovan commended Redford for her service, noting the office of premier is a position that is not easy for anyone, even at the best of times.
“Whether people liked her or didn’t like her, you have to give her credit — being premier of the province is a very challenging job I can imagine, there’s lots of places to be. I think she always thought she was doing the right thing on the issues of the province, and I’m not going to kick her while she’s down, I think at the end of the day we need to respect the job that she did, and we need to respect the fact that she saw it wasn’t going in a direction that was good for this province, and I’m going to commend her for her years of service.”
The PC party recently announced a leadership convention for Sept. 6, at which point a new party leader will be chosen to take over from interim premier Dave Hancock.