It was only a matter of time.
After a short 898 days as Premier of Alberta, Alison Redford announced today that she plans to resign as premier and leader of the Progressive Conservatives on Sunday, March 23, 2014.
After facing months of controversy over travel expenses and weeks of turmoil in her caucus, Ms. Redford faced the prospects of an MLA revolt unless she took drastic action. With two recent MLA defections and indications that more were to come, it had become clear that Ms. Redford had lost control over her caucus, suggesting that her departure was imminent.
Preferring international travel to the day to day business of governing, she faced internal criticism for being inaccessible to her party’s MLAs, many who felt completely disconnected from the business of governing. Many chalked it up to her having been appointed straight into cabinet when she was first elected as an MLA in 2008.
Her departure is not unexpected, as the PC Party has proven itself ruthless towards leaders who threaten its chances of re-election. But while delivering her farewell speech in the Rotunda of the Legislative Assembly Building tonight, Ms. Redford was graceful in her departure. She looked and sounded like a Premier should.
Many Albertans, myself included, had great hope for Ms. Redford when she was chosen as the leader of the PC Party in 2011. After forty years in power, Alberta’s natural governing party had grown stodgy and complacent. Casting herself as a progressive conservative in the mould of former premier Peter Lougheed, she attracted the support of many non-traditional PC supporters – liberals, moderates, trade unionists and even soft-New Democrats.
And with the help of that new electoral coalition, Ms. Redford defeated the conservative Wildrose Party in our province’s most hotly contested election in memory. There was hope but Ms. Redford and her party were quick to disappoint.
While the Redford Tories continued the smart infrastructure investments begun under previous premier Ed Stelmach, they quickly turned against many of the moderate voters who supported the party in 2012.
Deep cuts to post-secondary education, cuts to supports for people with developmental disabilities, harsh anti-labour legislation, and drastic changes to pension plans have helped alienate many professionals and public sector workers who would have otherwise gladly continued to support her. Instead of being humbled by their near defeat in 2012, the PC Party has become more arrogant. After 43 years of power, they act as if they were invincible.
The divided and disgruntled PC caucus will soon appoint an interim leader who will serve until the PC Party chooses their next leader in four to six months. The Alison Redford experiment has come to an ugly end and the natural governing party now faces the challenge of once again reinventing itself under a new leader.
If the next leader succeeds to repair the aging institutional party, the PC dynasty may continue after the next election. If the next leader fails to convince Albertans that the PC Party is worthy of continuing to govern, it may fall in the next election.