“Not your father’s PC Party” was a key message the Progressive Conservatives directed at urban liberal and progressive voters in the 2012 election. The message was received and helped drive many non-traditional PC voters into becoming part the new electoral coalition that re-elected Ms. Redford’s party, and, in turn, blocked the more conservative Wildrose from taking office.
I can’t expect many voters believed that when they heard the message “not your father’s PC Party,” they were voting for something closer to their ‘grandfather’s Social Credit Party.’
The transformation of Alison Redford from moderate progressive conservative into something different (than what many voters cast their ballots for) started early in 2013.
Starting in January 2013, with the emergence of a new buzzword, “bitumen bubble,” Ms. Redford set course toward deep budget cuts that targeted areas close to the hearts and pay checks of many voters who supporter her party in the last election.
Deep budget cuts were forced on the province’s colleges and universities by Deputy Premier Thomas Lukaszuk, who serves as Ms. Redford’s “heavy-hand.” Vulnerable Albertans suffered after Ms. Redford’s budget slashed funding for programs supporting persons with developmental disabilities.
Education Minister Jeff Johnson threatened to legislate a contract for teachers and he eventually forced the contract on school boards through legislation. Finance Minister Doug Horner has proposed changes to pension plans that could jeopardize the retirement security of many public sector workers employed by the provincial and municipal governments in Alberta.
The hastily introduced Bill 45 and Bill 46 stripped away collective bargaining rights of public sector workers and attacked free speech rights of ordinary Albertans. Ms. Redford’s credentials as a progressive politician and a human rights advocate were put in doubt by these Orwellian moves.
But if Ms. Redford’s sleight towards her moderate supporters was a ploy to win-back the hearts and minds of former rural PC voters who cast their votes for the Wildrose, she might be disappointed. Despite the PC shift to the right, the Wildrose Party continues to expand their large individual donor base. Many, if not most, of those Wildrose voters do not appear likely to return to the PC Party fold in the near future.
Aside from her admirable performance during and in response to the southern Alberta floods, Ms. Redford typically gives the appearance of disinterest with the day-to-day domestic affairs of governing.
It has been clear for some time that Ms. Redford is more comfortable speaking to industry groups in New York or boardrooms in Hong Kong than she is debating her opponents on the floor of the provincial assembly. She spent a significant amount of time in 2013 traveling across Canada promoting pipelines and her Canadian Energy Strategy, and voyages to China, India, and the United States to promote Alberta in international markets.
After forty-three consecutive years as government in energy-rich Alberta, the PCs remain the safe bet to win the next election. But as Ms. Redford continues to stray from the people who voted for her party in 2012, it is difficult to predict who will comprise her party’s next winning coalition.