Alberta Politics

Tories impose a strict policy of de-Redfordization

Alison Redford Jim Prentice De Redfordization
If Alberta’s 7th PC Party Premier is successful, the record of Alberta’s 5th PC Party Premier will be far from the minds of voters when the next election is called.

The strength of any long-ruling political party is the ability to reinvent itself under new leaders and changing circumstances. After 43-years in power, Alberta’s Progressive Conservative Association has successfully rebranded itself under five leaders, in many cases by attacking the political record of its previous leadership.

Alberta’s seventh PC Party Premier, Jim Prentice, set about this week distancing himself from some of the more unpopular decisions made by the government when it was led by his predecessor, Alison Redford.

The process of de-Redfordization started with a cabinet shuffle that purged PC MLAs seen as being too closely tied to the previous leader. Finance minister Doug Horner, former deputy premier Thomas Lukaszuk, Health minister Fred Horne, Service Alberta minister Doug Griffiths, former Energy minister Ken Hughes and anti-bullying minister Sandra Jansen all found themselves sitting in the backbenches.

Former Premier Dave Hancock resigned from the Legislature, instead risk spending his final years in office without a seat at the cabinet tables.

Selling the fleet of government planes, a symbol of the entitlement of the previous regime, was a political no-brainer. Use of the government planes by the former Premier to fly from a vacation home Palm Springs and to long-weekends in Jasper, as well as ‘false passengers,’ shocked even the most cynical Albertans.

Forcing MLAs and government staff to use commercial airlines frees the government of reporting its own public flight logs, but does not solve the root problems of political entitlement inside the current government.

Cancelling the botched license plate redesign was an easy win. An obvious political ploy to remove the long-standing ‘Wild Rose Country‘ slogan from the back of every vehicle in Alberta, the great license plate debate was a strange distraction from the summer’s MLA travel and Skypalace scandals.

On the international front, Redford appointee Gary Mar, who was named Alberta’s envoy to Hong Kong after losing the 2011 PC leadership contest, is being replaced when his contract expires next year. Career diplomat Ron Hoffman will replace him.

But despite campaigning to “end entitlements”, Mr. Prentice has chosen former Ottawa colleagues Rob Merrifield and Jay Hill as Alberta envoys abroad. Mr. Merrifield will soon be Alberta’s representative in Washington D.C. and Mr. Hill, a Calgary-based lobbyist and co-chair of Mr. Prentice’s leadership campaign, will be Alberta’s “Senior Representative in Saskatchewan, British Columbia, the North and to the New West Partnership.”

Proroguing the Legislature for a new fall session of the Legislature allows for a new Speech from the Throne and provided an opportunity for the government to ditch the unpopular Bill 9 and Bill 10.

The two bills, introduced by Mr. Horner, would have imposed without consultation, an overhaul Alberta’s public sector pensions. Thousands of public sector workers rallied against the bills, making backbench Tories nervous about the next election.

Next on the list, Mr. Prentice is expected to make an announcement about the status of Red Deer’s Michener Centre today. Given the theme of this week’s announcements, it would not be surprising to hear the new leader reverse, or slow down, the facility’s closure.

Undoing some of the previous leader’s unpopular policies will steal away some of Wildrose opposition leader Danielle Smith‘s key talking points, but it will not be enough. CBC reported yesterday that Alberta’s chief medical examiner, Anny Sauvageau, is alleging political and bureaucratic interference in the independence of her office. And questions remains about irregularities in the PC leadership vote that selected Mr. Prentice on September 6.

And, despite the attempts to distance himself from the previous leader, the main thrust of Mr. Prentice’s government – promoting pipelines and the oil sands abroad – remains the same.

White-washing Ms. Redford’s time in office might be enough to help the Tories win the next election, but, like other world parties that have held near uncontested power for decades, many of the serious problems facing the PC Party and its government are deeper than any one leader.

9 replies on “Tories impose a strict policy of de-Redfordization”

I don’t know if it’s so much “de-Redfordization” as the fact that Prentice ran on a reformist platform and is keeping his campaign promises.

But I feel bad for Thomas Lukaszuk, a bright and gutsy young politician whose career appears to be over at the age of 45.

Yes, the PC’s have done a lot already to try and neutralize Redford’s imprint. But, if you think Danielle Smith would hold “open competitions” for key positions (ie: Rob Merrifield’s, etc.) if the WRP were in government, you’re kidding yourself. Danielle will inevitably pick the people she trusts, too! That’s reality.

This is becoming reminiscent of the old Soviet Union, where changes of leadership were secretive, mysterious, and Byzantine, and ousted Communist Party leaders were virtually deleted from history as though they had never existed. Lenin to Stalin; Stalin to Khrushchev; Khrushchev to Brezhnev; and so on: all were accompanied by this sort of revisionism and propaganda.

The USSR lasted 69 years; will the Alberta PC dynasty last that long? 43 years and counting … only 26 more to go ;-).

Even if the Michener decision is reversed, it’s too late for the 5 people who died over the past few months after being “transitioned out” of the centre. Perhaps Prentice was not part of the original decision, but all the others were. It is unforgivable.

Diamond Jim is new lipstick on old pig. Same entitled backroom hoggs are pork barreling. Nothing will change. Wr or Libs any day ovet this.

Unpopular Redford decisions like the pension-cutting bills and the closing of Michener have at their roots the unwillingness on the part of the Tories, supported by corporate interests and wealthy Albertans generally, to levy taxes according to the ability of individuals and companies to pay. Similarly, Stelmach tried to cut $100 million from the education budget and Redford, recognizing that this could mean defeat at the polls, rescinded the cut only to reinstitute part of it later on and take a bigger bite out of post-secondary while slashing culture and social services spending. Prentice, the leading spokesperson in Alberta for banks and oil companies (with Danielle Smith a close second, or indeed a clone), will make no more fundamental changes than Redford did. But he is politically savvy enough to know that the particular choices that Redford made to squeeze the lemon would cause his government to lose the next election. He will make other choices that will reduce the services that Albertans receive and the pay that government workers receive. Exactly what those choices will be we won’t know for awhile, perhaps not until after the next election. But if we continue the delusion that we can have as good or better services as Canadians have in other provinces while we collect income taxes per capita that are 47 percent of the national average while assessing the lowest corporate taxes, we do ourselves no good. Either we get rid of the Tories and Wildrose and their philosophy of “starve the beast” or we will continue to have unjustified cuts tossed at us as we did with Klein, Stelmach, and Redford. The good ship Tory only serves big business; the tragedy is that average voters have bought into a line that equates right-wing policies with their interests. The real beneficiaries laugh all the way to the bank, while using some of what they get from the bank to bankroll the two jaded right-wing parties.

Mr. Finkel, how do you motivate the average disengaged, middleclass bumpkin voter to think, read, be thoughtful, have some interest in the world around them, have some foresight, some hindsight and introspect. People in other countries line up for 8 hours, just to be able to vote out their dictators. Here its apparently hockey tv, streaming media entertainment, is more important. People are not willing to spend 0.1% of that hockey energy to think or act in their own best self interest. Why should the job of defending social justice and keeping our people in office accountable and honest always fall on the shoulders of the top few 99% who are willing to think and those frail opposition parties, 20 or so individuals that are truly punching above their weight? The lazy prairie folk have to stop taking things for granted and be more involved and be willing to vote and change that vote, if something that simple is all it takes to start change. 40% of Albertans are living cheque to cheque and Alberta has the highest household debt in the nation. Sure Alberta has got a the lowest unemployment rate in the world, but we have very fragile economic inertia. The financial calamity here will be unrivaled if oil ever dropped and stayed low enough for a long time. One day people are going to possibly regret not taking more interest in their democracy. We need to partially diversify our economy into some non-oil revenues besides gambling and start saving for the rainy day. Ordinary middle class Albertans are bored and disinterested in wanting to discuss reality. They just want to live in a fools paradise, wanting to booze up on friday and the weekends and leave somebody else to fix it and blame somebody else if it cant be fixed. If they cant change…the question needs to be asked are people really getting what they deserve? Do people in AB really deserve value for their taxes and do they really deserve accountable and transparent govt, given their own thoughtlessness during each election?

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