Redford earned 77% approval at 2013 PC AGM
Premier Jim Prentice is warming up for a victory lap as Progressive Conservatives loyalists gather at the posh Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel for the party’s annual general meeting on November 14 and 15, 2014. Mr. Prentice will join the convention basking in the glow of an impressive first two months as Premier and four recent by-election wins as party leader.
What a difference one year has made in Alberta politics. It was only twelve months ago that PC Party loyalists gathered at their 2013 annual meeting in Calgary to reward former leader Alison Redford with a 77% seal of approval.
“There’s always going to be people that have different perspectives,” Ms. Redford told CBC News after the vote. “It’s something that we celebrate in our party and we’re going to make sure that we keep working with everyone across the province.”
Less than five months later under a hurricane of controversy, Ms. Redford resigned as Premier of Alberta and leader of the PC Party.
Adults now back in charge
And after two years of what has felt like an endless stream of scandals, it finally feels like the adults might be in charge again at the Legislative Assembly.
But Ms. Redford’s absence does not mean the PC Party is free of problems.
The party saw record low participation in its September 2014 leadership contest. Only 23,386 votes were cast in the one ballot race, down from a record high of 144,289 votes cast in 2006. There were also numerous irregularities in the voting process, accusations that some members were unable to vote and that one PC MLA was given improper access to voting PIN numbers.
Future prospects for the PC Party may look better with Ms. Redford gone, but the party remains connected to a long list of broken promises made during the 2012 election.
Impressed with Mr. Prentice’s calm and commanding swagger, the party faithful seem satisfied with sweeping away the memory of their embarrassing leadership contest and the catastrophe was triggered it.
To the opposition Wildrose Party’s dismay, the by-election results suggest that many Alberta voters are willing to give Mr. Prentice a chance. The new Premier’s quick and efficient de-Redfordization strategy appears to have convinced many Albertans to, at least conditionally, once again warm up to Alberta’s natural governing party.
Mr. Prentice’s real challenge is a long-term one. Ms. Redford’s unpopular legacy left the new Premier with many easy initial wins to begin his tenure. But eventually Mr. Prentice will be forced to make tough choices, some of which may be unpopular. How he fairs when making these decisions, and responding to his critics, might be a more telling indicators of his political longevity as Premier.
What about Term-Limits for PC MLAs?
In a leadership contest devoid of much substance, an odd promise made by Mr. Prentice on August 21, 2014 did stick out.
In the middle of the leadership campaign, the front-runner’s team built up expectations around an important announcement.It was expected to be big. But when Mr. Prentice stepped up to the podium, he was met with confused stares when he proudly announced his second piece of legislation as Premier would be to impose legislated term-limits for MLAs.
When it quickly became clear that a term-limit laws was probably unconstitutional and would likely to be struck down by the Supreme Court of Canada, Mr. Prentice, a lawyer, scrambled to change his tune. He soon downplayed his initial promise, claiming that MLA term-limits would be an internal PC Party policy, rather than law.
It is yet to be seen whether Mr. Prentice will move forward with his term-limit agenda at this weekend’s convention in Banff.
How quickly fortunes change
PC Party loyalists who attended last year’s annual general meeting and leadership review may remember this slick promotional video promoting the visionary leadership of Ms. Redford. This artifact serves as an important reminder of how quickly political fortunes can turn for the worse.