Shortly after 6pm on March 19th, 2014, Alison Redford resigned as premier of Alberta. For many, this was no surprise. Over the last several months, Ms. Redford had become mired in controversy owing to her apparent penchant for high cost travel, her government's contempt for Albertan's tax dollars, and what was said to be a top down approach to managing a caucus increasingly characterized by pettiness and infighting.
I was left wondering where it all went wrong. What the hell happened to the assurance of an open, accountable government and this hopeful new leader who promised "an emphasis on the progressive"? Ms. Redford's party won the 2012 provincial election on a mandate that leaned heavily on social responsibility. Her pleas to teachers, healthcare workers, and educators and her promises to raise AISH payments, increase wages of front line care workers, raise child care subsidies, and reduce poverty all helped to hold off what was predicted to be a huge win for the Wildrose Alliance.
This was the sort of platform that moderates and progressives got behind. This is the sort of platform that I got behind. Considering the alternative that the Wildrose presented (notwithstanding candidates with racist and homophobic views) it seemed a no brainer, and, indeed it turned out to be one. Sure, concerns were voiced about the entitled and arrogant PC party, but if anyone could turn things around in this stale and bloated organization and give people hope for a fairer and more equitably prosperous Alberta, it seemed like Alison Redford just might be the person to do it.
Her initial months in office were promising: AISH payments were increased, she seemed genuinely enthusiastic and was well received during her appearance at the 2012 Edmonton pride parade (a first for an Alberta premier), and her speech to the Edmonton Chamber of Voluntary Organizations in May of 2012 was touted as a signal of the new relationship between the government and these important social agencies that serve so many Albertans. Unfortunately, this focus on progressive values and support for vulnerable people and those that work with them was not to last.
Cuts to post-secondary education and a heavy handed approach toward Alberta's universities and colleges, and imposed wage freezes and pension attacks on the very groups that won her the election all reminded us that this was the same old PC party. Perhaps the bitumen bubble and the unexpected deficit that followed were to blame. Perhaps her 'emphasis on the progressive' was more than the party was willing to support, once they won their majority. Perhaps Ms. Redford's personal actions and aloof character played the largest role in undermining her legitimacy to govern. Almost certainly it was some combination of these that lead to the current and sad state of the governing PCs. Many have taken the recent series of events that resulted in the premier's resignation as evidence that the Redford experiment has failed. I wonder if a more fitting conclusion is that the PC party experiment has failed.
Longtime PC MLAs are undoubtedly beginning to consider their options and some will soon step forward as prospective leaders. Will the next leader of this government return to the mandate given to the party in 2012 or continue to allow it to slide? In the lead up to the 2016 election, will the PCs and their new figurehead (let's call it what it is) place an 'emphasis on the progressive,' as Ms. Redford did? Perhaps more importantly, will we believe them if they do? Or will we remember that this is not a one party system, as Mayor Nenshi would have us do? Will we instead explore any other political party and particularly those that consistently run platforms characterized by progressive policy and social responsibility of the sort that Ms. Redford promised?