Don Martin: Redford an example of how to do everything wrong in Alberta politics
Alberta Premier Alison Redford announces her resignation in Edmonton, Alberta on Wednesday March 19, 2014. (Jason Franson / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Published Thursday, March 20, 2014 1:34PM EDT
The Progressive Conservative party brass recently told Premier Alison Redford their vault was so empty they couldn’t afford the severance payment for a top staffer they wanted out.
Being in soft receivership is inexplicable for a party which has commanded 43 years of uninterrupted rule over the richest fundraising turf in Canada.
So they challenged the premier to use her clout to tap the oil patch towers where political bets are placed for sympathetic government hearings in the future. It was a simple survival test, but sources say she came back empty.
That was it.
Once corporate Alberta senses a premier is beyond electoral repair, they vote non-confidence with rejection letters, unreturned phone calls and empty tables at fundraising dinners.
At that point, the PC party moves quickly to impose capital punishment. A designated hit man is dispatched from headquarters to point out the plank to the faltering leader. They are told they can choose to walk into the abyss voluntarily or at be marched to the end with a sword in their back.
They inevitably choose to meekly take the final walk.
That’s the background to Alison Redford’s swift shift from unapologetic aloof leader to humbled former premier. On Wednesday night, she walked out to avoid being pushed out.
In the end, her story is a textbook example of how to do everything wrong in the blood sport of Alberta politics.
Redford felt she owed the caucus nothing because only one MLA supported her leadership. She allowed herself to be deluded into believing it was her force of personality, not crumbling support for her Wild Rose opponent, which landed her party another majority in 2011.
She believed she could hire senior advisers from Toronto or policy wonks, pay them obscenely high salaries, and they’d cocoon her from all those nattering nobs of negativity.
It made her deaf to the rising roar of discontent in her own backbench, dumb to disgust with her high-flying habits on the street and blind to her fate from a party which shows no mercy to leadership losers.
No doubt she didn’t see it coming. When you have sycophants for protection who tell you only what you want to hear (Stephen Harper take note), you lose touch with reality and link to delusion.
And so she’s gone and, according to insiders, the government side of the legislature is now the happiest place in Alberta enjoying post-Redford bliss. While the Wild Rose opposition commiserates the loss of the premier as their best ally in winning the next election, the PC party can focus on putting its mistake behind it and search for a white knight rescue.
This means a fascinating chapter is waiting to be written. This party has a curious habit of alternating between strong leaders like Peter Lougheed and Ralph Klein and weaklings like Don Getty ad Ed Stelmach.
That pattern has been broken.
With the Stelmach-Redford lineup, the party has elected two weak leaders in a row. . And with a new opponent rising on the right in the Wild Rose party, the elements are in place for another historic rollover.
As incredible as it sounds, Alberta has only had three governing party changes in its 109-year history.
We could be poised for a fourth change in government if the PC party which staged the Miracle on the Prairies after its impossible revival victory under Ralph Klein in 1993 can’t find a comeback candidate in a hurry.