Is Alberta Premier Alison Redford facing a party revolt?
Published Thursday, March 13, 2014 8:43PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, March 13, 2014 9:52PM EDT
One veteran Alberta MLA has announced he is leaving the Progressive Conservative caucus and rumours are swirling that more members may follow as critics blast Premier Alison Redford for what’s been described as an extravagant waste of taxpayers’ money.
Facing significant public pressure, Redford announced on Wednesday that she would repay $44, 254.39 in expenses incurred on a trip to South Africa for Nelson Mandela’s funeral.
But Redford's apology for the costs wasn't enough for MLA Len Webber, who announced Thursday he was leaving the party because of his unhappiness with Redford's leadership.
The Calgary backbencher said he hopes other MLAs will follow.
"Many of them are frustrated, but of course the way this leadership is run is through intimidation and bullying, and people are basically, I believe, afraid to stand up and talk," Webber said during a press conference. "And I can't do that any longer."
Redford, asked later by reporters in Edmonton for her reaction to Webber's remarks, said: "No reaction."
Webber told reporters that there are 20 to 25 disgruntled MLAs.
Experts suggest that the province's Wildrose Party could stand to benefit from the latest controversy.
Wildrose leader says PCs are ‘done’
The party's leader Danielle Smith told CTV's Power Play on Thursday that while she hasn't had any "substantive conversations" with PC members, she believes the Alberta Tories’ decades-long reign may be coming to an end.
"I think what we have is a party that has succumb to this entitlement culture and I think people are going to get sick and tired of them by the time we get to the next election," she said. "I'm not really all that concerned with who ends up leading the PCs; I think they're done."
Pointing to the federal Senate expense scandal, Smith said she believes the public has had enough with "politicians behaving badly."
"What we're seeing here is the final straw after two years of watching the behaviour of this leader acting like she doesn't give a care about spending taxpayer dollars recklessly," she added.
Beyond the spending on the lavish South Africa trip, Redford's government has in recent weeks been beset by regular revelations of other abuse of the government planes.
Last week, Redford admitted she used the planes to fly her daughter's friends around, and repaid the equivalent air fares of $3,100.
There was also a trip back on a government plane from a vacation in Palm Springs and a trip to Vancouver for a family funeral.
Smith said a she believes a change in leadership won't help the PC party at this point.
"People are beginning to come to the conclusion that no matter who they put in as leader, there's this culture of entitlement that takes them over."
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