Don Martin: Albertans rejecting Redford's perceived aura of entitlement
Published Friday, March 14, 2014 5:50PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, March 14, 2014 6:13PM EDT
Both times Alberta Premier Alison Redford was interviewed in our Ottawa studio, she raised eyebrows.
First there was an unusual security sweep. An aide then arrived an hour early to ensure the bureau door opened immediately upon the premier’s arrival. Then came her tagalong detail, which is far larger than any federal minister, premier, diplomat or foreign leader we’ve ever hosted, except for the Japanese prime minister.
It’s more like the entourage for the leader of a G7 country instead of Canada’s fourth largest province.
This sense of royal grandeur is one reason Albertans have suddenly gone cold on their premier, which has emboldened the Progressive Conservative caucus to openly challenge her lofty style.
Albertans above all other Canadians abhor too-big-for-their britches behaviour. They want premiers to be folksy, not high-falutin’.
So when Premier Redford spent $45,000 on flights to attend Nelson Mandela’s funeral, randomly used the government plane for taxi or family reunion purposes and, when caught, blamed the whole thing on staff or bureaucrat bungling, Albertans reacted badly. This backlash isn’t about policy as she struggles to match fluctuating energy revenues with a population surge.
It isn’t necessarily about planes. After all, former premier Ralph Klein used them like a personal shuttle because he could smoke on board. When his high-flying habit was exposed, the public merely shrugged.
No, this is personal. It’s a rejection of her perceived aura of entitlement to perks, which were taken unapologetically and only renounced as a last resort of damage control.
For the record, I’ve never seen signs of Premier Redford’s alleged hot temper or nasty streak, but insiders insist it’s on display the minute the cameras and microphones are out of sight.
The leader-loathing inside longtime Conservative circles is the worst I’ve ever seen as they gleefully predict her inevitable demise.
Complicating matters, her Alberta PC dynasty is in debt and fundraising is freefalling faster than the premier’s popularity collapse to just 20 per cent approval.
Premier Redford’s short-term saving grace is that there is no obvious heir to the throne.
And some think she could still bounce back if, say, the Keystone pipeline goes ahead and Alberta’s economic boom goes supersonic.
If that happens, Alison Redford must shake the entitlement attitude for good. And she should probably embrace the old adage often recited by Ralph Klein: Be nice to people on the way up because you’ll see the same people on the way down.