A very Albertan coup: Alison Redford fell victim to her own hubris, as well as that of her Progressive Conservative Party

Share This Post

Alison Redford announces her resignation moments after 6 p.m. yesterday while Deputy Premier Dave Hancock looks on grimly in the background. Below: Mr. Hancock, the man thought most likely to become the PC Party’s interim leader and premier, as the crisis played out last week.

Alberta Premier Alison Redford, who resigned moments after 6 p.m. yesterday, fell victim to her own hubris and that of the party she led.

In the next few days and weeks, we are certain to hear two competing narratives emerge to explain what happened to Ms. Redford’s short, unhappy premiership, which began when she was sworn in on Oct. 7, 2011, and ended suddenly yesterday evening in the palace coup, dignified resignation or whatever it was that happened.

The first narrative will be that Ms. Redford was an arrogant and headstrong leader, chosen almost by accident through the maneuverings of a Machiavellian political operator, and that she was principally the victim of her own excess.

The second will be that that Ms. Redford was the victim of the structural flaws of a party that is a generation beyond its best-before date and the scheming of that party’s network of “old boys,” and thus the entire party must be swept away to fix the problems Albertans now see their province as facing.

The first benefits Ms. Redford’s Progressive Conservative Party, as it tries to find a way to reinvent itself yet again, when it thought it had managed to do just that with the selection of Ms. Redford as party leader in October 2011 and the general election that followed on April 2012.

The second benefits the Opposition parties, and in particular the Wildrose Party led by Danielle Smith, which hoped and still hopes the conditions are finally in place for the replacement of the Progressive Conservatives, who have now ruled Alberta for 43 years.

In truth, there are elements of truth to both stories, and it is nonsense to believe one to the complete exclusion of the other.

Ms. Redford was an arrogant and inconsistent leader, perpetually persuaded she was the smartest person in the room, harsh in her treatment of subordinates, certain she deserved to travel first class, convinced she could casually betray people on the left and the right with whom she had built alliances without consequences for herself or her government.

Who now doubts that either a smooth old charmer like Gary Mar, the seemingly practical Doug Horner or even an ideological zealot like Ted Morton, the other front-runners in the 2011 leadership race, couldn’t have done a better job keeping the PC Party together, wooing back disgruntled defectors to the Wildrose and reinventing the Tory party so that it could survive yet another electoral test and last a half a century?

But it is also true that the party is truly past its prime, a coalition of self-interested individuals like the governments of other one-party states that stayed too long in power and forgot why they exist. I rule, therefore I am.

With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, we can see now that Ms. Redford was exactly the wrong leader to take up the reins of a party that assumed it ruled by divine right, and which otherwise had forgotten what it was there to do.

It is a party, moreover, that had already split in two with the defection of the more ideological Wildrose faction, and which threatened to split in two again when the controversy over Ms. Redford’s high-handed and entitled style refused to go away.

What is clear is that the rebels were plentiful enough, and their threats believable enough, that Ms. Redford bowed to the inevitable and departed gracefully.

When the end came yesterday, it was sudden. My local paper turned up in my mailbox yesterday afternoon bearing a story that declared, “Premier Alison Redford isn’t going anywhere and is committed to changing her leadership style for the better.” Within a couple of hours my smartphone was carolling the hour of her news conference.

Attention will now turn to what the PC party will try to do to remain in power, and whom it will choose to lead it out of the wilderness it has found itself in, however it got there.

Elected Tory representatives and party officials were tight-lipped yesterday about who will take over as premier when Ms. Redford formally steps aside on Sunday, but the prevailing wisdom – with which I concur – is that Deputy Premier Dave Hancock will be chosen as interim leader while the party holds a leadership contest it can ill afford.

Mr. Hancock is the most likely interim premier simply because he is the least likely to want to stick around in that role, and hence will be agreeable to most.

After that, certainly some former candidates will take a serious look at taking another run at the leadership – others may conclude it’s now too late to aspire to being captain of what’s been revealed as a leaky and quite possibly sinking vessel.

Aspirants may include Mr. Mar and Dr. Morton, as well as former Deputy Premier Thomas Lukaszuk and former Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel. There may be some surprises too. Very possibly the quality of the field will be a weathervane for the party’s chances of survival.

Today is the first day of another season, both in politics and the calendar. That is the only certainty.

Alison, we hardly knew ye! But I guess we knew ye well enough.

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

Categories Alberta Politics