Tory MLAs, reporters, right-wing ideologues take aim at Alison Redford for PC Party’s woes

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The Alberta premier’s personal airship ties up alongside the Sky Palace Official First Minister’s Residence, high atop the former Federal Building in Edmonton. Actual official accommodations may not appear exactly as illustrated, even in the blueprints. Below: Former premiers Ralph Klein and Ed Stelmach.

OTTAWA

Everyone is piling onto Alison Redford now, a phenomenon we can expect to continue for a few days or even weeks as three things happen.

First, journalists who were working on stories started during the former Alberta premier’s final days in power are going to want to get them filed and published as quickly as possible before the public and their editors lose interest and wander off toward other preoccupations.

Second, it’s in the interests of Ms. Redford’s interim successor in the premier’s office, Dave Hancock, and her PC Party to see this stuff covered and forgotten about as quickly as possible.

Yesterday’s massive “document dump” detailing the cost of the $1.3-million severance payments to Ms. Redford’s personal staff members, their $133,000 in “living allowances” in two and a half years, and the dropped plans to build a $750,000 semi-secret premier’s pleasure dome in the former Federal Building near the Legislature are prime examples of this phenomenon at work.

If there are more stories still lurking in the shrubbery, like the one about chaos in the former premier’s security detail, semi-official leaks to get them out of the way quickly are now a distinct possibility.

Naturally, this stuff will be released in a way designed to make it stick as much as possible to Ms. Redford – and as little as possible to ministers in her cabinet who had to know what was going on. 

Finance Minister Doug Horner and Infrastructure Minister Ric McIver, both of whom surely had to know about the Sky Palace plans, c’mon down!

Third, because everyone with a case to make, however unlikely, is going to try to stake a claim for their enthusiasm being the cause of Ms. Redford’s dismissal last week. Such theories will mostly be baloney, of course.

Take, for example, the suggestion in Friday’s Globe and Mail that it was her “appetite for debt” that caused Ms. Redford’s caucus to bring her to heel.

Unlikely, or Mr. Horner would be by now have gone the side too instead of being in the midst of planning another leadership campaign with a realistic chance of success.

No, this opinion may reflect the never-changing market-fundamentalist verities as seen by the Globe’s editorial ideologues in chief, but it isn’t what did Ms. Redford in.

True, the Wildrose Party would have screeched about burdening our grandchildren with debt, yadda-yadda, but it also would have gone easy on condemning specific debt-financed projects because it knows they are popular with a significant cohort of voters.

Ms. Redford’s apparent unpopularity in the polls – and the response it evoked among her panicky caucus, especially MLAs who won in 2012 in close races with the Wildrose Party – was what fuelled her party’s rebellion against her.

If there was a single most significant cause of that decline, it was the party’s own decision to betray the progressive alliance cobbled together in 2012 to save the 43-year-old PC dynasty one last time – a fact made obvious to MLAs by the visits to their constituency offices by unhappy voters affected by those inexplicable policies.

Some readers may accuse me of the same fault I find with the Globe and Mail, but the arguments for the latter explanation are stronger than those found in the Globe – whether or not it is the received wisdom of the Organized Right.

The truth – as with the departures Conservative premiers Ralph Klein in 2006 and Ed Stelmach in 2011 – may be that Ms. Redford was never as much disliked by the public as her caucus members imagined she was, if indeed anyone but the chattering classes was paying attention at all.

If so, what mattered wasn’t what the polls really indicated, but what frightened caucus members thought they indicated.

Indeed, while a couple of much-publicized on-line panel polls showed her personal approval ratings in the vicinity of 20 per cent, other private surveys are said to have shown higher levels of support.

Opposition parties will now try hard to ensure the blame for the PC Party’s recent missteps is not assigned solely to Ms. Redford, but that her muddled and rebellious party shares the blame – and they may well succeed.

What an irony if it turns out the PCs would have done better in the next election led by Ms. Redford, for all her troubles, than with whomever they choose to replace her!

If so, the situation will not be unique: as far as the public was concerned they might well have done better with Mr. Klein than Mr. Stelmach, and better with Mr. Stelmach than with Ms. Redford – so why not better with Ms. Redford than with Premier No. 16, whoever that turns out to be?

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

Categories Alberta Politics