Alberta Politics
Alison Redford leaves Government House alone at 11:32 a.m. on March 13, 2020, two days before the Ides, after Conservative MLAs presented her with their grievances (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

The Ides of March: an appropriate moment to mark the end of Alison Redford’s Conservative leadership seven years ago

Posted on March 15, 2021, 8:35 pm
4 mins

Today is the seventh anniversary of the day the Progressive Conservative Party Caucus in the Alberta Legislature gave its leader and premier, Alison Redford, a “work plan” to get her foundering government back on track, or else.

Four days later Ms. Redford formally announced her resignation and by March 23 she was gone, replaced by a caretaker premier, Dave Hancock, and eventually by Jim Prentice, the PCs’ anointed one, the politician they were certain would assure the continuation of their dynasty. 

Ms. Redford in the wee hours of Oct. 2, 2011, moments after she was declared the winner in the Progressive Conservative leadership race – you’ll note some familiar faces close to the flame (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

But the Ides of March, 2021, is as good a moment as any to mark the end of Ms. Redford’s leadership of Alberta’s Conservatives in 2014. 

You could have pointed to her meeting with her caucus two days before the Ides, I suppose, when MLAs presented her with their grievances at Government House in Edmonton. Grim faced, she emerged from that gathering, all alone, at 11:32 a.m. Without a word to the reporters clustered outside, she was whisked away by her security detail in a big, black SUV. 

Even at that late point, though, she might have been able to save herself. Despite her obvious political baggage, there were strong arguments against giving her the bum’s rush just then.

But by the 15th it was all over. With MLAs threatening to resign from the party en masse if she stayed on, the Conservative hive mind reached the conclusion it was her or them. After that, the end came quickly.

Caucus gave her the notorious work plan at a “respectful but brutal” inquisition in Calgary, effectively putting their premier on probation. It could have been worse. At least they didn’t make her wear an ankle bracelet. 

After two and a half years of chaos and the scandals over travel and that Sky Palace atop the provincially owned Federal Building in Edmonton, nowadays in use as Premier Jason Kenney’s hideaway second office, it was evident to everyone she was done for. All that happened on March 19 was that Ms. Redford publicly admitted it. 

Ms. Redford’s SUV awaits, as security officers prepare to whisk her away from Government House on March 13 (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

The assumption at the time was that the threat to the PCs came from the right, along with the constant and often vicious attacks from the Wildrose Party still led by Danielle Smith and its supporters. You would have been laughed out of the room if you’d asked the professional political observers in Legislature’s Press Gallery if you thought the government faced any dangers from the NDP, still led in March by Brian Mason. 

Ms. Redford’s humiliating departure was a stunning flameout for a politician who had stepped into leadership with such promise only two and a half years before.

By any measure, March 2014 was one of the most dramatic months in Alberta political history.

11 Comments to: The Ides of March: an appropriate moment to mark the end of Alison Redford’s Conservative leadership seven years ago

  1. Anonymous

    March 15th, 2021

    Another really poor premier, among a bunch of other poor conservative premiers in Alberta. Only one of the lot had any sensibility, and he was Peter Lougheed.

    Reply
    • Bret Larson

      March 17th, 2021

      Thats because they were not conservative. Take Edmonton Goldbar. Now an NDP fortress, filed with government workers who voted Conservative in 2012. These are the seats that kept the “Conservatives” in power. So why did they vote conservative, for the same reason they vote NDP. “Good well paying government jobs for those who know which party to vote for”.

      It should be the moto of the NDP, but they arent the ones that went there first. The “Conservatives” succumbed to vote buying years before this.

      Reply
  2. jerrymacgp

    March 16th, 2021

    I really think it would be a stretch to argue that, while it wasn’t until the Prentice government that the wheels really fell off the PC bus, it was under Redford that the lug nuts first started to loosen. Her haughtiness & sense of entitlement — from the Sky Palace to the government plane’s phantom passengers — personified everything the voters disliked about the PC dynasty.

    It may be that, as some have suggested, misogyny & an unjust distrust of female politicians may have been a factor — but IMHO, I don’t think this scenario would have unfolded any differently had she been a man.

    Reply
    • Anonymous

      March 16th, 2021

      JERRYMACGP: Here is some interesting information. Alison Redford was guided by Peter Lougheed, at the beginning, but she went her own way, and that’s where the problems started. Misogyny in politics is as real as rain in Seattle, and Alison Redford got her share of it, which also shows that two wrongs don’t make a right. The cracks in the Alberta PC party also came from the fact that Ralph Klein’s fiscal policies were fraught with flaws, and the gargantuan costs of his errors fell onto his successors laps. Although they weren’t fiscally righteous either, they were left with a massive mess from Ralph Klein. We still haven’t recovered from what Ralph Klein has done. We won’t recover from what the UCP has done.

      Reply
    • Bob Raynard

      March 16th, 2021

      Ralph Klein also used the government plane so he could smoke while traveling to Calgary.

      Reply
  3. Cliff

    March 16th, 2021

    She depended on progressives and unionists to beat the Wildrose and then turned around and tried to legislate away their basic charter rights.

    I think that was the point where the last progressives voting PC to keep Wildrose out and have some influence over the inevitable PC government finally figured out that it was a mug’s game.

    Reply
  4. Dave

    March 16th, 2021

    Well Mr. Kenney at least seems to have survived this Ides of March, although there may be a couple more before the next election.

    I suspect Kenney will probably survive those too, without a work plan for improvement. While he seems as arrogant and out of touch in listening to Albertans in general as Redford, he does seem to pay a bit more attention to the ideologues in his own party. However, that Sky Palace office choice does not seem auspicious. Kenney better hope it does not come with its own rotunda and at least keep his backbench MLA’s as far away from any nearby rotunda as possible, just to be safe.

    While Redford’s story is a tragedy, she had, as was noted, a number of opportunities to change course and try fix things. So, it was not just obliviousness that led to her downfall, but I think arrogance and stubbornness. The current UCP government seems to share a number of these traits of its predecessor party, although perhaps not in quite the same degree yet. I believe Kenney’s ultimate reckoning will be with the voters at large, if he chooses to stay on in Alberta for re-election, and not his own MLA’s.

    Reply
  5. TENET

    March 17th, 2021

    Indeed, Kenney is every bit as “entitled” but he is a lot dumber. Maybe Albertans are as well? Redford is a very intelligent person who faced a myriad of personal and political challenges all at once. She can wear the AISH initiative proudly, just as Klein must wear the shame of berating street people.

    Reply
  6. Bret Larson

    March 17th, 2021

    Except all of the wounds were self inflicted.

    Reply

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