Alison Redford

Godwin’s Law of Alberta Politics

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Alberta Politics | 11 Comments

Peter Lougheed angrily shakes his glass of champagne towards Pierre Trudeau after being forced under torture to sign the NEP

If you’re reading this post, you likely spend a good amount of time online, so I’m assuming you’re familiar with Godwin’s Law:

“As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.”

This is true enough. However, I’d like to propose an Alberta political variant, as follows:

“As an Alberta political discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving the NEP approaches 1.”

For those not familiar with the NEP, it was a dastardly scheme dreamed up by Pierre Trudeau, designed to steal Alberta’s wealth, and was single-handedly responsible for the collapse of the world price of oil and rising interest rates in the 80s. (At least that’s how it’s described in Alberta’s Grade 3 education curriculum.)

Without fail, when Alberta politicians grow desperate, they lob the NEP grenade, comparing whatever it is their opponents are proposing to a new National Energy Program (“Full day kindergarten? That would be just like the NEP.”). It’s impossible to talk to an Albertan for more than an hour without the NEP coming up – hell, it even has a starring role in a new Edmonton Eskimos documentary.

So it should not be at all surprising that Alison Redford’s musings of a “National Energy Strategy” have degenerated into a round of NEP name calling. This week, Redford brought up the NEP during her feud with Christy Clark, while Danielle Smith likened Redford’s NES to the NEP.

Both comparisons were farcical, which is why I feel it’s time we also adopted the corollary to Godwin’s law – namely, the first person to bring up Hitler the NEP automatically loses the debate. So Redford can still criticize Clark, and Smith can still criticize Redford, but they’ll have to base their arguments on something other than a 30-year old program that has been mythologized beyond recognition.

While I think these two laws would promote a far more reasoned and rational debate about the future of Canada’s energy grid, I know what you’re all probably thinking right about now – “A Toronto Liberal imposing new laws on Albertans? You know what that reminds me of…

Mulcair Takes on the West

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Federal Politics | 4 Comments

What started out as musings on the health of Ontario’s manufacturing sector has quickly escalated into a full fledged war of words between Tom Mulcair and the western Premiers. It’s an important shift in the dialogue, because going to war with the West is a lot different than going to war with the oilsands – after all, you won’t find many “save our oilsands” protests in front of Libby Davies’ Vancouver East constituency office.

Mulcair picking a fight with Premiers Clark, Redford, and Wall has led to his first patch of negative press since winning the NDP leadership – and rightly so. Calling Premiers who stick up for local industry “messengers of Stephen Harper” (in a tone that makes them sound like a swarm of Nazgul) brings him down to the level of Jim Flaherty, who routinely plays the role of Ontario’s leader of the opposition.

I think we can all agree Mulcair shouldn’t be disparaging the Premiers on this issue, but it’s less clear whether or not this is a shrewd tactical move, or another case of Mulcair not thinking before opening his mouth.

The first thing to consider is the popularity of the people Mulcair is attacking. We know Brad Wall is more popular than God and Alison Redford just pulled off a small miracle in Alberta. However, the third member of this trinity has seen better days and now trails the provincial NDP by 27 points – so it’s hard to fault Mulcair for alligning himself with the BC Dippers. Even in Saskatchewan, the fallout from attacking Wall might be minimal, as the provincial and federal NDP received similar shares of the popular vote during elections there last year. Just as there are many western voters who share Mulcair’s disdain for the oilsands, there are many western voters who nodded in agreement as Mulcair criticized their premiers.

In the broader picture, the trade-off between votes in the East and votes in the West might explain Mulcair’s gambit. To form government, the NDP will need to pick up at least 30-50 more seats next election. Of the 50 ridings the NDP came closest to winning in 2011, just 16 are in Western Canada – moreover, there are only four seats in Western Canada the party won by less than 10% last election, suggesting it will take more than a Twitter feud with Brad Wall to bring Mulcair down.

So there’s an argument to be made for concentrating on eastern voters, if you buy that the NDP’s road to 24 Sussex bypasses the West. If that’s the case, Mulcair’s salvo on the oilsands might not be the gaffe its being portrayed as, and it won’t be the last time he picks a fight with the western provinces.

Of course, Western Canada will be gaining new seats in 2015, and there’s the long game to think about. On that front, Mulcair would be well served learning from the party he hopes to replace. For years the Liberals won elections by scapegoating the West and, in particular, the oil industry. This electoral math equation usually paid off, but in the long run it has left Western Canada a charred dust-bowl for the Liberals, with nothing more than 4 specs of red west of Ontario left on the map.

Even if Mulcair can score a few extra seats in 2015 by playing the regions against each other, it’s not a strategy that is likely to pay off for the NDP in the long run.

Did the left blow it in Alberta?

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in 2012 Alberta Election, Alberta Politics | Leave a comment

Even though the end result was a Stephen Harper majority government, the NDP took a giant leap forward last May. In one election, the party may very well have taken the first step in killing off Canada’s natural governing party, positioning the Dippers to one day form government.

Although last Monday’s Alberta election was a battle between two conservative parties, it’s not far flung to imagine how a similar scenario could have unfolded there.

Let’s close our eyes and go back in time to the spring of 2008 – Leona Lewis topped the billboard charts, and Ed Stelmach had just stumbled his way to a crushing 70-seat majority. In our scenario, perhaps the Liberals and NDP finally decide that 50 years of fighting each other for second place has been counterproductive. They talk to some disaffected PCs and non-partisans and decide to start a new progressive party from scratch – let’s call it the “Alberta Party” for lack of a more creative name.

Since there’s general displeasure with Stelmach and no viable alternative on the right (remember, this is pre-Danielle), a few polls show this party is popular at the conceptual level. Maybe Dave Bronconnier finally has enough guts to jump to provincial politics. Or maybe the leadership goes to a little known Mount Royal professor by the name of Nenshi.

In either event, this new party is seen as credible by voters, setting up a real three-way election battle. Maybe the Alberta Party follows the federal NDP’s path and winds up as the official opposition to a Wildrose government. Maybe we get Alberta’s first minority government. Hell, maybe the PCs choose Gary Mar or Ted Morton as their leader, and all those “Redford Liberals” find a home in the new Alberta Party, sweeping them into power.

Yes, it’s all fantasy, but fantasyland is the only place the left ever comes close to power in Alberta so there’s no harm in closing our eyes and imagining it.

Now, let’s try another scenario, grounded slightly more in reality – what would have happened had the “strategic voters” been less strategic? Could progressives have made a breakthrough on Monday night?

It’s important to remember that despite being the punchline of Canadian politics, the left in Alberta is not nonexistent. Since the Liberals’ near-victory in 1993, the Liberals and NDP have combined for between 35% and 42% of the vote in each election, falling victim to the unforgiving nature of first past the post.

The Liberals’ did not bled to the Wildrose Party this election, but to Allison Redford. The final Abacus poll showed around 10% of 2008 Liberal and NDP voters jumping to the Wildrose Party, but this is off-set by the 5% of past PC voters who planned to follow Raj Sherman to the grits. Toss in the departure of the Alberta Greens from the ballot, and it’s not unreasonable to assume the Liberals and NDP could have held their 2008 vote, had things broken a little differently.

So what if they had?

To find out, I moved PC voters “back” to the Liberals, until the 2012 regional totals matched the 2008 numbers. As an example, to get the Liberals back to 33% in Calgary, I needed to shift 11% of the total vote from the PCs to the Liberals in each riding. I recognize this is an inexact science but, once again, this is perfectly legitimate math for fantasyland.

Here’s what that legislature would have looked like:

WR 42
PC 26
Lib 14

That may not be an overly appealing outcome, but it does leave the Liberals and NDP as players in a minority government. Moreover, if you shift to 2004 levels of support, suddenly we get 23 Liberal MLAs and 13 for the PCs, with the Wildrose holding a slim majority. That’s a scenario similar to last May, and one that could eventually lead to the Liberals squeezing the PCs out of existence.

Again, we’re playing with hypotheticals in the land of make believe, but it does show that the landscape isn’t so completely barren for progressives that the only option left is assimilation by the PCs. Situations can change – even in Alberta.

Where do we go from here?

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in 2012 Alberta Election, Alberta Politics, Featured Posts | Leave a comment

The end result of Monday’s Alberta election may have been yet another crushing PC majority, but it’s impossible to deny Alberta’s political climate hasn’t been permanently altered. With the Wildrose Party now her majesty’s loyal opposition, each party faces unique challenges in adapting to this new political climate. Voters showed a willingness to change their vote this election, so any party failing to adapt risks extinction.

The PCs

Yes, they nearly blew it. Yes, they lost seats. But Monday was nothing short of complete triumph and total dominance by the PCs. In other words – the usual.

While the PCs have never been shy about knifing successful leaders, most of the discontents have fled to the Wildrose Party, so Redford’s leadership is likely safe…for now.

The challenge facing Redford is that she leads a very different PC Party than the one she inherited less than a year ago. Ted Morton and much of the rural caucus went down in defeat, and the PCs won their mandate from a vastly different coalition of voters than in 2008. If the polls are to be believed (ha ha ha!), half of all 2008 PC voters saddled up with Smith this campaign, while half of all 2008 Liberal voters jumped to Redford. In the process, the PC “base” has shifted considerably – Redford’s mandate was effectively given to her by liberals. If she governs like “your father’s PC Party”, there’s no way those voters will buy in to any kind of “Stop Smith” movement in 2016.

Of course, if she governs like a Liberal, she risks more bleeding to the Wildrose Party, who will now be staring her down in the legislature. In the past, the PCs have faced off against Liberal professors and doctors who cared more about policy than sound bytes. Now, they’ll be up against a well funded and media savvy libertarian. Gone are the days when elections could be won with a few simple chants of “NEP!” and by outspending their opponents by a factor of ten.

The Wildrose represent a new kind of opponent. The PCs have never had to worry about their right flank before, so Redford will have her hands full keeping everyone inside the PC tent happy.

Wildrose Party

Once the tears have dried, my advice to the Wildrose Party is to take a deep breath, take a vacation, and look at the big picture.

This party rose from the ground up, and won over 34% of the electorate in their first election with Danielle Smith. That’s better than Peter Lougheed fared in his rookie campaign as PC leader, and it leaves the Wildrose well positioned to form government in 2016.

To do that, Smith need look no further than the path to power taken by another Albertan, Stephen Harper. After coming close in 2004, Harper regrouped, developed a plan, and came back with a vengeance in 2006, running one of the best campaigns in Canadian political history. He had a moderate and focused platform, took social issues completely off the table, and avoided the “bozo eruptions” that had doomed him two years earlier.

Smith’s challenge in the coming years is therefore to silence the extremists in her party, and present her caucus as a government in waiting. To do that, she will need to tone down the rhetoric in the legislature and moderate her positions – Smith’s musings on reconsidering the party’s climate change, firewall, and conscience rights positions is already a step in the right direction.

What’s Left of the Left

For a party that lost over half of its vote Monday night, the Liberals have actually got to be feeling pretty good about the outcome. They held 5 seats when many were predicting a shut-out, and stayed (barely) ahead of the NDP both in terms of seats and popular vote.

While the NDP would have liked to vault ahead of the Grits, they doubled their caucus to four seats, tying their best showing in 20 years. Brian Mason can stick around as leader if he wants to, but the NDP are usually pretty good about giving all their MLAs a turn as party leader so it wouldn’t surprise me if the torch is passed to Rachel Notley or David Eggen.

Of course, these feel good results mask the reality that the status quo isn’t working. With the PCs shifting under Redford, there simply isn’t enough room for both these parties to be viable on the left of the spectrum.

In an ideal world, the two would simply merge, take the Alberta Party’s name and Twitter handle, and recruit a charismatic leader from outside their current MLA ranks. The thing is, I just can’t see a situation where the membership of either the Liberals, NDP, or Alberta Party would agree to this type of arrangement. Such has always been the story among Alberta progressives, who value pride above power.

That’s not to say it’s a hopeless situation. If Redford falters, the opportunity for someone on the left to squeeze out the PCs could present itself. The 30-40% of Albertans who always voted Liberal or NDP before this last election are still around, even if many parked their vote with Redford. If someone comes along able to capture their imagination, it wouldn’t be unfathomable for them to move ahead of the PCs, the same way Jack Layton vaulted ahead of the Liberals federally last spring.

I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for that to happen, but when you consider how volatile Alberta’s political climate has been of late, it would be foolish to assume there won’t be a surprise or two in the coming years.

"40 more years! 40 more years!"

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in 2004 Federal Election, 2012 Alberta Election, Alberta Politics, Featured Posts | Leave a comment

How certain was I that Alison Redford would be dealt a humiliating blow last night? I had my “morning after” post time stamped to go up at 8 am, detailing Smith’s victory using a colourfull “Wildrose chinook of change” analogy.

It turns out that politics, like the weather, can be unpredictable.

Not that a PC win in Alberta should ever be considered unpredictable. As I mused in my National Post Full Comment article this morning, dynasties do not crumble overnight. The decline of Rome lasted hundreds of years. The Oilers won a cup after dealing Gretzky. The Empire was good for two more movies, even after the Death Star blew up.

And last night, the PC empire struck back in full force:

PC: 61 seats  (44%)
Wildrose: 17  (34%)
Liberal: 5  (10%)
NDP: 4  (10%)

Yes, the PCs who were down by 7-10 points in every poll days before the vote pulled out a crushing 10-point victory.

The comparison I would draw is to the 2004 federal election, when the dying Liberal dynasty succeeded in scaring voters into giving them one last chance. With that in mind, here’s my cautionary warning to PC supporters who might have dreams of another 40 years in power:

The situation in this election is eerily similar to the 2004 federal campaign, when 2012 Wildrose campaign manager Tom Flanagan — then working for the federal Conservatives – tried to lead an upstart right wing band of misfits to victory against the natural governing party. In both instances, the incumbent dynasties had knifed successful leaders, and had unrealistic expectations for their new leaders. Just as anonymous PC strategists lamented about winning “too many seats” in February, in 2004 Liberal strategists mused about 200 seats for Paul Martin (which in fairness, Martin got – it just took him two elections to do it).

In both instances, the incumbent badly mismanaged a scandal (Adscam for Paul, the “no meet committee” for Redford), and threw caution to the wind by calling an election in the midst of it. In both instances, Flanagan’s great right hope rose in the polls, pulled into the lead, won the debate…and then blew it in the bottom of the 9th. Both times voters stared change in the face, and decided they weren’t ready for it – yet.

We all know how things turned out federally, and therein lies the cautionary tale for all the players in Alberta. The Wildrose Party now has a base of 35% of the Alberta electorate. They have an impressive, albeit inexperienced, leader in Danielle Smith who now has four years to refine her skills and weed out the thornier candidates from her party’s ranks. If Stephen Harper could make the federal Conservatives look “non-scary”, then surely the photogenic and charismatic Smith can pull off the same trick in Alberta.

The challenge facing the PCs is now the same one that faced Martin in 2004 – they won on a campaign of fear, and won thanks to borrowed votes from the left. It was a brilliant play for which Alberta’s political mastermind Stephen Carter deserves full credit, but it leaves the PCs governing on a shaky foundation. Given the Alberta Liberal Party has received between 25% to 30% of the vote in every election since their near-victory in 1993, some quick napkin math suggests that as much as one-third of the PC vote this campaign came from former Liberal supporters. These voters were willing to look past the decades of the PCs doing everything in government they accused the Wildrose of wanting to do, but they are unlikely to be forgiving if Redford veers to the right again. To keep these voters in the PC tent will require competent, centrist government from Redford — but also a still-scary Wildrose Party come 2016, and the lack of a credible alternative on the left.

I wouldn’t discount that possibility, but holding borrowed votes on the left and preventing further bleeding to the right is a difficult balancing act for any government. While Redford was the big winner Monday, when the book is eventually written on the PC empire, its latest victory could still prove to be the beginning of the end.

Alberta Votes Live Blog

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in 2012 Alberta Election, Alberta Politics | Leave a comment

6 pm (mountain time!): The much anticipated downtown Toronto Alberta election night party is ready to roll: the Alberta flag has been proudly hung, the Big Rock beers have been opened, and I’m sportin’ a Supportin’ Morton button. Polls are still open for another two hours, but the room is already full with a dozen ex-Albertans – and two Ontarians curious to see who will be signing their next equalization cheque.

7:20 pm: Playing “Ted Morton is the man” and “sing a song for Jim” to get everyone pumped up. One guest – “ahhh, so that’s how Ed Stelmach became Premier“.

8:10 pm: In most Alberta elections, we’d be calling it right about now.

8:14 pm: Watching the Global TV live stream online – they have a CNN-style touch screen! Sadly, due to James Moore’s budget cuts, CBC will be announcing results via abacus tonight.

8:42 pm: Current numbers have the PCs leading in 45, Wildrose leading in 22, NDP in 2, Liberals in 1. maybe this is the Dennis Coderre bounce.

8:50 pm:  PCs now lead 55-21. And that’s the sound of pundits everywhere frantically re-writing their articles before deadline.

9:01 pm:And they call it for the PCs. Absolutely shocking. Tom Flanagan blows it in the bottom of the 9th again. Conversation at our Toronto election party:

“I thought this was supposed to be a close election”
“By Alberta standards, this IS a close election”

9:40 pm: Guess we need to give Alberta Liberals an assist on this one. The ALP vote is down 15-20 points from their usual levels, far and away the margin of victory.

10:37 pm: And the traditional chant goes up at PC headquarters: “40 more years! 40 more years!“. That’s it for tonight all – tomorrow, I’ll try to make some sense of one of the most shocking election nights in a long time.

Alberta Votes Day 28: What to expect tomorrow

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in 2012 Alberta Election, Alberta Politics, Seat Projections | Leave a comment

I’ve already written about the difficulties of using seat projection models due to the unique circumstances of this Alberta election. So rather than crunch the numbers, I thought it might prove more useful to conduct a “wisdom of the masses” exercise, by looking at the predictions being made in  the Great Alberta Election pool. Here’s what the nearly 100 politicos who have entered so far are expecting tomorrow:

Seat Totals

The above graph shows the median prediction for each party, with the bars representing the first-to-third quartile range – that is, where the “middle half” of all entries fall. Looking strictly at the means, we get a “best guess” of 42 Wildrose seats, 37 PC seats, 4 NDP seats, 3 Liberal seats, and 1 for the Alberta Party. That’s a slightly narrower gap than my prediction of WR 44, PC 35, NDP 4, Lib 4, AP 0 – and it suggests there’s some skepticism out there about Smith’s ability to seal the deal. After all, three-in-ten respondents still predict a PC victory and only a minority (41%) expect Smith to win a majority.

Races to Watch

Nine-in-ten expect Redford to hold her seat, but respondents are less certain about Raj Sherman (43%) and Ted Morton’s (19%) chances. It’s a little counter intuitive for Morton to get drowned in the Wildrose wave given he’d be right at home in the party, but I have a hard time seeing any PCs left standing in southern rural Alberta.

As for the Wildrose Party’s more colourful candidates, only 36% expect Allan Hunsperger (of “gays burn in hell” fame) or Ron Leech (of “being white is an advantage” fame) to be elected Monday. I’d be shocked if Hunsperger won, but Leech took 26% of the vote running as an independent last election – add in the Wildrose boost, and he seems like the odds on favourite to find his way to Edmonton, perhaps as Danielle Smith’s Multiculturalism Minister*.

Edmonton Glenora figures to be one of the most hotly contested seats – the PCs beat the Liberals by 100 votes last time, but both the NDP and Alberta Party are running strong candidates and have targeted the riding. And with the Wildrose’s Edmonton poll numbers, even they could pull it out on the vote split. This unpredictability is born out in the pool, where 56% expect the PCs to hold the riding, 21% (myself included) see it as an NDP pick-up, 11% pick the Alberta Party, 10% pick the Liberals, and 2% pick the Wildrose.

The Alberta Party

This being their first election, it’s difficult to know what to expect from the Alberta Party. Only one-in-three predict they’ll win a seat, and the mean guess on their best riding vote is 15-20%. That’s the most I’d expect them to get anywhere, but many pool entries had them winning multiple seats, and up to 40 or 50 percent of the vote in some ridings. 

The Senate

The Wildrose Party is predicted to pick up 1.7 of the 3 Senate seats. Personally, I expect a clean sweep – given the low level attention paid to the Senate election, I expect most will vote party lines.

The Morning After

Close to half (44%) expect Liberal leader Raj Sherman to announce his resignation within 48 hours of the vote – perhaps not surprising since most expect Sherman to lose his seat and just 18% think the Liberals will win more votes than the NDP.

One-in-three expect Redford to resign after the election – presumably not the same people voting for her as “the most progressive option”. Personally, I’d be surprised if any of the four opposition leaders are around come next election – hell, I’d be surprised if all four opposition parties still exist come the next election. But my best guess is that they’ll all take a bit of time before coming to a decision…or being forced into one.

*That’s obviously a joke. We all know Danielle Smith won’t name a Multiculturalism Minister.

Alberta Votes Day 8: Losing control of the agenda

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in 2012 Alberta Election, Alberta Politics | Leave a comment

One week into the election, and Alberta’s 40 year PC dynasty is on the ropes. It’s premature to write the obituaries, but it’s never too early to write about what went wrong – and what went wrong in week one was a complete inability of Alison Redford to control the agenda.

One day, the Tories are under attack for burrying a health care report card. The next, they’re fending off the first Twitter controversy of the campaign. And nearly every day has featured unwanted attention on the “money for nothing” committee.

Redford tried to diffuse the issue Friday by forcing MLAs to return all the pay they received, but this gesture came nearly a full month after the story broke…and several weeks after Redford accused opposition MLAs who returned the pay of “grandstanding”.

It’s fairly obvious Redford could have killed this story by coming directly to this end point when the story broke. Hell, given it took Wildrose MLAs a week to return the cash, she might have even been able to turn the tables, and pointed to her decisiveness as a sign there was a new sheriff in town, ready to do politics differently. Instead, the issue festered in the weeks leading up to the writ drop, and continues to distract.

If you think Redford’s latest move will put the scandal to bed, don’t count on it – friendly fire comments, Wildrose commercials, and the Leader’s Debate will see to that. As a friend of mine said over the weekend, all Danielle Smith has to say in the debate is “Alison, it shouldn’t take bad polling numbers to make you do the right thing“.

It’s been one bad news story after another for the PCs on the campaign trail. As Alberta’s hockey teams have learned, it’s hard to score goals when you’re always playing in your own end.

What Saturday’s Win by Red Tory Redford Means in Alberta

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in 2011 Alberta PC Leadership Race, Alberta Politics | Leave a comment

Alison Redford was Saturday’s surprise winner of the Alberta PC leadership race. As stunned as frontrunner Gary Mar was, the most surprised may have been Alberta’s opposition parties, who had no doubt begun positioning themselves against Mar.

So how does this shocker change Alberta’s already rocky political landscape?

Progressive Conservatives

Redford’s first task will be assembling a new Cabinet – expect that announcement in about a week. Her second will be deciding when to go to the polls.

There had been speculation Mar would call a snap election this fall, but Redford’s victory has ended talk of this, with the Premier-designate saying she will not call an election before June. Although Redford campaigned on fixed election dates, it’s unclear whether this was a real promise, or one of those silly things one says to get elected. So the exact timing of the next election is still up in the air.

Redford will use the time until the next election (whenever it is) to earn the trust of a caucus she had only a handful of supporters in, and to introduce herself to voters. Redford ran a policy-heavy campaign, and enacting some of these policies into law would be the perfect way to define herself to the electorate.

Alberta Liberals

After Gary Mar, the biggest loser on Saturday may have been the Alberta Liberal Party. Running a single issue Health Care campaign against Gary “two tier” Mar must have been a tantalizing prospect for newly elected Liberal leader Raj Sherman. Now Sherman finds himself up against a red Tory who is popular among women and lists education and Health Care as her top two priorities.

Redford looks like a Liberal and sounds like a Liberal – she likely would have run as a Liberal if Liberals stood a chance of being elected in Alberta. That makes her a very formidable opponent for Liberals. Hell, even Margaret Atwood is excited.

The Danielle Smith Party

For the same reasons Redford’s victory is trouble for the Liberals, it should help the Wildrose Alliance. They can now portray themselves as the only “true” conservatives, and might be able to poach a few disgruntled PC MLAs or organizers.

At the same time, the Wildrosers should be careful about toasting Redford’s win. After all, much of Danielle Smith’s appeal transcends the political spectrum. To many, Smith isn’t a conservative ideologue – she’s a strong female candidate willing to take on the establishment. That was very much Redford’s M.O. during the leadership contest, so if the choice boils down to Redford or Smith…well, maybe voters will opt for the leader whose party has been tested and whose candidates aren’t as extreme.

The short of this is to say Redford adds another wild card to an already unpredictable political game in Alberta. The challenge for all parties becomes shifting strategies and defining this largely unknown leader.

Alison Redford’s First Mistake

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Alberta Politics | Leave a comment

Alison Redford is seen to have won the Alberta PC leadership on a policy-heavy campaign. She promised change, so one would imagine she’s eager to get going and introduce herself to voters through a bold agenda.

After all, here’s what she said after winning the leadership:

“I am not going to unnecessarily delay decision-making,” she said. “I believe that Albertans have said that now that we are through this leadership campaign they expect this party to govern. They expect this government to get back to business, and we are going to do that.”

Turns out, not so much.

Redford has cancelled the legislature’s fall session. When MLAs return to their seats in February, it will have been 9 months since their last sitting, and over 4 months since Redford’s election as Premier.

The argument being advanced by Redford is that she needs time to settle in and draft legislation. That may be true, but the optics of this are horrible.

Here you have a newly elected leader promising change…but then taking a 4-month vacation before enacting the change. I fully recognize that’s not the case, but as we learned in the prorogation fiasco, Canadians interpret going to Parliament as showing up for work – it’s not hard for the opposition parties to spin this as Redford not being ready for her new job. It also doesn’t help that members of her team are now on the record as saying: “If you have nothing else to do, you can’t really call the Leg into session for an hour or so, so the opposition can rake you over the coals“.

The criticism writes itself. She’s not showing up for work. She promised change…after a 4 month vacation. She’s afraid of criticism. After 40 years in power, the PCs consider democracy a nuisance.

Take your pick. Redford, who came to power on a wave of goodwill, has now hand-delivered talking points to her opponents. Even if they won’t get a chance to use them in the legislature until February, that’s not a wise move.

UPDATE: It didn’t take long for Alison Redford’s first flip-flop. The fall session is back on!

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