Unrest roils Tory benches as associate minister resigns from caucus
Alberta Premier Alison Redford’s is facing three issues that could bring her down — credibility, personal spending and humility, says a Red Deer political science instructor.
David Baugh said he’s skeptical Redford’s popularity will rebound in time to win another election for the Progressive Conservatives.
“If she can’t, they will look to have another leader in place in time to be well organized for the next election. That’s a big part of it. She just doesn’t look winnable,” Baugh said on Monday.
He said she lost credibility from supporters after promising post secondaries a six-per-cent funding increase over three years. Instead, they were the hardest hit with a 7.3 per cent cut. And even though the ethics commissioner cleared Redford after her ex-husband’s law firm was hired for Alberta’s class action law suit against tobacco companies, she was the justice minister at the time who recommended the firm.
Baugh said her use of government planes and her $45,000 trip to South Africa for Nelson Mandela’s memorial shows her personal spending habits. Her office, that includes her entourage of professionals, got a nine-per-cent increase this year, while the provincial budget was limited to 3.6-per-cent increase.
There’s also the humility factor, he said.
“A politician needs to communicate clearly and often that they are there to serve the people and to admit mistakes. That doesn’t appear to be her style.”
Redford has been under fire from critics for her costly South Africa trip that she refused to pay for until recently.
Last week, Calgary backbencher MLA Len Webber quit the Tory caucus to sit as an independent and on Monday, associate minister Donna Kennedy-Glans, MLA for Calgary Varsity, did the same.
The president of an Edmonton PC riding association called for Redford’s resignation and a “work plan” was under development for Redford to address issues raised at a PC party board meeting held Saturday. A group of at least 10 MLAs, that included Red Deer North MLA Mary Anne Jablonski, were at a meeting on Sunday other media reported was to discuss Redford’s leadership and to consider sitting as independents.
Jablonski had not returned calls from the Red Deer Advocate by deadline on Monday.
Baugh said Redford had little caucus support when she won the leadership in 2012 and ended up with 77-per-cent approval at last fall’s leadership review — the same level of support Ed Stelmach had before he was gone.
Since she became leader, which she won with the help of a professional entourage, she has continued to look to her entourage when making decisions instead of consulting with the Tory rank and file, MLAs and cabinet, Baugh said.
Wildrose MLA Kerry Towle said Redford’s arrogance is what got her into trouble.
“She really only paid (the $45,000) back after there was threat of caucus revolt. She didn’t pay it back because she felt she had to pay it back,” said Towle, MLA for Innisfail-Sylvan Lake.
Towle was worried that people will try to protect Redford by saying she’s being targeted because she’s a woman.
“I don’t think this is a gender issue at all. When the premier says I need to take the government plane to party fundraisers because I have a 12-year-old daughter — that’s not acceptable. Ethics is not determined by gender. Ethics is determined by your own values,” said Towle, who also has a daughter.
But Towle said Redford is not totally to blame for her predicament.
“She has a cabinet that advises her and that cabinet has been giving her some terrible advice.”
And the Tories’ own members are tired of the direction the government is going, she said.
“We’re seeing good people, who joined the PCs because they thought they could change it from within, and now they’re seeing they can’t. This party is old, it’s tired, it can’t change from within. It’s just too corrupt. It’s too conflicted. It’s too entitled,” Towle said.
Michael Dawe, Red Deer North Liberal candidate in the 2012 provincial election and potential candidate in the next election, said this level of dissatisfaction among the Tories is practically unheard of in Alberta.
“These things do happen in other provinces. It’s unusual for Alberta because normally things are very stable and you often normally don’t get a lot of upheaval. But it’s certainly not on the level of a Rob Ford who continues to amaze,” Dawe said.