Sometimes I wish that the Progressive Conservative Party in Alberta’s leadership methodology could be applied to Grey Cup championships. My beloved Saskatchewan Roughriders would have been two-in-row champs despite losing the last two Grey Cup games.
But it would have been a hollow victory because second place is exactly where the ’Riders belonged in the grand scheme of things.
The victory of Alison Redford in the PC leadership race is either a sterling example of a system that can provide limitless possibilities for political underdogs — or a highly flawed political process.
I tend to lean toward a flawed system. Bear in mind that I did not become a born-again PC member to support a leader who reflected my philosophy, but many Albertans joined the party for that very reason.
Quite frankly, I knew very little about Redford prior to her victory in the long and protracted PC leadership race. The campaign was little more than white noise to me as the candidates vied for the most powerful political office in the province.
Redford’s victory has placed her squarely in the public eye as the premier-elect for the province. One thing immediately sprung to mind upon further review: her resume is an impressive array of positions that indicated her strong suit is a healthy respect for democratic reform and human rights issues on a global scale.
There is very little wrong with her obvious concern for human rights and she should be commended for her efforts. My red flag is the business side of her portfolio because her history reads more like an NDP candidate’s than a Conservative leader’s — even a “progressive” Conservative’s.
It is too early in the game to get a complete look at Redford as Alberta’s new leader. However, her road to Edmonton was facilitated by a connection with Alberta’s labour movements, including the teachers and nurses. They saw a PC candidate that was willing to restore funding to the hot button issues of health and education.
Redford appears to be willing to honour her campaign promises to her voter army from the Alberta public union ranks because they pushed her over the finish line in front of favourite Gary Mar. They also pushed the PC party into a centre-left position, with more emphasis on “progressive” than “conservative.”
Redford has been described as the new face of the party, which has now become either a Liberal clone or NDP-lite in the scheme of things. The sizable lead that Mar had (and subsequently lost) in the race still left slightly under 50 per cent of Conservative voters who followed a more traditional conservative path in the party.
But now they have to put on a brave face and hope that a bright and articulate new leader can restore a balance of fiscal conservatism while addressing the motherhood issues of health and education in this province. It will be a juggling act worthy of the Ed Sullivan variety show from ancient times.
One of the things that rarely gets addressed in the health and education debate is how the departments spend the enormous amount of money already invested in the system.
For example, the health-care system appears to have a large layer of administrative costs that are well beyond the norm for any corporate blueprint, while the last round with the ATA included significant investment in their pension fund, plus significant salary increases.
I know it is heresy to question spending in these areas, but somebody has to ask how these departments operate and can they be modified to provide better services, more front-liners, and controlled costs.
These are the issues faced by Redford. The province is an oil-based entity poised on the cusp of greatness. However, without the oil revenue, it could become Greece with some great mountains without checks and balances in its spending habits.
Redford will have to learn very quickly that an open chequebook policy to appease civil servants is a very risky path.
Jim Sutherland is a local freelance writer who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.