“She did the right thing,” was the resounding response following news that former Alberta premier Alison Redford has resigned from the legislature.
Redford, who gave up the premiership in March, made the announcement in an exclusive opinion piece published in the Edmonton Journal and Calgary Herald on Wednesday. The Progressive Conservative MLA for Calgary-Elbow said her resignation from the legislature would be effective immediately and she will resume work in international development and public policy.
She also noted she would not be accepting any of the transition allowance given to members of the legislature who leave their seats.
The news follows on the heels of documents leaked to CBC last week from Auditor General Merwan Saher’s investigation into Redford’s spending. The investigation found Redford’s passenger lists on government planes had been falsified so she could fly alone.
“I recognize that mistakes were made along the way. In hindsight, there were many things I would have done differently. That said, I accept responsibility for all the decisions I have made,” Redford said in her letter.
Later Wednesday, interim Premier Dave Hancock called on the RCMP to take a deeper look at Redford’s use of government aircraft after reading the auditor general’s report.
“Based on what I have read in the report and after seeking legal advice, as soon as the report is publicly available tomorrow I will be directing the minister of Justice and Solicitor General to refer this matter to the RCMP for their review and any investigations that they consider appropriate,” Hancock said in a news release.
“While this is a difficult decision for me, I am extremely disappointed to learn of Ms. Redford’s actions while premier.”
Red Deer North MLA Mary Anne Jablonski said she supports Redford’s decision.
“Redford did the right thing,” said Jablonski in an email to the Advocate. “What is really difficult is that all PC MLAs are tarnished by her previous actions. Alberta continues to have the strongest economy in Canada and this resignation will allow the people of the province to move forward with the real economic issues that help determine our quality of life.”
Stepping down was honourable and the appropriate move for Redford, said Cal Dallas, Red Deer South MLA and minister of International and Intergovernmental Relations.
He would not comment on the leaked review of Redford’s altered passenger lists but said he will take the auditor general’s recommendations very seriously.
He believed the resignation will help the party refocus on the future and long-term business, ensuring more important work is taken care of, especially when it comes to health-care facilities and seniors, and other issues in Central Alberta.
“One of the unfortunate things about what’s transpired is that it’s changed the dialogue a little bit from what really matters.”
Dallas wished Redford and her family well with their next endeavours.
“It is difficult for all of us as there was tremendous work accomplished during her very short tenure. When I look back at things like social policy framework and the work for the vulnerable populations around poverty strategies … investment of education, the work she supported that I was involved in for an expanded international office, there’s many positive things that transpired.”
PC Alberta president Jim McCormick said he has “mixed feelings” about Redford leaving the legislature, stating she “started off with such promise” but her personal choices were her downfall.
“She is alleged to have broken government rules and taxpayer dollars were not treated with the dignity and respect they deserve. She has paid a personal and political price for her mistakes and we appreciate her decision to take responsibility for her actions,” McCormick said in an official release. “This circumstance won’t happen again.”
Innisfail-Sylvan Lake Wildrose MLA Kerry Towle agreed that Redford “finally” did the right thing but said the PC party still has a lot to answer for.
“While we certainly disagree with a great deal of Ms. Redford’s policies and her conduct while in office, we recognize the sacrifices she made to represent her constituents as an MLA and all Albertans as premier. That should not be overlooked in all of this,” Towle said to media on Wednesday morning in Edmonton. “With Ms. Redford no longer in caucus, the PCs will undoubtedly attempt to convince Albertans that all of their problems were her fault and hers alone.”
Towle said Redford’s record is “indistinguishable” from her party as no one stood up when large salary and severance packages were approved for her senior staff or when the air fleet Finance Minister Doug Horner was to be watching over was repeatedly abused by the premier’s office.
“With or without Ms. Redford, the PC culture of entitlement lives on. … Ms. Redford can try to take away some of the heat from this government and cabinet but the reality is there is no ‘I’ in team.”
Olds College vice-president Jordan Cleland, who has an extensive background in government relations and political science, also said Redford’s resignation was the right course of action.
“I think the people of her riding deserve someone that’s fully engaged and I think it was increasingly difficult for her to be able to do that with the controversy,” Cleland said.
“When she was premier she was always good to Olds College. … At the same time, when her government effectively cut our budgets by 9.3 per cent in March 2013, we had to … take a three per cent management salary rollback, never mind a freeze or increase. So that contrasted with some of the extravagance that we saw publicly and was a little bit difficult to swallow.”
Cleland said everyone deserves a second chance and while he believes Redford to be an “intelligent, capable” woman, he feels it is best she is no longer in public office.