Redford has tough road ahead in 2013

For 30 years, Alison Redford had known Peter Lougheed and from him learned the art of politics. In April she won a majority mandate at the helm of the Progressive Conservative dynasty he launched as premier four decades earlier. Less than five months later, in the autumn heat of the legislature’s marbled rotunda, she stood alone before his casket and gazed upon it.

EDMONTON – For 30 years, Alison Redford had known Peter Lougheed and from him learned the art of politics.

In April she won a majority mandate at the helm of the Progressive Conservative dynasty he launched as premier four decades earlier. Less than five months later, in the autumn heat of the legislature’s marbled rotunda, she stood alone before his casket and gazed upon it.

For 30 seconds she was immobile, her back to the crowd, hands twice coming to her face. What was going through your mind? Redford was asked in a year-end interview.

“Flashbacks,” she said. “It was just like boom, boom, boom,” she said snapping her fingers.

“From the first time I met him to the last time that I saw him, to having lunch when I was first got elected as an MLA. Isn’t it funny when things like that happen in life how many flashbacks (there can be) in 30 seconds.”

It was a year of superlatives for Redford.

The 47-year-old became the first elected female premier of Alberta and in doing so ensured Lougheed’s party would become the longest running political dynasty in Canadian history.

In 2013 she embarks on the biggest gamble of her political career, taking on debt to pay for infrastructure and perhaps day-to-day operating expenses while an oil glut and a faltering US economy put the death squeeze on the price of Alberta’s lifeblood heavy oil.

It’s expected to be as rough a ride as 2012, which saw Redford take a political and personal pounding in the legislature.

There was controversy over an Olympic-sized $500,000 bill for ministers to mix and mingle at the London Games.

Questions swirled around reports Edmonton Oilers owner and pharmacy magnate Daryl Katz had bought himself government influence with a $430,000 contribution to the PC party.

There were revelations that Redford’s sister, Lynn, had used her expense account at the old Calgary health authority for buying tickets, liquor and even bug spray for PC functions.

In November came paper trail revelations that as justice minister in 2010 Redford herself pushed for her ex-husband’s law firm to get a lucrative government contract to sue Big Tobacco. The winning and losing firms were notified while Redford was still in charge of that portfolio, but the final papers were not signed until after she left.

Opposition politicians howled, accusing her of the grievous parliamentary offence of misleading the house by claiming she didn’t make the decision.

NDP Leader Brian Mason said the accusations were so grave, Redford had lost the moral authority to govern and needed to step down until her role in the affair was cleared up.

Redford said she was taken aback, given that Mason is respected for questions that plunge like a dagger into the heart of an issue without the grandstanding hyperbole.

“I expected that from some of the opposition parties. I was kind of surprised to hear it from him,” said Redford.

“I remember when he said it thinking to myself, ‘So you actually think an Albertan who is watching question period right now might think that the premier of Alberta — who was elected six months ago and is responsible for everything that is going on and building markets, and planning a budget and putting in place — should step down?’

“I don’t even know … what that would look like. But I just thought it spoke to the tone of the day.”

The year 2012 was also the first full year for Redford without her other confidant and political mentor, her mother Helen.

Helen died of an infection in hospital at age 71 just four days before her daughter won the PC leadership race to become premier on Oct. 2, 2011.

Redford credits Helen with pushing her toward politics and spurring her interest in government, policy and public service.

She still carries Helen close to her heart in a set of pearls passed down from grandmother to mother to her.

“I’ll tell you the last month I’ve thought a lot about her to the point where I’ve actually picked up the phone and thought, ‘God I wish I could call my mom.’ Just in the last month and I’m sure that’s because of some of the personal stuff,” said Redford.

“Just hearing her voice would remind me of everything that ever happened in my life that made me who I am today, every experience that I’d ever had, whether it’s baking with granny or going to church or whatever it is. Falling and skinning my knee.

“If you just think for a moment about everything that you could feel when you hear a parent’s voice — and in my case my mother’s — it’s sort of an affirmation of who you are as a person.”

She said Helen wasn’t a rah rah, my daughter right-or-wrong type of person.

“Sometimes she would say to me: ‘You screwed up’ or ‘I’ve got a question about this,’” said Redford. “She was always really a good gauge of (reality) because she saw the world the way that everybody else did — not the way that politicians see the world.”

Redford said she still gets firsthand glimpses of that world when she meets Albertans.

“I’m amazed by the number of places that I went to through the leadership (race) and I’d meet young girls and they’d be wearing pearls.

“I’d say ‘Oh, you’re wearing pearls,’ and they’d say, ‘That’s because you’re wearing pearls.’

“I do feel a little bit of an added responsibility when I talk to moms, when I talk to young women. They’re very aware of the fact that I’m the first female premier of Alberta.”

She said connecting with Albertans is both exhilarating and sobering.

“Sometimes they’re saying ‘You know you’re on the right track’ or ‘I’ve never told anyone, but my child was an addict,’ or ‘I’ve never told anyone that I’m a victim of domestic violence.’

“Just the fact that a person would share something that intimate with someone who essentially is a complete stranger to them is a privilege.

“And it is something that again reminds me that this role is more than a job and it’s more than sitting in meetings and running an agenda. It’s about making people’s lives better.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A nurse gets a swab ready at a temporary COVID-19 test clinic in Montreal, on Friday, May 15, 2020. Health Canada has reversed course on home test kits for COVID-19, saying it will now review applications for such devices. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Employee at Bethany CollegeSide in Red Deer tests positive for COVID-19

An employee at a Red Deer continuing care facility has tested positive… Continue reading

The Government of Alberta has identified 1,828 new cases and 15 new COVID-19-related deaths, which brings the provincial death toll to 590. (File photo)
Alberta identifies 1,828 new COVID-19 cases on Friday

Central zone has 1,251 active cases

Higher sales of cannabis helped Canadian farmers come out in the green. (Black Press Media File)
Drumheller RCMP lay charge for unlawfully distributing cannabis

A joint forces investigation involving the AGLC investigation team partnered with Drumheller… Continue reading

Three weapons have been seized and four people are facing charges following a police operation in central Alberta. (Photo contributed by RCMP)
RCMP, Lacombe Police seize loaded guns, arrest four people

Four people have been arrested and multiple prohibited firearms are off the… Continue reading

The Salvation Army's 2020 Christmas Kettle Campaign includes a new $5 tap feature for pandemic-friendly donations. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Salvation Army officers safe, touchless options for Kettle donation this year

The Salvation Army in Red Deer needs help. Kettle donations are needed… Continue reading

Dan Cochrane, senior pastor at CrossRoads Church. Contributed photo
CrossRoads Church closes its doors for two weeks after staff member tests positive for COVID-19

CrossRoads Church made the decision to cancel in-house services for two weeks… Continue reading

Blank Unemployment Benefits form
Red Deer jobless rate down slightly in November

Red Deer’s unemployment rate dropped by half a per cent in November.… Continue reading

Apartments are seen lit up in downtown Vancouver as people are encouraged to stay home during the global COVID-19 pandemic on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. British Columbia's deputy provincial health officer says provincewide data show the most important area B.C. must tackle in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic is health inequity. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
Age, income among top factors affecting health during pandemic in B.C., survey shows

VANCOUVER — British Columbia’s deputy provincial health officer says a survey on… Continue reading

A woman pays her respects to victims of a mass shooting at a roadblock in Portapique, N.S. on Wednesday, April 22, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Three charged, including spouse, with supplying ammunition to N.S. mass shooter

HALIFAX — Three people, including the killer’s former spouse, have been charged… Continue reading

Downtown Iqaluit, Nunavut, is shown after 2 p.m. sunset on Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2020. Nunavut will look to get the Moderna vaccine once it is available in Canada. Chief public health officer Dr. Michael Patterson says Moderna is preferred because the cold storage and shipping of the Pfizer vaccine is too difficult in the northern territory. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Emma Tranter
Moderna COVID vaccine best for Nunavut because of storage, shipping: top doctor

IQALUIT, Nunavut — Nunavut is looking to get the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine… Continue reading

Farmers raise slogans during a protest on a highway at the Delhi-Haryana state border, India, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rejected the diplomatic scolding Canada’s envoy to India received on Friday for his recent comments in support of protesting Indian farmers. Tens of thousands of farmers have descended upon the borders of New Delhi to protest new farming laws that they say will open them to corporate exploitation. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Manish Swarup
Trudeau affirms farmers’ right to demonstrate after India criticizes his remarks

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rejected the diplomatic scolding Canada’s envoy… Continue reading

Nurse Kath Olmstead prepares a shot as the world’s biggest study of a possible COVID-19 vaccine, developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc., gets underway Monday, July 27, 2020, in Binghamton, N.Y. U.S. biotech firm Moderna says its vaccine is showing signs of producing lasting immunity to COVID-19, and that it will have as many as many as 125 million doses available by the end of March. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Hans Pennink
Canada’s COVID-19 case count passes 400,000 mark

OTTAWA — Canada has now recorded more than 400,000 cases of COVID-19… Continue reading

Longtime central Alberta politician Judy Gordon has passed away. Photo courtesy of the City of Lacombe
Former Lacombe Mayor Judy Gordon passes away

Gordon also served as MLA for Lacombe-Stettler before retiring from politics in 2010

Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro (left) and Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw pose for a photo after they received a flu shot earlier this year. Hinshaw has been encouraging Albertans to get a flu shot this season. As of Nov. 28, Central zone has already administered 122,314 doses of the flu vaccine, compared to 126,288 last season. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Alberta’s flu vaccine distribution already closing in on last year’s totals

Central zone has administered 122,000 doses of influenza vaccine

Most Read