EDMONTON — Alberta Justice Minister Alison Redford signed up Wednesday for the race to replace Premier Ed Stelmach, running on a platform of making the province the Silicon Valley of the oil and gas industry.
“It speaks to what is excellent about this province, whether it’s conventional or unconventional energy,” said Redford, who quit her post as justice minister to avoid any perception she’ll use cabinet perks to further leadership ambitions.
Redford said the province leads in technology development and research, and needs to take the next step to become the recognized global hub for energy expertise, information-sharing, environmental projects and business innovation.
“We have so many pieces of work that are done and connected to the energy industry around this province but what I don’t think what we’ve done for a long time is say: ’Is there a way to fit all that together?”’ she said.
Redford, 45, became the fourth person to put their name forward to replace Stelmach, who will step down later this year with a party leadership vote tentatively slated for September.
Treasuer Ted Morton and Deputy Premier Doug Horner resigned from cabinet last month to participate. Backbencher Doug Griffiths, the junior finance minister, formally entered the race Tuesday.
Redford is the only woman in the race and the only Calgary legislature member. Her time in provincial government has been short. She first won a seat in the March 2008 general election.
But as a lawyer specializing in human rights, she has been active in provincial and federal politics since the 1980s. She served as senior policy adviser to Joe Clark when he was external affairs minister in the Brian Mulroney government and worked in the office of the prime minister from 1988 to 1990.
She was appointed by the secretary general of the United Nations to help administer Afghanistan’s first parliamentary election in 2005.
Redford said Afghanistan stays with her to this day.
She remembers speaking to a group of women about the upcoming vote. They were jammed together in a school classroom — 100 women in burkas who had brought their daughters to learn about democracy. It was a dangerous time. Girls were getting acid thrown in their faces for daring to go to school.
“I explained to them what a vote was and the fact they were going to be able to make a choice about who was going to lead them,” said Redford.
The women were baffled, she said. Democracy was totally foreign to them, but somehow they knew it mattered.
“Every woman in the room, each had a little girl with them: five, six, seven-years-old. They knew they had to bring their daughters to hear this conversation,” she said.
They moms asked questions. The girls asked questions. They demanded to know.
“It was inspiring,” she said. “I often think about that.”
As justice minister, Redford has led the government’s safe communities initiative to crack down on crime across the province.
She said she’s heard the asides that she’s too young and too new to the provincial political scene to run for the top job, but said she didn’t see the need to defer.
“Quite frankly, why should I?
“I know that there’s a place for my voice in this leadership race. I think if we continue to think the only people who can govern our province are people who have turned 50, 55, that we’re not giving a voice to people who have just as much right to be sitting around the cabinet table.”
Redford was born March 7, 1965, in Kitimat, British Columbia, but made Calgary her home as a teenager.
She got her law degree from the University of Saskatchewan in 1988 and has since travelled the world in as a technical advisor on constitutional and legal reform issues.
She worked for the Canadian government, the U.N., the Australian government and the European Union, developing and implementing education programs, policy, legal reforms, and human rights initiatives in Uganda, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Serbia, Bosnia, the Philippines, and Vietnam.