Redford denies promise breaking on health inquiry, fixed election dates

Alberta Premier Alison Redford, fending off opposition accusations of promise-breaking, told the legislature Tuesday that she has “constructively delivered” on her leadership campaign commitments.

EDMONTON — Alberta Premier Alison Redford, fending off opposition accusations of promise-breaking, told the legislature Tuesday that she has “constructively delivered” on her leadership campaign commitments.

“At the end of the day what Albertans will determine going into the next election is who actually constructively delivered on their commitments,” said Redford, who has been in the premier’s office for less than two months.

Opponents rejected that interpretation during a fiery question period that previewed the pitched battle coming in next spring’s general election.

“The arrogance from this premier is overwhelming,” said NDP Leader Brian Mason.

“Why should Albertans trust any promises this premier makes?”

Redford has been the butt of criticism and cheeky nicknames — Mrs. Dithers, Princess Flip Flop — after altering the literal interpretation of some of the promises she made while successfully campaigning in the Progressive Conservatives’ recent leadership race to replace former premier Ed Stelmach.

One promise was to hold an independent, judge-led inquiry into allegations that doctors have been systematically intimidated for speaking out on substandard patient care.

On Monday, Redford’s government introduced legislation that will have the inquiry run under the auspices of the arm’s-length Health Quality Council.

The council will appoint an independent panel that will have the power to compel witnesses and procure evidence. The panel can appoint a judge if it sees fit.

Redford said the end goal is the same.

“This legislation clearly sets out the commitment that we’ve made to ensure Albertans get full information with respect to what’s happening with the health-care system,” said Redford.

Redford also promised during the campaign to set a fixed election date, as exists in many other provinces, to depoliticize the dropping of the writ.

On Monday, her government tabled legislation that will instead mandate an election every four years within a three-month window, beginning in March. The government will still be allowed to set the election date.

Justice Minister Verlyn Olson, in tabling the bill, said the flexibility is an improvement on having one fixed date in that it ensures polling day won’t conflict with any religious occasions.

“This legislation represents what Albertans want to see,” said Redford.

“Listen to this premier talk about what Albertan’s want,” Mason shouted back.

“She has no (popular) mandate!”

There was no shortage of partisan shots across the bow.

Liberal Leader Raj Sherman, asking a questions on finances, suggested Redford is now running an imperial premiership.

“How can the premier ask her subjects to trust the government to balance the books by 2013 when their own (budget) forecasts jump so wildly based on the math skills of whoever sits in the finance minister’s chair?” said Sherman.

“The last time I checked, this was a democracy,” Redford responded.

“I don’t have subjects.”

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