Kim who…? (You young ‘uns crack me up). Kim Campbell was the 19th prime minister of Canada. She held that auspicious office for less than 5 months before being obliterated by a Liberal landslide and taking the rest of the PC party down with her.
The trajectory of Kim Campbell and Alison Redford’s careers is eerily similar. Both were bright young lawyers who landed cabinet posts in their first terms in office. Both were Johnny-on-the-spot when their party leaders stepped down and both won the leadership race with a slim margin; Campbell with the support of half her caucus and Redford, with virtually no caucus support, on the strength of bold promises of fixed election dates, a moratorium on three major power lines projects, restoring funding to Alberta teachers and calling a public inquiry into queue jumping and physician intimidation.
This is where the political careers of Campbell and Redford start to diverge, at least momentarily. Campbell was forced to call an election soon after becoming the prime minister. Consequently she was never held to account for her pre-election promises. Redford, on the other hand, is a sitting premier. She’s enacted 6 major pieces of legislation that, in her opinion, embody every pre-election promise she’s ever made.
Really? With the exception of the promise to restore funding to the teachers, Redford’s promises lay shattered on the floor. Her refusal to call a public inquiry into physician intimidation is the most egregious example of a pre-election promise going pear-shaped.
Forget the fog of politics and what Redford says she said, what we thought she said, what she says she meant and what we hoped she meant. Look instead at what the Premier and her Health Minister actually did say in the Legislature when the Health Quality Council Report was released.
Mr Horne: “We are going to take the time…to review the recommendations in detail, and those recommendations will greatly inform the development of terms of reference for the inquiry that has been promised by the Premier”.*
Ms Redford: “…we put a plan in place in the fall, we passed [the Health Quality Council of Alberta Act] and we said that we would wait for the health quality report to ensure that we established terms of reference that made sense for the independent inquiry.”**
Got it? All eyes on the HQC report, please. The Health Quality Council spent 10 months reviewing records, conducting interviews and analysing data. They sifted through 2000 responses to the physician intimidation survey and conducted in depth interviews with 99 stakeholders on that very issue. Dr Cowell, the HQC’s CEO was pleased with the Council’s work: “It’s been a thorough exhaustive process. The HQCA is satisfied that it got to the bottom of the issues and left no material avenues unexplored.”***
This was good news given the Premier’s clear intention to rely on the report to frame the terms of reference for the public inquiry. Within days the Premier announced that a public inquiry would be called—to investigate queue jumping in the healthcare system.
What…? The HQC report set out 21 recommendations and not one of them relates to queue jumping!
How did the HQC report—which had zero recommendations addressing queue jumping and seven recommendations addressing physician intimidation—“inform” the terms of reference for the public inquiry? And most importantly did Redford just break another promise—the one where she said there would be no political interference with the public inquiry process?
Redford says, “I, in my heart, believe and know that the commitment I made last June is the commitment that we honoured this week”.**** The public knows better and this is where Alison Redford’s political career path will converge with that of Kim Campbell.
The big question is will Redford survive the coming election? Yes, but only until the next leadership convention when she’ll be stripped of her leadership role for committing the cardinal sin in politics. She’s lost all credibility. Will Redford take the PC party down with her when she falls? Not likely, but she’s inflicted serious damage to the party’s already tattered reputation and the opposition parties (if they have an ounce of political sense) will capitalize on the opportunity to build their base.
But it’s not all bad. Campbell developed a varied and interesting career outside the world of politics and I’m sure Redford will do the same. Good luck in your future endeavors Ms Redford. It’s been a slice.
*Hansard, Feb 22, 2012, p 229
**Hansard, Feb 23, 2012, p 263
***HQCA Press Release, Feb 22, 2012
****CBC News Online Mar 1, 2012