Alison Redford’s political career started with such promise. She differentiated herself from her running mates in the PC leadership race with a clarion call for authentic leadership (openness, accountability and transparency). However today she hit a (yet another) sour note with her ringing endorsement of chronyism—she strongly supports the appointment of the former agriculture minister, Evan Berger, to the position of senior advisor to the deputy minister of agriculture.
What may not be readily apparent (but will become crystal clear after the 2013 PC leadership review) is that Redford’s public fall from grace has been mirrored by her personal fall from grace within the PC party itself. The muted signals of dissatisfaction have become more audible over the last few months:
- Ron Liepert and Don Getty publicly scolded Ms Redford for mishandling the Northern Gateway pipeline dispute with the BC premier, suggesting that a reasonable premier would have found a way to talk through their differences.
- Rod Love, former EA to Premier Klein, all but called Ms Redford naive for expecting to reach a consensus on her Canadian energy strategy at the last premiers’ meeting.
- Bill Smith, president of the PC party, announced he will not seek re-election at the PC AGM this November. While he speaks highly of Ms Redford, he concluded his farewell note with a call for cautious change. The PC constitution, including the leadership review process, is under review at the November AGM. If the PCs amend the process to eliminate the possibility that the underdog can win, we should expect to see a serious challenge to Ms Redford’s leadership in 2013.
But it’s not just the PC old guard who’ve lost faith in Ms Redford (assuming that they ever had it in the first place). The oil and gas industry which fuels Alberta’s economy is, to say the least, disgruntled.
- In a letter to the Calgary Herald, Doug Black, president of the Energy Policy Institute of Canada (EPIC), a consortium of industry leaders in the oil, natural gas, power and pipeline business, agreed with columnist Deborah Yedlin that the last thing Alberta needs is another energy strategy.* (Mr Black is a long time PC member and a respected member of the Alberta establishment). Not surprisingly EPIC has created its own energy strategy and is about to roll it out to the federal and provincial governments.
- Oilweek editor, Dale Lunan, complained that ”nobody has outlined exactly what a national energy strategy would look like”**and asked his readers whether they believed that Canada needs a nation energy strategy—over 75% of those who responded said “no”.
Over the last 12 months Ms Redford has demonstrated that she’s not one of the guys—a real PC. She started by banishing party favorite Gary Mar to Asia and then reporting him to the ethics committee for an alleged violation (of which he was subsequently cleared). She created an incomprehensible Canadian energy policy that has been criticized by everyone from the Prime Minister to the industry it was meant to serve. Her dust up with Christy Clark threatened to trigger a constitutional crisis and added to the turmoil surrounding the Northern Gateway pipeline.
Put it all together and the last 12 months have not advanced Alberta from an industry perspective, which as we all know, shapes the PC party perspective.
Ms Redford’s belated support for the Berger appointment is simply background noise. Sure it may be the last straw for the hapless voters who elected Ms Redford to save them from a Wildrose majority, but it’s utterly irrelevant in the minds of the PC old guard.
Ms Redford’s failure to cleave to the “old guard” mentality (government listens to industry, not the other way around) and her refusal early on to “play along to get along” may well result in her being shown the door in 2013. And at this late stage, no amount of lip service to “authentic leadership” will save her.
*Calgary Herald Aug 13, 2012, A9
**Oilweek August 2012, P7