On March 17, 2014, following Premier Redford’s tearful introduction of her daughter Sarah to the Legislative Assembly, the ND Opposition leader Brian Mason rose to ask the Premier a critical question:*
“I regret having to ask this question, but it must be asked. To the Premier: do you have enough support to keep governing?”
The government side of the house lept to its feet in a standing ovation; Ms Redford smiled and said: “Well, Mr Speaker, all I can do is thank the hon. Member for his question.”
Mr Mason continued: “The Premier says that she was given a work plan by the PC executive. If so, Albertans want to know how this plan will influence the actions of the government. To the Premier: will this work plan affect in any way what this government does or how they do it?
Great question Brian!
The Premier offered a bizarre response. “I’ll tell you Mr Speaker, that every single day that we work as a caucus, we work to make things better for Albertan’s. That’s what we do as members of the Progressive Conservative Party, that’s what we’ll continue to do, and as we continue to work in alignment, that’s what allows Alberta to continue to grow.”
The work plan
Is it just me or is anyone else troubled by the fact that Alberta’s destiny lies in the hands of 52 unelected Albertans who happen to be members of the PC board of directors and not the 87 democratically elected MLAs (58 of whom happen to be PC party members) charged with representing the views of their constituents?
These are not the feverish ramblings of a paranoid mind. The yet-to-be-developed work plan is described as a way to deal with issues from the party perspective and the premier’s perspective.**The Premier shared the work plan with her caucus on Monday morning.
While the PC party is within its rights to issue the PC party leader a work plan; the PC party leader in her role as Premier has no business sharing the work plan with her caucus in the Legislature because the party leader’s work plan is party business, not government business. In doing so Ms Redford and her caucus once again violated the boundary between partisan politics and government.
On the other hand, if the work plan slops over into Ms Redford’s role as premier it is indeed government business and (consistent with Ms Redford’s promise of transparency) must be posted on Ms Redford’s website. At least then we’ll be able to distinguish between actions she takes as government leader versus those she takes as party leader. (For example if the PC party wants her to cut back on international travel we’ll know why she’s no longer going to Washington to promote our environmental record.)
Who is pulling the strings?
At the same time Ms Redford was losing track of which hat she was wearing in the Legislature, party leader or premier, Donna Kennedy-Glans announced that she was quitting the PCs to sit as an independent. Why did this up and coming cabinet minister throw in the towel? She says she was “increasingly convinced that the elements of this 43-year old government are simply unable to make the changes needed.”***
The spectacular PC party/government dust-up has made one thing perfectly clear. This government answers first to the “elements” that Donna Kennedy-Glans describes as people who believe that “because of their role in the party, they have some special voice or some special place”.**** Those of us without a special role in the PC party are so far down the priority list that we’re practically invisible.
To my mind this smacks of Tammany Hall, the powerful political machine that controlled the city of New York for almost a century. We’ve waited almost 50 years to make a change, let’s not wait another 50 to replace our government for one that isn’t a puppet on a string.
*Hansard, Mar 17, p 255
**Calgary Herald, Mar 17 A4
***Calgary Herald, Mar 18, 2014, p A5
****Calgary Herald, Mar 18, 2014, p A4