Alison Redford did two things right during her short stint as Alberta’s 14th premier. She jumped before she was pushed and she implemented an expense disclosure policy that, like ball bearings underfoot, created chaos by exposing the PC government’s culture of entitlement in painstaking and petty detail.
The PC party was completely unprepared for the fallout.
Alison Redford jumps
The spotlight on Ms Redford’s lavish spending enraged Albertans and contributed to her hasty departure…but not before she landed in the Star Chamber and was subjected to the arrogance and stupidity of the PC party machine.
On Saturday, Mar 15, Redford was called on the carpet by PC party president Jim McCormick, and 50 PC directors for a four hour dressing-down. She emerged, head held high, having agreed to change her behavior in accordance with a “work plan”. Her grace under pressure triggered a standing ovation.
On Monday morning she shared the “work plan” with her caucus and that afternoon they gave her a second standing ovation in the Legislature.
On Tuesday Mr McCormick informed party members that the work plan “…isn’t meant to be a written document or a single solution. It is about an improved way of working together to insure the members and your concerns are being heard directly by the Leader…I am proud of the history of our Party but am even prouder of what we’ll achieve working together going forward as a team. I know our Leader shares this desire.”…
…and on Wednesday “our Leader” resigned.
Mr McCormick, in typical “old boy” fashion, gravely misjudged the premier, the MLAs, the constituency associations and Albertans in general.
Yes, a party is allowed to give its leader feedback, but a four hour pile-on is not only unprofessional; it’s bullying. Instead of persuading the premier to accept a slow roll out the door (a la Ed Stelmach) in return for a plum posting (perhaps Alberta’s representative for “opening markets” in Singapore or San Francisco) Mr McCormick issued a very public “work plan”.
It was a clear vote of non-confidence. It humiliated the premier and unnerved everyone else. All hell broke loose.
Dissident MLAs refused to accept the “old boys” solution and met in smoke-filled rooms (well maybe not smoke-filled) debating whether to jump ship or ride it out. Constituency association presidents planned to table a resolution demanding the premier’s resignation.
Most importantly, the public didn’t buy it. Support for the PC Party continued to plummet, sinking to 19% last Wednesday.
And Ms Redford, being no dummy, resigned; but not before Mr McCormick further aggravated the situation by issuing sanctimonious statements in the press.
The “old boy” speaks
With respect to the Dissident MLAs, Mr McCormick said “I don’t think people should be disciplined for their thoughts or expressing them.”*
This was too much for Christina Rontynen, the president of a Calgary PC constituency association and political blogger. She found Mr McCormick’s statement offensive.
Last March Ms Rontynen received a “Letter of Censure” from Mr McCormick for posting a blog about being invited and then uninvited to the 2013 budget lockup. He said that in her role as CA president he expected “mature contemplation and second thought prior to any communication that may reflect negatively on either the Party or our Leader” and that her blog crossed a serious line.
And yet a year later Mr McCormick in his role as PC Party President issued a “work plan” that reflected so negatively on his Leader that she faced a caucus mutiny. This is more than offensive; it’s hypocritical.
A morally corrupt party
The culture of entitlement runs deeps in the PC government and its agencies. The line between party business and government business no longer exists.
Party loyalists are rewarded for good service. Former MLAs Lorne Taylor and Denis Herard are the latest examples—Taylor is going to the environmental monitoring agency and Herard landed at the WCB.
Messrs Hancock and Horner strenuously defend the use of government planes to conduct party business. Mr McCormick, party president, says the party can force the premier (government) to fire her staff. And the “work plan” created by the party guaranteed its members a right not enjoyed by other Albertans—a direct line to the party leader (who happens to be the premier).
The PC party has operated in an echo chamber for decades. It hears nothing but its own voice. It senses danger on the horizon but expects to save itself from annihilation by resorting to “old boy” parlour tricks.
In the next few months Albertans can expect to see: (1) changes to the leadership selection process to favour an acceptable “old boy”—Doug Horner and Bill Smith, past PC party president, perhaps, (2) Ms Redford appointed to an international post to smooth over the bad PR created by Mr McCormick’s abysmal mismanagement of “the Alison problem” and (3) the marginalization of the Dissident MLAs (Somebody has to take the fall for this mess and it ain’t going to be Mr McCormick!)
New leader, same old party
As we speak some starry-eyed PCs are debating whether to run for the leadership of the party. The poor dears fail to realize that while their party was calcifying, Alberta changed—and not for the better.
Ralph Klein’s austerity measures have come home to roost. Our children are packed into schools like sardines, surgeries are cancelled for lack of beds, seniors die from mistreatment, labour unions and universities are gutted and our health and environment are degraded because the government won’t enforce the law.
The government says Alberta is having a banner year…and yet we’re billions of dollars in debt.
The old PC government, under the new leader, will do what it always does—slide the problem under the rug or hand it off to the private sector.
But that doesn’t cut it anymore.
Remember that scene in Jurassic Park where the T-Rex is chasing our hero in an open jeep and he looks in the rear view mirror and sees this: “Objects in mirror are closer than they appear”.
In 2016 the PC party will discover a T-Rex in the back seat…and Alison Redford put it there.
Thank you Alison Redford!
*Calgary Herald, Mar 19, 2014, A4