Despite the last-minute surge in support for the Progressive Conservative Party that led premier Alison Redford to an improbable landslide victory in April 2012, her resignation as premier this week is the latest sign that the party’s four-decade run governing Alberta may soon come to an end.
Redford, who took office in October 2011, will resign effective Sunday, creating a scramble for the PC government to find a new leader and a new premier in Canada’s wealthiest and fourth-most populous province — also the home province of Canada’s Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper.
Deputy premier Dave Hancock will serve as interim premier for the next four to six months until the party chooses a new leader.
Redford stepped down after facing a revolt within her own caucus, most notably over a decision to attend the funeral late last year of former South African president Nelson Mandela:
The embattled premier has been facing down critics since early this year, when she expensed about $45,000 for a trip overseas for Nelson Mandela’s funeral. For weeks, Redford ignored calls to refund the money, which many called an extravagant and unnecessary use of public funds.
In mid-March, Redford apologized and repaid the costs associated with the trip, but it appeared the damage was already done. Critics lambasted Redford for what they called a sense of entitlement as more revelations of questionable spending were brought to light, including allegations that Redford had flown on her own government plane while Progressive Conservative MLAs took half-empty flights to the same destinations.
Redford’s decision also follows a Leger poll earlier this month that showed her party trailing the even more socially and economically conservative Wildrose Party by a margin of 38% to 25% (the provincial Liberal Party would win 16% and the provincial New Democratic Party would win 15%). More ominously, the poll gave Redford a 20% approval rating, compared to a 64% disapproval rating. Other polls show the PCs trailing by an even wider margin — a March 19 ThinkHQ poll gave Wildrose a 46%-to-19% advantage.
MLA Len Webber broke from the PC caucus last week to stand as an independent, and Donna Kennedy-Glans did the same on Monday, with other PC legislators promising to follow.
The Wildrose leader, Danielle Smith, remains controversial, even within Alberta, a province with some of Canada’s most conservative voters. But the uproar over Redford’s spending decisions plays right into the message of fiscal restraint that Smith has hammered since becoming the Wildrose leader in 2009. Continue reading Redford steps down as Alberta premier amid crisis for governing PCs