Alison Redfird takes the oath of office as Alberta premier

Now that Alison Redford has been safely sworn in as Alberta’s first woman premier, the fun can really begin.

The gloves can come off — if they were ever on — and the Wildrose Party can plumb the depths of neo-Con/neo-Lib attack advertising.

The rest of us will get to see if Premier Redford can sustain the toughness and focus, not to mention hang onto the good luck, that marked her leadership campaign.

Beyond that, what more can be said about a swearing-in ceremony yesterday that was essentially a news-free photo opportunity?

Redford’s swearing in was cheerful, upbeat and mercifully warm — taking place, as it did, in the crowded confines of the Legislative rotunda. Security was tight, but not overwhelming. The speeches contained enough references to the Almighty to sound suspiciously like an American political event, although only one (in your blogger’s head) thanked Him (or Her) for the speedy pace at which the affair was concluded.

Someone sang O Canada, pleasantly if a little off key and pitched too low for even determined public singers to yodel along. There was a bagpiper. Everyone who was there seemed to have a fine time, even quite a few of Redford’s political opponents, a genus that may include several members of her caucus. There were chocolate-chip cookies, which were really quite good by Legislative standards.

So if there are auguries to be read in such things, they seemed reasonably promising for the new premier’s prospects. At any rate, they made for interesting contrast with the omens that accompanied Stelmach’s swearing in on a bitterly cold December day not quite four years ago.

That occasion was misty, occasionally snowy, gloomy and weirdly Russian. The cold itself may not have been a sign, but surely the decision to hold such a ceremony outdoors on Dec. 15 in a place that tends to be colder than Siberia was a harbinger of the steady stream of misjudgments that were to follow.

At any rate, while the crowd froze their feet to the to the unyielding pavement, men in long beards sang incomprehensible Slavic dirges to mark the beginning of Stelmach’s unlucky 13th Alberta premiership, which has bumped along as haltingly as the former premier’s peculiar diction ever since. Security was nonexistent — but who needed security when it was that cold? Later, indoors, there were canapés, hors d’oeuvres, trifles or something, whispered to have been prepared by one of the head of government’s many Ukrainian cousins.

If one really wanted to look now for portents of what’s to come, it was necessary to peer between the lines, if you’ll pardon a mixed metaphor, looking for dogs that didn’t bark.

Thus one local newspaper was reduced to tallying up who wasn’t there, and speculating on what it might all mean. Come to think of it, under the circumstances, that wasn’t a bad idea and I wish I’d thought of it.

Oh well, too late now. One big dawg that didn’t make it was Ron Liepert, who back in the day was Stelmach’s minister of health and privatization and more recently, having taken the cure, his minister of energy. Liepert has been doing whatever he can to prevent there ever being a judicial inquiry into the sorry state of health care in this province — reasonably enough, seeing as it’s likely he’ll end up wearing a significant percentage of whatever fault such an inquiry might find.

Liepert had Stelmach on side, and he apparently had the former front-runner, Gary Mar, in the same place. Alas for him, the horse he was betting on faltered in the home stretch and Redford — who defied her party and promised there bloody well would be a health care inquiry — triumphed.

Liepert has been pouting ever since, so his non-appearance — along with that of such former Stelmach ministers as Lloyd Snelgrove and Iris Evans — can hardly be marked down as a shocker. (Ted Morton was MIA yesterday too, but he was said by the paper to be dealing with a personal matter. Negotiating a return to the pensionable public sector, perhaps, at some unnamed “School” of voodoo economics?)

Still, writing up that kind of stuff was a better option for the sluggos of the daily media than some of the political alternatives — say, filing stories about the British Columbia premier’s neckline, which is reported to be plunging like the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

We can all give thanks, appropriately enough, that Premier Redford will be telephoning cabinet candidates over the Thanksgiving weekend, and possibly cooking up some actual policies soon after that, so the media and the blogosphere should have something more substantial to Twitter about very soon.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga’s blog, Alberta Diary.

David J. Climenhaga

David J. Climenhaga

David Climenhaga is a journalist and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. He left journalism after the strike...