Alison Redford

Well, she’s not quite hit Rock bottom.

But thanks to the departure announcement yesterday by the premier of the Rock, Alberta Premier Alison Redford is now in a dead heat to be Canada’s second least popular premier.

With a pallid 31-per-cent approval rating, Redford was tied for third from the bottom, according to an Angus Reid poll released last week measuring the relative popularity of most of Canada’s first ministers.

But yesterday, Newfoundland Progressive Conservative Kathy Dunderdale, who was languishing in the poll’s sub-basement with a vote of approval from fewer than a quarter of the voters surveyed in her province, said to heck with politics and pulled the plug on the top political job on the Rock.

When she officially quits tomorrow, that will relocate Manitoba’s Greg Selinger, a New Democrat, into the sub-basement, and leave Redford slugging it out with her fellow PC in New Brunswick, David Alward, to be the second least popular premier in Canada — which sure doesn’t sound like a ringing endorsement of the Alberta premier’s personal charm and inspiring leadership.

Oh well, at least Redford’s approval ratings haven’t actually gotten any worse since last week — leastways, we’ll need to see the next poll to know for sure if that’s happened.

But what’s striking in Redford’s case isn’t so much the stinky approval numbers she got when Angus Reid went into the field with its online premiers’ popularity contest last month, but how far and how fast her approval ratings have fallen since the glory days of September 2012 when she was the country’s second most popular premier, according to a similar poll by the same public opinion research company.

In September 2012, Redford received a glowing approval rating of 55 per cent. Another poll at about the same time showed her approval in the low 60s.

No. 1, then as now, was Mr. Congeniality himself, Saskatchewan’s ever-popular Brad Wall.

But that wasn’t very long after Redford’s unexpected turnaround election victory in April 2012, when the PCs’ apparently now-abandoned campaign strategist, Stephen Carter, managed to persuade Alberta voters to be more afraid of Danielle Smith and the Wildrose Party than they were tired of the creaking PC dynasty Redford had just inherited.

Now, with Redford winning the approval of only 31 per cent of the poll’s respondents, and the outright disapproval of 63 per cent, we’re within our rights to ask: What happened?

The explanation is actually pretty simple: Albertans are getting to know her.

As Anna sang of the king of Siam: “Getting to know you, getting to know all about you … Things I’m learning about you, day by day…”

And what we’re learning day by day about Redford just ain’t all that nice.

She flip-flops — and in a particularly self-interested way. One day, when she needs the votes of public employees, she’s the biggest friend of public services on God’s Green Earth. Two years later, she’s attacking them with a vengeance, presumably to impress someone else.

She can’t keep a promise — “it’s another broken promise” has gone from being the standard talking point of Alberta’s Opposition parties to something approaching a provincial comedy act, with everybody in the place chanting the punch line in chorus.

She’s disdainful, and doesn’t seem to like us very much — in fact, most week, she acts as if she’s campaigning to be Secretary-General of the United Nations, where she could associate with a better class of people, than the premier of Alberta. She’d really rather be anywhere but here — even Afghanistan!

And what was she doing anyway secretly plotting to put at risk Canadian security forces, days away from finally leaving the region, and adding to the burden on Canadian taxpayers by organizing a pre-election photo opportunity in that troubled land?

As blogger Dave Cournoyer observed in his blog last night: “It is hard not to see this side-trip as anything more than an expensive publicity stunt for a provincial politician who loves to be seen on international stage.”

Indeed, if the trip hadn’t been cancelled because of a deadly Taliban attack on a Kabul restaurant, that killed two Canadians, “photos of the premier with the troops and with humanitarian workers would have been prominently featured all over the government website, Ms. Redford’s Facebook page and in future Progressive Conservative Party election ads.”

You have to ask if Redford just sees Alberta as a stepping-stone to whatever it is she’s really campaigning for.

Regardless, lots of Albertans are starting to notice. And that explains a lot, including Angus Reid’s results.

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...