March 15, 2021 is the seventh anniversary of the day the Progressive Conservative Party caucus in the Alberta legislature gave its leader and premier, Alison Redford, a “work plan” to get her foundering government back on track, or else.
Four days later Redford formally announced her resignation and by March 23 she was gone, replaced by a caretaker premier, Dave Hancock, and eventually by Jim Prentice, the PCs’ anointed one, the politician they were certain would assure the continuation of their dynasty.
But the Ides of March, 2021, is as good a moment as any to mark the end of Redford’s leadership of Alberta’s Conservatives in 2014.
You could have pointed to her meeting with her caucus two days before the Ides, I suppose, when MLAs presented her with their grievances at Government House in Edmonton. Grim faced, she emerged from that gathering, all alone, at 11:32 a.m. Without a word to the reporters clustered outside, she was whisked away by her security detail in a big, black SUV.
Even at that late point, though, she might have been able to save herself. Despite her obvious political baggage, there were strong arguments against giving her the bum’s rush just then.
But by the 15th it was all over. With MLAs threatening to resign from the party en masse if she stayed on, the Conservative hive mind reached the conclusion it was her or them. After that, the end came quickly.
Caucus gave her the notorious work plan at a “respectful but brutal” inquisition in Calgary, effectively putting their premier on probation. It could have been worse. At least they didn’t make her wear an ankle bracelet.
After two and a half years of chaos and the scandals over travel and that Sky Palace atop the provincially owned Federal Building in Edmonton, nowadays in use as Premier Jason Kenney’s hideaway second office, it was evident to everyone she was done for. All that happened on March 19 was that Redford publicly admitted it.
The assumption at the time was that the threat to the PCs came from the right, along with the constant and often vicious attacks from the Wildrose Party still led by Danielle Smith and its supporters. You would have been laughed out of the room if you’d asked the professional political observers in legislature’s press gallery if you thought the government faced any dangers from the NDP, still led in March by Brian Mason.
Redford’s humiliating departure was a stunning flameout for a politician who had stepped into leadership with such promise only two and a half years before.
By any measure, March 2014 was one of the most dramatic months in Alberta political history.
David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions at The Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald.
Image credit: David J. Climenhaga