Alberta Premier Alison Redford

Flip. Flop. …

Is Alberta getting to be like a cheap rooming house? You know, the tenant upstairs just got home from the beach. And we’re all waiting for the other flip to flop?

Just about the first thing out of Alison Redford’s mouth after she won the Conservative Party vote to succeed Ed Stelmach as premier in the wee hours of Oct. 2 was that there would be no fall session of the Legislature.

The next morning, everyone complained, including Yours Truly, just to be completely clear about this.

Then the just-announced premier-to-be met her new caucus, private discussions apparently ensued, and she swiftly announced there would be a Legislative session after all.

This seems like a flip-flop. However, not being a neo-Con, I have to confess I’m not really up to speed with this whole flip-flop business — except that flip-flopping is something American Republicans like to accuse American Democrats of doing, and for obvious reasons is therefore also in the preferred lexicon of Canadian “conservatives.”

See, what confuses me is whether the first decision was the flip, in which case the second decision would be the flop, or if it was just whatever it was (an ill-considered comment, perhaps) and the second decision was the flip. In that case, the flop didn’t actually occur until yesterday, but je digresse.

I guess we should go with the Edmonton Journal, seeing as they actually get paid to write this stuff and surely as professionals they know what they’re talking about. They called the announcement that there would be no session a flip-flop. In which case today’s announcement was the second flip, which should leave us all waiting for the other shoe to flop. Still with me?

The first, no-session announcement seemed, if not exactly odd, to be a sign of political inexperience, if not ineptitude. Wouldn’t it have been smarter for the new premier to tell the media when they asked, “C’mon, fellas, I’m thinking about what to do with the fall session of the Legislature. Gimme a couple a days to talk to the caucus…”

Oh well, maybe her political advisers weren’t quite as seasoned as we all assumed they were in the first flush of her victory. Hell, maybe the last time her chief political adviser was really just a communications director — which from personal experience I can tell you is no guarantee of deep, probing political insights.

Anyway, getting back to today’s flip, or flop, or whatever the heck it was, we’re now moving from the sublime to the ridiculous — or perhaps the other way around. Instead of Not Having a Legislative Session, Option 1, or Having a Legislative Session, Option 2, we’re going to have a session that only lasts two days, where the premier only gives a speech about how lucky we are to live in Alberta when the rest of the world is a catastrophic mess, then we’ll all wait two weeks, then we’ll have two weeks of a legislative session at which we pass some laws, then we’ll all open Christmas presents, and then we’ll have a general election and another four years of Tory government. (Sorry, it was just too hard to capitalize every word in that sentence.)

Instead of Option No. 3, though, which is really boring, how about we call this the Third Way?

OK, where were we? Oh yeah. Maybe it occurred to someone in the caucus after they’d all talked the new premier into having a fall session after all that it would be pretty hard for her to come up with a legislative agenda on such short notice.

Now, if this sounds like I’m flip-flopping on my original position, well, all I can say is that I’m not the premier. And I still think that it would have made sense for Redford, and her high-paid political advisers, and her caucus, and her new cabinet ministers, to have taken a breath for a couple of days before they decided what to do — which, it is said here, would not have been this!

But, here we are anyway. The government is obviously right that it would have been pretty hard to come up with a full-blown agenda by the end of the month. And the Opposition is just as obviously right that it sure doesn’t sound like the openness and transparency Redford promised when she was running for the job to have a session of the Legislature but then to cut out all the days devoted to debate.

It’s also far from clear if anyone but the politically obsessed cares a fig about how long the Legislature sits, or even much about what it’s talking about when its sitting.

Be that as it may, the one thing opposition parties always try to do with new government leaders is to get something negative to stick to them before their advisers can plant the seed of something positive in the mind of the public.

Thanks to a little help from the premier herself, there’s a good chance the idea that sticks to her will be that she’s an inexperienced flip-flopper with no plan.

If this sounds familiar, it should. It’s probably something Premier Redford’s brain trust might want to work on correcting!

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...