EDMONTON - For 30 years, Alison Redford had known Peter Lougheed and from him learned the art of politics.

In April she won a majority mandate at the helm of the Progressive Conservative dynasty he launched as premier four decades earlier.

Less than five months later, in the autumn heat of the legislature's marbled rotunda, she stood alone before his casket and gazed upon it.

For 30 seconds she was immobile, her back to the crowd, hands twice coming to her face.

What was going through your mind? Redford was asked in a year-end interview.

"Flashbacks," she said.

"It was just like boom, boom, boom," she said snapping her fingers.

"From the first time I met him to the last time that I saw him, to having lunch when I was first got elected as an MLA.

"Isn't it funny when things like that happen in life how many flashbacks (there can be) in 30 seconds."

It was a year of superlatives for Redford.

The 47-year-old became the first elected female premier of Alberta and in doing so ensured Lougheed's party would become the longest running political dynasty in Canadian history.

In 2013 she embarks on the biggest gamble of her political career, taking on debt to pay for infrastructure and perhaps day-to-day operating expenses while an oil glut and a faltering US economy put the death squeeze on the price of Alberta's lifeblood heavy oil.

It's expected to be as rough a ride as 2012, which saw Redford take a political and personal pounding in the legislature.

There was controversy over an Olympic-sized $500,000 bill for ministers to mix and mingle at the London Games.

Questions swirled around reports Edmonton Oilers owner and pharmacy magnate Daryl Katz had bought himself government influence with a $430,000 contribution to the PC party.

There were revelations that Redford's sister, Lynn, had used her expense account at the old Calgary health authority for buying tickets, liquor and even bug spray for PC functions.

In November came paper trail revelations that as justice minister in 2010 Redford herself pushed for her ex-husband's law firm to get a lucrative government contract to sue Big Tobacco. The winning and losing firms were notified while Redford was still in charge of that portfolio, but the final papers were not signed until after she left.

Opposition politicians howled, accusing her of the grievous parliamentary offence of misleading the house by claiming she didn't make the decision.

NDP Leader Brian Mason said the accusations were so grave, Redford had lost the moral authority to govern and needed to step down until her role in the affair was cleared up.

Redford said she was taken aback, given that Mason is respected for questions that plunge like a dagger into the heart of an issue without the grandstanding hyperbole.

"I expected that from some of the opposition parties. I was kind of surprised to hear it from him," said Redford.

"I remember when he said it thinking to myself, 'So you actually think an Albertan who is watching question period right now might think that the premier of Alberta — who was elected six months ago and is responsible for everything that is going on and building markets, and planning a budget and putting in place — should step down?'

"I don't even know ... what that would look like. But I just thought it spoke to the tone of the day."

The year 2012 was also the first full year for Redford without her other confidant and political mentor, her mother Helen.

Helen died of an infection in hospital at age 71 just four days before her daughter won the PC leadership race to become premier on Oct. 2, 2011.

Redford credits Helen with pushing her toward politics and spurring her interest in government, policy and public service.

She still carries Helen close to her heart in a set of pearls passed down from grandmother to mother to her.

"I'll tell you the last month I've thought a lot about her to the point where I've actually picked up the phone and thought, 'God I wish I could call my mom.' Just in the last month and I'm sure that's because of some of the personal stuff," said Redford.

"Just hearing her voice would remind me of everything that ever happened in my life that made me who I am today, every experience that I'd ever had, whether it's baking with granny or going to church or whatever it is. Falling and skinning my knee.

"If you just think for a moment about everything that you could feel when you hear a parent's voice — and in my case my mother's — it's sort of an affirmation of who you are as a person."

She said Helen wasn't a rah rah, my daughter right-or-wrong type of person.

"Sometimes she would say to me: 'You screwed up' or 'I've got a question about this,'" said Redford.

"She was always really a good gauge of (reality) because she saw the world the way that everybody else did — not the way that politicians see the world."

Redford said she still gets firsthand glimpses of that world when she meets Albertans.

"I'm amazed by the number of places that I went to through the leadership (race) and I'd meet young girls and they'd be wearing pearls.

"I'd say 'Oh, you're wearing pearls,' and they'd say, 'That's because you're wearing pearls.'

"I do feel a little bit of an added responsibility when I talk to moms, when I talk to young women. They're very aware of the fact that I'm the first female premier of Alberta."

She said connecting with Albertans is both exhilarating and sobering.

"Sometimes they're saying 'You know you're on the right track' or 'I've never told anyone, but my child was an addict,' or 'I've never told anyone that I'm a victim of domestic violence.'

"Just the fact that a person would share something that intimate with someone who essentially is a complete stranger to them is a privilege.

"And it is something that again reminds me that this role is more than a job and it's more than sitting in meetings and running an agenda. It's about making people's lives better."

Loading Slideshow...
  • Alison Redford on insisting Alberta wont's see a PST

    “Gosh, my goodness. Today is Thursday. Did I say it yesterday? Did I say it on Tuesday? Did I say it on Friday?” “We are not introducing a provincial sales tax, period. I’ll say it again tomorrow if you like." February 2013.

  • Alison Redford's Christmas Greeting

    In a tongue-in-cheek greeting on This Hour Has 22 Minutes 2012 holiday special, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/12/07/alison-redford-funny-christmas-greeting_n_2258800.html?1354906380">Redford shared the following message to Canada</a> - "Christmas is my favourite time of year in Alberta. Most people spend their time with family and friends. I choose to spend the bulk of my time the way I do the rest of the year - having a scotch with my friends from the oil and gas industry; talking about how to relax environmental regulations." Looks like another mild winter. You're welcome, Canada."

  • Ed Stelmach On U.S.

    "A good neighbour lends you a cup of sugar. A great neighbour supplies you with 1.4 million barrels of oil per day." -- <a href="http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/article/831381--don-t-tread-on-ed-premier-stelmach-defends-alberta-oilsands-in-washington-post" target="_hplink">In an ad in <em>The Washington Post.</em></a> (CP)

  • Redford On B.C. Premier Clark

    "We have every other premier across the country understanding the importance of the energy economy and understanding that it's important for all Canadians that we do work together." -- <a href="http://www.calgaryherald.com/news/alberta/Debate+over+Northern+Gateway+pipeline+entirely+appropriate/7088360/story.html" target="_hplink">Taking a jab at B.C. Premier Christy Clark.</a> (CP)

  • Ralph Klein on Evolution

    "Dinosaur farts." -- On what may have brought about the <a href="http://www.edmontonsun.com/news/alberta/2010/12/14/16554851.html" target="_hplink">Ice Age.</a> (CP)

  • Ralph Klein On Belinda Stronach

    "I wasn't surprised that she crossed over to the Liberals. I don't think she ever did have a Conservative bone in her body. Well, maybe one." -- Speaking at a charity roast in 2006, <a href="http://www.edmontonsun.com/news/alberta/2010/12/14/16554851.html" target="_hplink">Klein comments on MP Belinda Stronach</a>, who used to date fellow Tory MP Peter McKay, crossing the floor to join the Liberal Party. (CP)

  • Ralph Klein takes on Dalton McGuinty

    "I'm no doctor, but I think that Mr. McGuinty's got a case of premature speculation," said Klein, reacting to comments made in March 2006 by Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty opposing any two-tiered health care system in Ontario that Klein has proposed in Alberta, which was believed would allow quicker access to surgery for those who pay.

  • Peter Lougheed On Oilsands Development

    "Would somebody please outline to me the advantages of our doing it this way? For me, an Albertan? What are they? Can you give me a couple of them? What do I as an Albertan gain by this mad rush up there?" -- <a href="http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/rob-magazine/the-second-coming-of-peter-lougheed/article659021/?page=all" target="_hplink">He asks in <em>The Globe And Mail</em></a>. (CP)

  • Ralph Klein On Mad Cow Disease

    "I guess any self-respecting rancher would have shot, shovelled and shut up, but he didn't do that. Instead he took it to an abattoir." -- At the discovery of mad cow disease <a href="http://ca.m.yahoo.com/w/legobpengine/news/blogs/former-alberta-premier-ralph-klein-finally-getting-order-223011036.html?.b=entertainment&.ts=1340325348&.intl=ca&.lang=en-ca&.ysid=yXfXSNumJYMPRMtsjsr3kcZ6" target="_hplink">on an Alberta ranch.</a> (CP)

  • Ralph Klein On Edmonton

    A fine city with too many socialists and mosquitoes. At least you can spray the mosquitoes." -- In 1990 as a <a href="http://www.edmontonsun.com/news/alberta/2010/12/14/16554851.html" target="_hplink">Tory MLA from Calgary.</a> (CP)

  • Peter Lougheed On NEP

    "Let them freeze in the dark." -- Lougheed takes on Trudeau regarding the NEP in the 70s. The quote is also cited as the more contentious bumper sticker fodder, 'Let the eastern bastards freeze in the dark.'