ALBERTA

Alberta Premier Alison Redford's Leadership Questioned

03/14/2014 02:48 EDT | Updated 05/14/2014 05:59 EDT
CP
With a defection from Alberta's Progressive Conservative caucus yesterday, there are concerns being raised over Premier Alison Redford's leadership.

There have been rumours that other MLAs were also considering whether to leave. 

Calgary-Foothills MLA Len Webber quit the PC caucus Thursday and will sit as an independent to protest the leadership of Redford.

"She's just really not a nice lady — I can be honest with you there. I cannot work for an individual who treats people poorly, who treats our taxpaying dollars poorly," the 53-year-old backbencher told reporters Thursday morning.

Webber said the premier is prone to tantrums and fits of rage.

Redford declined comment on Webber's resignation yesterday as she left Government House, where her caucus was meeting without her to hash out matters in a private discussion.

Story continues after the slideshow

What Webber Said About Redford

Redford a strong leader, says deputy premier

Deputy Premier Dave Hancock said as far as he knows, no one else is leaving caucus and measures will be in place to make sure everyone feels they have a voice.

Hancock said Redford is a strong leader and described Webber as a very sad man who was unhappy about losing the cabinet post he held under former premier Ed Stelmach.

But political analysts say Redford needs to rally her caucus if she wants to remain leader. 

She faces an uphill climb, said Lori Williams, an associate political science professor at Calgary's Mount Royal University.

"It is possible that she can bring this out of the fire, but there's a lot of damage that's been done. A lot of questions about her brand, if you like — her image, her character — that have been raised about her effectiveness as a leader."

Dwindling poll numbers

Since the last election, Williams said Redford has alienated labour groups and many members of her own party, which has led to dwindling poll numbers.

Political scientist Chaldeans Mensah said Progressive Conservative MLAs have a lot to consider before leaving caucus.

"First of all you're jeopardizing your opportunity to be re-elected," he said. "People don't really take kindly to floor-crossers right, so there's a danger there. Secondly you're going to alienate a whole group of your caucus members — former caucus members — right, so ... I don't see a wholesale defection."

Mensah said right now caucus has the power. Members who emerged from a meeting Thursday seem to be united in standing behind Redford. 

"The shift we are seeing is a shift to the caucus — the caucus has been empowered — and they will have to decide whether they can work with this leader or [if] they're ready for a change," he said.

Flight costs a sore point

Many complaints about the premier have stemmed from the costs surrounding her $45,000 trip toSouth Africa to attend Nelson Mandela's funeral in December. Redford had worked for Mandela years ago.

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil spent less than $1,000 to make the same trip.

But Redford has also been under pressure for her use of Alberta government aircraft on several other occasions.

Even though she eventually repaid the money, some people aren't happy about the spending.

Party directors to meet

PC Party president Jim McCormick said he expects much more discussion this weekend when party directors hold a meeting. Redford is expected to attend.

"I think the conversations and discussions and concerns about the $45,000 will continue," he said. 

Despite the complaints, McCormick said the party never considered using its own money to cover the cost of Redford's trip.

Political scientist Duane Bratt said there is growing speculation whether Redford will run for the PCs in the next election. She is the first female premier in Alberta's history, serving in the role since Oct. 7, 2011.

There is no constitutional mechanism in the party to remove her. There was a leadership review, but she passed that test with a 77 per cent approval rating.