On the eve of her first Tory leadership review, Premier Alison Redford is watching the centre-left coalition she stitched together to win the 2012 provincial election come apart at the seams.
Voters are rapidly losing faith in Redford. A recent poll for the Calgary Herald shows that among people who voted Tory in 2012, nearly 46 per cent want a new leadership contest. It also showed that, among the general public, keeping Redford as leader would make them 45 per cent less likely to vote for the Tories in the next election, while only 23 per cent said it would make them more likely to vote PC.
Teachers are angry with her (just look at their television ads). Senior citizens are fuming too. The entire post-secondary system is under a cloud of confusion and resentment, leading academic staff to strike back with their own slick campaign. Families with disabled adults that have been thrown under the bus are organized and taking action. Health care is in such disarray that it needs no such campaign - the evening news is enough.
Finally, on Monday a province-wide public awareness campaign called The Alberta Way will launch. Backed by the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, it calls on Redford to stop breaking her promises and restore Albertans' faith in her government, before it's too late. To get a sneak peak at the campaign's TV commercial, watch below.
Blog continues below video
How did this happen? How did Redford, who pulled off one of the most miraculous electoral victories in Canadian history 18 months ago, so quickly alienate the very people she courted on the campaign trail?
Simple. She and her government did the one thing that Alberta voters will not tolerate: she repeatedly broke her word and betrayed their trust.
A year and a half ago, Redford promised Albertans that she would put the "progressive" back in the Progressive Conservative party, vowing to invest more in education, health care and services for people in need. To borrow one of Redford's most abused adjectives, her platform was clear: "A new PC government will deliver a balanced budget by 2013 with no new taxes and no service cuts."
Even as the Wildrose gained ground on the right, Redford's centrist, social-democratic rhetoric attracted enough new voters from the Liberal and NDP side of the spectrum to give the Tories three quarters of the seats in the legislature.
A few months after taking office, Redford became the first premier in the province's history to address delegates at AUPE's annual convention, suggesting a new era in labour relations.
She assured the delegates that they live in "one of the best economic jurisdictions with the most favourable economic conditions of anywhere in the world. We are aware of that and we will manage that well. We remain committed to balancing the budget in 2013-14, which was our commitment before the election. And I can assure you, we won't do it with short-sighted responses."
Within weeks, however, her government had spun 180 degrees and was abandoning nearly all the promises made during the election. Suddenly, Alberta was facing a fiscal "crisis." The government blamed it on the volatility of oil prices (as if this was something new and unforeseen) and invented a new term: "bitumen bubble," which turned out to be doublespeak for "short-sighted response."
The list of bridges burned is extensive.
- After legislating a three-year wage freeze on Alberta's teachers, the government cut funding to school districts, despite the fact that the K-12 system would grow by 11,000 children this year, forcing class sizes to swell.
- After Redford promised a modest two-per-cent funding increase for post-secondary institutions, Advanced Education Minister Thomas Lukaszuk cut funding by 7.3 per cent, forcing institutions to reduce student spaces, close campuses, cancel programs and cut staff.
- The Tories cut funding to adults with developmental disabilities and announced plans to close Red Deer's Michener Centre, a home for people with the highest needs.
- Alberta Health Services began closing nursing homes in small towns, uprooting elderly residents, sometimes moving them to new communities. Meanwhile, $180 million was cut from pharmacare for seniors' medications.
The cuts continue, even though the alleged crisis is fading in the province's rear view mirror. Alberta's economy is getting stronger every day and the government's oil revenues are miles above their budgetary estimates.
Albertans see through this charade and the Tories are headed for major electoral trouble. But it's not too late. There's no obvious successor to Redford so in all likelihood she'll remain leader. Luckily for her, the electorate is forgiving, and she still has a couple of years before the next general election.
Redford still has time to change course and become the premier she promised Albertans she'd be. That said, time is quickly running out.