03/21/2014 11:52 EDT | Updated 05/21/2014 05:59 EDT

What Conservatives Must Learn From Alison Redford's Resignation


In the unpredictable waters of professional politics, things can go from bad to worse in a hurry. Here in Alberta, grumbling about scandals dogging our bully government degraded into a Caucus revolt and has ended with the resignation of a Premier - all in the span of about a week.

Some have called Redford's resignation "graceful". Others have praised our former Premier for putting principles before politics by attempting to quell Caucus rancor and refocus attention on the needs of the province.

I would remind those people that for all the supposed "dignity" of Ms. Redford's departure, she remains a premier who her broke promises to Albertans from day one, slashed funding to social programs on which many vulnerable Albertans rely, and launched the most vicious attack on Alberta's working families in the province's history.

Indeed, that attack was so malicious and one-sided that MLA Donna Kennedy-Glans mentioned it specifically when she left the PC Caucus, saying:

"I'm concerned about top-down decision making," said Kennedy-Glans, who pointed to the government's strategy to impose a wage freeze on 22,000 members of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees. She had no idea that strategy was being considered until it was announced to caucus members as a fait accompli.

So the smoothness of the public relations around her resignation notwithstanding, I think we should all take the so-called "high road" nature of Alison Redford's announcement with a grain of salt. She's leaving for some very good reasons, none of which are principled.

Conservatives like Alison Redford and Danielle Smith like to believe they have everything figured out. And in that arrogance, they revel at the chance to waggle their finger at those of us who disagree with their plans, usually calling us names rather than offering real debate about our disagreements.

But if the past week shows us anything, it is that Conservatives have a thing or two to learn from Alberta's working families. Perhaps the biggest lesson they stand to learn is around something we like to call: solidarity.

Solidarity is a key principle for working people; it underwrites everything we do as a movement.

Solidarity is the notion of working together for a greater good. Working families know that it is only when we work together that we win the important victories that improve all of our lives. Whether we're talking about improving our wages and benefits, strengthening health and safety in workplaces, or ensuring that workers are treated with the dignity and respect that they deserve, we achieve a thousand times more when we stand together.

Of course, that idea of shared prosperity is completely contradictory to the thinking of Conservative politicians (though not necessarily conservative voters). They spend every waking hour attacking working families' efforts of solidarity and tell us over and over again that individual gain (which pits workers against one another) is the only way forward.

Well, you can ask the average Albertan how well that philosophy has worked out for them with record high household debt and worsening income inequality in Canada. And we can all see for ourselves how well the mentality of "my way or the highway" has worked out for Alison Redford and her party.

After only two years, it looks like Alberta's Progressive Conservatives are ready for another change in leadership. It will be interesting to see how that process plays out as the party grapples with how to bridge divides and stay alive.

Coincidentally, Alberta's working families are also ready for some change. But I have a sneaking suspicion that our definitions of change are going to look very different.

A Look At Alberta's Past Premiers