Alberta Premier Alison Redford, second from right, with Environment Minister Diana McQueen and Culture Minister Health Klimchuk, watch as Deputy Premier Tom Lukaszuk celebrates the Progressive Conservative Party’s victory on this day last year with a sip of champagne. Actual PC cabinet members may not appear exactly as illustrated. Below: the real Premier Redford, swearing the oath of office.
Today is the first anniversary of Alberta Premier Alison Redford’s unexpected but comfortable election victory.
If you follow Alberta politics, you’re bound to have been reading a lot of stuff lately about how unpopular Ms. Redford is just now and how she really has no reason to celebrate.
“There is no cause to party,” the Edmonton Journal’s political columnist wrote gloomily, recommending against her drinking anything more expensive than Baby Duck.
He, like everyone else at the moribund local rag and its similarly declining Postmedia counterpart in Calgary, has been touting a self-confessedly iffy Leger Marketing on-line-panel survey that suggests Ms. Redford has no friends.
Well, it’s true, I guess. The popularity of Alberta’s premier does seem to have rather slumped of late – although probably not as badly as the doubtless politically charged members of Leger’s panel indicated – and her Progressive Conservative government likewise seems to have a penchant for making many more enemies than friends.
If there’s anything to this Leger poll – which the Calgary Herald cautiously noted in its story on the survey is “a non-random Internet survey” that “does not report a margin of error” – the news wasn’t particularly good for anyone else either, at least anyone else the Journal or the Herald is likely to advise readers is a credible and serious candidate.
So if, as the poll suggests, 60 per cent of Albertans disapprove of the job Ms. Redford is doing, nearly 40 per cent disapprove of the work of Opposition Leader Danielle Smith as well. Ms. Smith is doing better with her own supporters, the poll suggests, with 39 per cent who approve, versus 26 per cent who approve of Ms. Redford. But … yadda-yadda … Feel free to read it for yourself if you care all that much.
In reality, the situation Ms. Redford and her government find themselves in is akin to that experienced by all of us who have discovered to our astonishment we’re not as young as we used to be. To wit: Growing old is for the birds, but the alternative is worse.
And the alternative for Ms. Redford last year, it could be argued, was a fate almost worse than death, that is, political death!
A year and a couple of weeks ago, tout le monde political Alberta had written off Ms. Redford and her Tories and were already typing up the obituaries, not to mention the longer one for the four-decade-plus PC regime started by Peter Lougheed.
The really important reporters, of course, were writing up glowing tributes to Danielle Smith, Tom Flanagan and the other Great Minds behind the Wildrose Party, which we were all persuaded was about to win a huge majority.
So let us not forget the reason the Alberta political punditocracy was writing off Ms. Redford and the PCs last year in almost exactly the same words they’re writing them off now was public opinion polls that looked an awful lot like this latest survey.
Instead, as we all know now, Ms. Redford posted a respectable 61-seat majority government and got the last laugh, or at least the next-to-last one.
Since political life is better than political death, I’d say Ms. Redford has something to celebrate right there.
What’s more, plenty of Progressive Conservative MLAs who expected to lose their seats are still safely ensconced in their Legislative sinecures. So, no matter how worried they are about where Ms. Redford is taking them next, neither they nor any others in the party, are very likely to take the chance of skidding the premier at her mandatory PC Party review next November.
So there’s a second reason for her to celebrate – she’s probably safe at least through to the next general election in 2016, or whenever.
Of course, she may lose then, as everyone seems to think now that she will, with voters complaining about the shards of broken promises that litter the streets of Alberta’s cities and towns.
But are you really certain that, three years hence, Alberta voters will even notice, let alone care?
The truth is, it could happen, and the Opposition will try mightily to ensure it does, but Alberta voters have a long and undistinguished history of ignoring broken promises, incompetent government and bonehead mistakes before returning Progressive Conservative governments to power by comfortable majorities.
Is anyone who doesn’t have a partisan point to make really confident enough to predict the same thing won’t happen again in 2016?
We should also be careful what we wish for. Ms. Redford still has three years to keep those promises, and, what’s more, some of them aren’t worth keeping. Do you still want – as Ms. Redford promised on page 29 of her 2012 policy platform – to “recruit foreign temporary workers”?
The fact is, Ms. Redford and her government have plenty to celebrate today. So why wouldn’t they say, “what the hell,” and pop the corks on some champagne?
This post also appears on Rabble.ca.