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Apologies not a panacea for political failures

Posted on May 7, 2014 by Taber Times

It would have been a galling experience for former premier Alison Redford — now simply Calgary-Elbow MLA — to have heard her legacy for the province described in such unglowing terms by her temporary successor Dave Hancock.

We say would — not surprisingly, Redford was absent from the PC party’s  annual Edmonton fundraiser earlier this month, in which Hancock apologized to party faithful for losing touch with the grassroots and having “acted in a way that’s contrary to our values”.

Although Hancock was careful not to mention Redford’s name in his harangue against the party’s unacceptable behaviour, there could have been little doubt in the minds of those listening with pens and open chequebooks at the ready about whom he was really referring to when questioning the mistakes of the past.

To be fair, blaming those mistakes solely on a former premier is usually not the doorstep where all blame should be laid. In the case of Alison Redford, however, this political adage seems to have fallen on rather deaf ears. And not, unfortunately, without good reason.

Allegations levelled against Redford over lavish and questionable spending habits are one thing. Rumoured authoritarian and abusive behaviour towards subordinates and the party caucus are quite another altogether — actions which speculatively prompted her own party members to force her from office. Not to mention a series of choices under her tenure that had indeed alienated much of what remains of the grassroots element of the party.

Since her resignation, Redford apparently hasn’t turned over a new leaf. A ghost in the legislature since her departure from office, she has since been spotted through the social media universe dining and biking in Palm Springs, Calif. while still collecting her MLA paycheque.

Now dubbed “Absent Alison” by much of the provincial media, these fresh allegations have actually prompted the province to conduct a review of Alberta’s policy for absentee politicians. Not exactly the kind of press Hancock and the PCs were probably hoping for on the heels of Redford’s resignation.

Still, the continuing Redford media circus tends to obfuscate for Albertans a  more obscure message that was indirectly imparted by Premier Hancock during his profuse apologies. It is a sad indictment for the aspirations of a ruling political party when it feels it necessary to apologize for so very many things, including its own leadership choices.

And it illustrates just how far the party has fallen from the glory days of Peter Lougheed, when the PCs were lauded as the populist party and natural choice of the people. In recent weeks and months — even years — Alberta’s PC-adoring public have seen little that is laudatory about their government’s actions.

That refrain, by the way, is a favourite of Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith, who rarely misses a chance to expound the virtues of Lougheed’s approach to provincial politics while heavily criticising the direction of his party today.

It’s a brilliant political strategy which allows the Wildrose to seemingly embrace the PC party’s former virtues while painting themselves as  the inheritors of those strengths and qualities, and the grassroots answer to the decay of the PC’s 43-years-and-ticking tower of power.

Considering the nature of Redford’s fall from grace and the deepening unpopularity of the party in the province, the PCs will have to do better than an apology to win back the allegiance of the grassroots they so desperately seek.

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