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Alison Redford – Escape plans, flight plans & work plans

The President of the Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview Progressive Conservative Association spoke to the Edmonton Journal on Friday, saying that his party hasn’t a chance if Alison Redford is still Premier come the next election. By coincidence, on same evening I happened to be having a beer with a long-time PC veteran and constituency exec. After handing him my phone so he could read it for himself, we had some back and forth which ended in me retweeting the article with the comment that I was sitting with CA exec who agreed with his colleague from Clareview, completely.

Within about a minute the direct messages from journalists started coming in, and a few, under the condition of anonymity, will end the weekend with some interesting quotes from a long-time Tory campaigner who’s had it up to here – about eyeball level – with his Premier.

I’ve held a PC membership twice. Not at all because I believe in the party or its management of the province. In full disclosure, I’ve voted Liberal, been an Alberta Party CA president, and have an appreciation for the NDP. I was a PC member once, to vote for Dave Hancock in his leadership run way back when, although I can’t at all remember why anymore. And once to attend a PC convention a few years back, to pester some cabinet ministers about a few community issues. My only memorable recollection from the event is getting a kick out of a guy in the lobby working two Blackberry’s at the same time.

So while I’m not a PC’er, I do know a few. And it’s provided me with an interesting view over the past month as the party suck and blew (in deference to Doug Griffiths), nearly imploding and exploding at the same time.

Some of my PC friends have referred to the actions of the Premier as “a betrayal”. I don’t see it that way. Maybe they saw something else in her, but from my seat just outside the season ticket section, I see her being herself. A political operator who cobbled together a winning coalition, that stopped being useful to her 25 minutes after the last election was called. Someone who’s more comfortable in board rooms than her office at the Legislature. A politician who certainly doesn’t make their own travel arrangements, or give them much thought, and certainly doesn’t pay much attention to those who do.

I listened to Doug Horner Friday morning give a talk in which he referred to the opposition continually focussing “on the small stuff”. Well of course they are, it’s the small stuff that resonates. A Premier spending more that many Albertans make in a year, to take a flight to attend a meeting that she could have rescheduled with a text message. That’s something that anyone can grasp. Throwing assistants and staff under the bus during sustained criticism? Pretty easy to call that out as anything but leadership. Eventually repaying $45,000 to squash an opposition talking point? A cheque made payable to “just shut the $#@! up already!”.

These are controversies easier to understand than say – why home-care has become an abysmal mess, or why the Province couldn’t be bothered to follow the recommendations of its own flood report, or when the consumer benefits of energy deregulation are eventually going to arrive.

It shouldn’t be at all surprising that the result of this weekend’s showdown between Alison Redford and her party’s Board, ended in an anti-climactic show of unity. There weren’t going to be more high profile floor crossings, or demands for her resignation, or even MLA’s plotting to defeat the budget and force an election. Nothing to rock the boat or upset the entitlement cart in the middle of the term.

Besides, there are no star leadership candidates in their wings (or at least ones that aren’t grounded with baggage), and why would PC’s be eager to put on a circus while standing in contrast to the calm, cool, collected and well-funded with large and small donations, Wildrose. The Wildrose who have gone from lakes of fire, to standing with union members and disabled Albertans on the steps of legislature. While the PC’s have endured rallies and smack-downs from judges, all while destroying the progressive coalition that pushed the Premier into front-row centre, and keeping the party in power for another term.

With the weekend over, and PC executive director Kelley Charlebois not being replaced by a close friend of the Premier, the party will carry on with big smiles behind their leader. The opposition will ask questions about public sector appointments, government flights, debt & healthcare, and we’ll see what lands on the frontpage. Upset grassroots troopers, who fundraise, donate, and run constituency associations, without the benefit of being invited to the good meetings like this weekend’s, will go back to largely thankless volunteer work.

The Premier, who’ll suddenly find more time on her schedule to take meetings with caucus members, will no doubt also take a bit more interest in those “small things” that garner attention. There may even be a bit more extra cash in the budget to be announced at quickly arranged press conferences. And the PC Party will go on, united behind its leader.

It may seem out of touch, backing a leader short on humility and sincerity with a 20% approval rating that’s only headed downward

But it’s what will happen. Until the next scandal that sticks. One doesn’t line-up behind a leader this embattled without an escape plan. In this case, call it a “work plan” for deniability, regicide, and proclaiming ‘change’ with a poker face in an election year.