EDMONTON – Alberta’s governing Progressive Conservatives begin picking up the pieces today to move on from the era of Premier Alison Redford.
Caucus members meet this morning in the legislature to pick a new interim leader for Redford, who resigned Wednesday and will formally step down on Sunday.
Redford’s resignation followed weeks of open caucus fighting stemming from her lavish travel expenses and disillusionment with her and the direction of her government.
The resignation also means another party leadership race, less than three years after the last one, which saw Redford replace then-premier Ed Stelmach.
PC party president Jim McCormick says the next steps for choosing a new leader will be discussed Monday at a board of directors meeting in Red Deer.
McCormick says the party constitution requires a leadership race to be at least four months long but no longer than six months.
The province, by law, must hold its next election some time in the spring of 2016.
Redford announced her decision in the rotunda of the legislature, just 29 months after she stood at the same spot to take the oath of office to become the province’s first female leader.
She said the turmoil had taken an intolerable toll and was proving an insurmountable distraction to the business of the government.
The spiral to Wednesday’s resignation began weeks ago, when it surfaced Redford had spent $45,000 on first-class air tickets and a government plane to go to Nelson Mandela’s funeral in South Africa.
Other revelations fell like hammer blows: Redford using government planes for a vacation; to fly her daughter and her daughter’s friends around; to go to a family funeral in Vancouver.
There were calls for Redford to repay the money for the South Africa trip. She only did so after tensions within her caucus spilled into the public realm.
She was punished in the polls, with some suggesting that as many as four out of five Albertans had turned thumbs down on her leadership, and preferred the Opposition Wildrose as the next government.
Last week, things went from bad to worse when Redford’s character came into question.
Calgary backbencher Len Webber quit the Tory caucus, saying he could not longer stomach Redford’s temper tantrums and abuse of subordinates. She wasn’t a “nice lady,” he said.
On Sunday, 10 government members met to debate whether to leave caucus and sit as Independents.
On Monday, Donna Kennedy-Glans, the associate minister for electricity, quit saying the promised reforms by Redford were dying on the vine.
But opposition leaders say Redford was merely the symptom of a PC government that has rotted from within after four decades in power.
Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith said it’s also a party that craves power for its own sake, which is why it now turfs leaders at the slightest whiff of defeat.
“This party is done and it cannot be fixed,” said Smith.