On October 1, 2011 Alison Redford was elected leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta (PC) and became premier of this resource rich province. In just ten months she has fallen from grace due to a trail of broken promises.
As soon as she took office, Redford restored $100 Million to education, without making any adjustments to her budget. Although she promised to do this within ten days, diligence should have been used to ensure that all other aspects are covered. It is no surprise that whenever cuts are announced bureaucracies have difficulty in cutting in their own backyard. Cuts are almost always carried on the backs of teachers. At the very least the PC government should have conducted a study to see where the education funding is being spend.
The move was political in nature and early this year Redford had to concede that a miscalculation in renewable resource revenue would result in Alberta losing $6 billion dollars, resulting in a deficit of $4 billion for this fiscal year. The Redford government, despite past history on the so-called bitumen bubble estimated its resource revenue at $100 a barrel a day. Alberta crude is sold to the US at a discount of $30 to $50. With the Northern Gateway and XL Keystone pipelines in limbo, this situation is not likely to improve anytime soon.
Albertans have been warned to expect a belt tightening budget when the Redford government reveals it on March 7. Ahead of the budget Redford announced a three year wage freeze for managers in the civil service and plans to cut their ranks by ten per cent, which amounts to 400 jobs. This, Alberta unions say, is a slap in the face in view of Redford's promises. They say that a freeze in funding amounts to a cut, since 12,000 more students are expected to enter the school system this year. Alberta Teachers' Association (ATA) vice president Mark Ramsankar said that Redford made promises for long term funding.
Redford promised stable, long-term funding and full day kindergarten, but it’s not clear either of those promises will be delivered.
Five of Alberta's largest public sector unions, the ATA, Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE), the Health Sciences Association, United Nurses of Alberta, and the Canadian Union of Public Employees joined forces on Monday to condemn cuts, they say are coming in Thursday's budget. According to the Edmonton Journal the unions also released polling data showing that most people do not want to see cuts in the public sector but want to see some kind of tax reform, higher royalties or a return to progressive income tax.
Premier Alison Redford was elected for her “progressive” Conservative agenda, but she is betraying those promises with a “slash and burn” budget rather than moving ahead with tax reforms to cover the deficit, Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour. told a news conference.
“The (budget) will be Klein light and this is not what Albertans thought they were getting when they voted for Alison Redford as opposed to the Wildrose party,’’ McGowan said.
The Wildrose Party, in the polls leading up to the election last year, looked as it would sweep the election and was often touted to win a majority government. In the end Redford's promises, comments on social issues such as gay rights, perceived racist statements by Wildrose candidates and Danielle Smith's questioning of climate change science, won the day for Redford and she won a majority government.
Despite all the hype and polls indicating an upset in the Alberta election, the Redford Tories won an overwhelming majority in Alberta. The Progressive Conservative Party continued its 41 year dynasty in Alberta. The Redford Tories took 61 of the 87 seats in the Alberta legislature, the Wildrose Party ended up with 18 seats, and both the New Democratic Party and Liberal Party walked away with 4.
Redford's strategy, with the help of some of the local media, had paid off. The Tories were ready to fulfill their agenda. Unfortunately during the past year, Redford's Tories moved from scandal to scandal. The trip to the London Olympics where 18 rooms were paid for and never used were part of it. Then there was the money squandered in Alberta Health Services (AHS), with overblown claims by AHS CEOs and of course a series of back peddling on promises.
To quote a common term "Redford's chickens have come home to roost." While unions say Alberta has no spending problem, but a revenue problem, many Albertans, the Fraser Institute and the Canadian Tax Payer's Federation depict it as a spending problem, as does the opposition Wildrose Party. Perhaps premier Redford is just a little too progressive for conservative leaning Albertans.
Polls March 4th
From an overwhelming victory just ten months ago Redford's government has an approval rating of just 29 per cent. Her personal approval rating has taken a 25 point nose dive to 33 percent. The Think HQ poll, conducted from February 12-16 shows that 38 per cent of Albertans would support to the Wildrose Party, while only 26 per cent would still back the Tories.
The poll suggests that there is a massive shift in public concerns about the debt and deficit and that trust and healthcare remain problem areas. The most important concerns are also those in which the Redford government performs the worst. Trust has become a major factor, where the public has difficulty in believing what politicians say and that the competence doesn't exist to make the right decisions.
Redford has dropped from a 59 per cent approval rating in October 2011 to a mere 33 per cent. Public perception of incompetence, a deficit of $4 billion, unfulfilled promises and lack of a long term vision have contributed to Redford's decline.
Redford's budget will undoubtedly contain a few more belt tightening measures. The unions have turned on her for failed promises. She won't be able to please everyone. The days of empty promises are over, Redford has to reveal to voters what she actually stands for.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com