And by bad day at work I mean that Alison Redford had to resign as Premier of the province just two and a half years after being elected. On Wednesday evening at just after 6 p.m., the Redford descended the steps of the legislature rotunda to a smattering of applause. She gave a brief statement laying out some of the highlights of what her government had accomplished, pausing to take deep breaths to prevent tears from flowing. She indicated that since being elected she had given everything, every second of every day, to the province of Alberta. And then she announced her resignation. This came as a surprise to many. I was somewhat surprised but not shocked. See my previous post and you get an idea of what was the big issue for the public persona of our premier.
Another issue was the treatment of her caucus, which was by some accounts pretty horrible–screaming, shouting, neglect. Two MLA’s had left the caucus to sit as independents, one claiming that the government was too dysfunctional to operate in a competent way. These are issues that will remain murky as the affected parties are reluctant to tell, in any great detail, tales out of school, so I won’t give a lot of commentary on this.
The issue of inappropriate use of transportation and travel expenses, and the accompanying attitude of entitlement demonstrated by Redford, could have been repaired with something along these lines:
“I want to apologize to all Albertans for my recent actions. I have been provided airplanes by the people of Alberta in order to conduct government business. I have charged the people of this province a considerable amount of money for personal trips for my family and me and in so doing I have betrayed the public trust. And when I was questioned regarding the inappropriateness of my spending I reacted in a way that seemed to indicate the problem was the public’s reaction and not the way in which I had betrayed the public trust. I am now sincerely, and humbly, apologizing, and ask forgiveness. My behaviour was inexcusable and I will offer no defence or justification. I will, from this day forward, not repeat this mistake. I will work diligently to repair the damage I have caused and once again I want to simply say that I am truly sorry.”
Now I’m not sure if a statement like this would cause the public to make an about-face, but in my experience a willingness to take responsibility for my actions, and sincerely apologize, can garner a tremendous amount of good will and forgiveness. The damage to her caucus may or may not have been repairable, but had the premier had someone close and trusted who could have given her the simple advice to be humble and apologize, she may have won back the voting public. And in turn a popular premier is going to stay the head of the ruling party; even if they may not like her personally, the thought of re-election can allow a politician to endure much unpleasantness.
As a side note, her communications director, Stefan Baranski, made the outrageous sum of $231,000 in salary and cash benefits. And I say outrageous because Redford was either given horrible advice on how to manage her public persona, in which case Baranski should have been fired, or Redford was given solid advice that she chose to ignore, in which case Baranski should have resigned. And now the taxpayer will be paying ridiculous sums of money in severance to a staff that was grossly overpaid and, from what I have observed, incompetent.