That sound you just heard might have been Rob Anders' head exploding. Don't be alarmed.
A first-term MLA representing Calgary-Elbow, Alison Redford has her eyes set on being the 2nd Premier to hail from the southwest Calgary riding (the first was a fella named "Ralph" a few years ago). Appointed to cabinet in the high profile position of Minister of Justice immediately after being elected, the unapologetic carnivore (the "Redford Diet", I'm told, includes nothing that never had parents) had some big expectations to meet - and by most accounts, she did just fine, thank-you very much. In fact, Redford's term as Minister of Justice was so successful, earlier in this campaign she gained the endorsement of the Calgary Police Association, representing the members of the Calgary Police Service. If you're a lawyer and the cops actually LIKE you, you're doing something right. The strategy for Team Redford has seemed to be, from the beginning, "make the top 3" - and if recent polls are to be believed, that goal is within reach. As an unapologetic Red Tory, not to mention the only woman in the race, the hope is that Redford would do very well at converting supporters of defeated candidates, particularly those espousing "change", into Redford voters on the second ballot.
In many ways, Alison is the Wildrose Party's worst nightmare. She certainly brings with her some issues that they'd camp out overnight just to attack - such as her participation with Human Rights Commissions - but, on the flip side, she's an articulate woman who flat-out knows her stuff and loves to mix it up, verbally. Which cancels out many of the advantages that the Wildrose expected they'd have over Ed Stelmach in the next election (Ed has been called many things over the years, but "womanly" has never been one of them). In the verbal sparring match between the former television personality and the lawyer, once they go off-script, you bet the lawyer. Every time. And if public debates matter, that has to be a very worrying outcome for the Wildrose.
Much of Redford's campaign has focused on the need for immediate solutions to immediate issues, followed by long-term planning. Examples of this include her pledge to immediately reverse the teacher cuts of this fall to get those teachers back into Alberta classrooms, and the setting up of Family Care Clinics so that families with working parents can still access the health system without needing to go to the local E.R. Some of the others:
- Rejuvenating Albertans' freedom to access government information by speeding up replies to requests for information and keeping processing fees low;
- Mandating that leadership candidates from all parties must publicly disclose their donors so Albertans can see where each is drawing support;
- Enacting whistle-blower legislation to force government to own up to its mistakes and in doing so, learn from them;
- Studying methods of telephone and e-voting so the disabled, residents in isolated areas and Albertans traveling abroad can easily have their say at election time.
- Increase funding for the arts in the education system, allowing schools to provide stronger course offerings with more capacity;
- Develop an organized campaign to promote kids' access to the arts outside school - studies show that kids who regularly attend public art performances display a higher degree of public engagement as adults.
- Encourage high schools to develop close links with post-secondary universities, colleges and trade schools to allow students to obtain dual credits, better preparing them for higher studies;
- End provincial achievement tests for Grades 3 and 6, as these are too stressful for students and do not impart the information we need to measure performance.
- Legislate to end the "No Fail" practice in grade school, giving every student the chance to succeed or fail on their own merits.
- Allow adults at any age to obtain their high school diplomas for free via continuing education, no matter their age or how long they've been out of school.
- It is important that we restart the discussion between the ATA, school boards and the province to renew the current arrangement that would include more prep time for teachers, changes to professional days and review of class sizes. Guaranteed funding is needed to ensure we can continue to improve what we have started.
- Put post-secondary education funding on a 3-year funding cycle, so institutions will know what to expect and be able to plan effectively.
- Ensure all health care services at continuing care facilities are provided by Alberta Health Services. We need to separate private delivery of housing and related services from publicly funded and publicly delivered health care services.
- Expand the range of health care that is provided in continuing care facilities and seniors private homes so that seniors don't have to travel to hospitals unnecessarily. Not only will this be more convenient and comfortable for seniors, it will also reduce pressure on our acute care system.
- Devolve decision making authority, and the responsibility that goes with it, to local decision makers within the health care system.
- Require AHS to publish local quarterly performance reports according to a set of indicators with comparisons to provincial standards in including:
- Surgery wait times
- Hospital and clinic acquired infection rates
- $1,500 Family Recreation Tax Credit to support participation in organized sports and recreational activities like summer camps.
- Childcare must be accessible and affordable. Alberta will subsidize childcare for all Alberta families with less than $50,000 household income.
- Create a 10-year corporate tax exemption for new daycare operators and a personal income tax exemption for all income earned by daycare or day home employees and owners.
- Reintroduce full-day kindergarten within one year of forming government.
- Create a Department of Human Services to replace Child & Family Services, Community Spirit, Housing & Urban Affairs, Employment & Immigration and Aboriginal Affairs (shrinking cabinet by 4 ministries).
- Establish a truly independent Child Advocate to monitor the performance of provincial child welfare services, advocate on behalf of children in care and report directly to the Legislative Assembly.
- Start a Children's Serious Incident Review Team to independently investigate the death of any child in provincial care.
- Require all government departments to conduct detailed program reviews and demonstrate why programs and services cannot be delivered by community-based organizations or the private sector. Within six months, I want to identify services that can be transferred to community leadership or privatized.
- Implement a five-year funding model for Alberta Health Services and a three-year model for education at all levels.
- Order regular budgetary reviews to uncover savings in existing expenditures wherever possible. Departmental budgets will only grow when there is a clear need, not just a desire for more money.
The Long & Short Of It:
Alison Redford may very well be the next Premier of Alberta. Her campaign seems to be firing on all cylinders, she's not promising the moon but rather achievable, measurable results, and she benefits from the "Anybody but Mar" sentiment that is floating around in some party circles. She's going to need to make a good impression at the Edmonton forum and go full-court-press to Get Out The Vote on Saturday, especially in Calgary, where she's said to be leading among party members. If she makes it through to the 2nd ballot, she's got a real shot. I'm a big fan of the "long-term planning" that she speaks of so often, and I'm willing to look past the fact that she's a graduate of Bishop Carroll High School, the arch-rival of my own Bishop Grandin. Despite that, though, she's competing against a tried-and-true political machine backing Ted Morton, a well-funded juggernaut in Gary Mar, and a very well-supported long-time cabinet member in Doug Horner - not to mention maverick Rick Orman and progressive darling Doug Griffiths. If Alison wants to beat at least 3 of those candidates on Saturday, it's going to take guts, organization, and hard work.
Can she do it?
Absolutely she can. She's assembled a great team.
WILL she do it?
Wait until the ballots are counted. That's why we do this "voting" thing, rather than just letting the blogger decide who wins.
NOTE: I had the opportunity to sit down and interview Redford last week. That interview appears below.