By now all Albertans are aware that she pulled off a stunning come from behind victory against her chief rival in this year’s leadership race, front-runner Gary Mar. I use the word "stunning" because Redford had just 19% on the first ballot compared to Mar’s 41%. Between the first and second ballots, Redford jumped from 11,127 on the first ballot to 28,993 votes on the second, and from there the rest as they say is history. While it sure appears that our Alison become a very popular candidate in short order, one has to ask if there might have been more involved.
On Sept. 22, Redford had a closed-door meeting with the 43,000 strong Alberta Teachers Association. The union has been quite vocal in its opposition and displeasure regarding the Ed Stelmach government's decision to cut $107 million from the education budget in an effort to shrink the provinces deficit. In a personal letter sent (following the meeting) between the first and second ballot to the President of the 43,000 member-strong Alberta Teacher’s Association, Redford promised to restore $107-million of funding that had been cut by the outgoing Stelmach government - a government where Redford sat at the cabinet table. Here is the letter she wrote:
Dear Ms Henderson,Now comes the interesting part, shortly after their meeting ATA Executive Director Gordon Thomas published a letter on the union website encouraging union members to sign up to influence the leadership vote. Here is a copy as it appeared on the website (for public view)
As you know I am contesting the Leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party to become the next Premier of the province of Alberta. My priorities, like so many Albertans, are healthcare and public education. In particular, I am committed to funding public education properly and it is important that the government move quickly on that front.
I will commit to restoring the education cuts made in the 2011/2012 budget within 10 days of being sworn in as Premier. This funding should not have been removed from the budgets of Alberta School Boards. I only regret that the timing of the leadership contest means that unacceptable disruption has already occurred that must be reversed. If elected Premier, I will not allow that to happen again.
The restoration of this funding will allow School Boards to hire back teachers and support staff laid off this summer. This, in turn, will reduce class size to a more manageable level. In consideration of the funding restoration, I will request that School Boards also roll back fee increases passed onto parents this fall.
Further, I commit to stable and predictable funding on three-year cycles in the future. School boards need to be able to plan, not annually react to unpredictable budgets. In order to keep talented teachers, we must be able to offer them longer term stability, not a continual cycle of layoffs and rehiring. Students and parents must know what to expect from year to year.
It is increasingly obvious that we need to change how we consult, and how we plan and implement government initiatives. I am very hopeful that you will work with me going forward to build a much better process, for the benefit of public education, public health care reform and other areas of government
I very much appreciate the opportunity to address your representatives on these issues, and look forward to some challenging questions!
As I write this editorial, Gary Mar, Doug Horner and Alison Redford are in the final days of a long campaign seeking the leadership of Alberta’s Progressive Conservative party.Now in reading the two letters, it appears that Premier Redford's is very clear in her promises while asking for nothing in return. However even the most naive individual in this province can surmise the outcome of promising a special interest group a $107 million donation to their cause. Now, as for Mr Thomas, in his letter he is extremely careful to avoid stepping on any potential landmines or saying anything directly that may come back to haunt him. Funny enough it appears that Mr Thomas may actually be the more savvy politician of the two.
I encourage all members to consider being active in this leadership campaign—and, for that matter, any leadership campaign. Get involved in choosing the next premier of Alberta. Assess the candidates for their education platforms. In my role with the Alberta Teachers’ Association, I have met with all of these candidates to discuss their views on education. I look forward to working with the new premier, no matter which candidate wins, as the teaching profession and the government work together to improve public education in Alberta. While the Association is decidedly unpartisan, we do encourage our members to get involved in public affairs—and this leadership competition will have a real impact on the province and our future.
Do we know how many teachers bought memberships and turned out to vote for Redford? No. But is it feasible they turned out to vote for the candidate that promised them a big injection of cash? One thing is for certain, the second ballot took a decidedly different direction than the first and that new direction was due to brand new members. The Tory rank-and-file showed up to vote on the first ballot. Did the special interests rush the ballot box to take Redford from 19% to victory? Some will say, that it should make no difference that the money went back to education and it's good for our children.
Alison Redford now gets to be premier. And the teachers union has a friend in the highest office in the province. No, this is not illegal, but it is a sad statement on politics in general and the morals of our new premier. Think about it, we now have someone in office controlling this provinces purse strings that got the top job by her belief in "the end justifies the means", Is it any wonder that true conservatives have been fleeing the Alberta PC Party in droves, I believe that I may be next.