Political analyst weighs in on the departure of the premier

thumb Lori-WilliamsWhat was your initial reaction to the announcement?

"I think probably the most surprising thing about it was the timing. It looked like the party executive and Alison Redford had been planning for a more measured response to the problems to see if they could do something to get the party on track and if not, plan in a more strategic way for future succession. So I was surprised this decision came when it did."

What does this mean for Alberta in the coming days?

"She tried very much to focus on the positive future of Alberta, and potential and importance of planning for the future. And the Progressive Conservative party should be part of that. But the question remains whether the party can reunite and work together for that future. There's been a lot of division and I guess the first question is whether they can regroup and heal or at least bridge those divisions. And secondly whether anybody is willing to try and lead a party that's curbed three leaders in relatively rapid succession and might get the kind of treatment that Alison Redford's received."

Political Analyst Lori WilliamsLori Williams is an associate professor of policy studies at Mount Royal University.

Photo by Derek Mange
In your opinion, was this the right decision?
"I don't think there is any way around it this stage in the game. It's very difficult to imagine how, especially given the comments made by Donna Kennedy-Glans on Monday, it's difficult to know how Alison Redford could have brought the party back online. The questions that were raised were not just about her leadership; they were about the party itself and I think the future of the party is really an open question."

What do you think people should know at this point?
"I think a lot of things have been said about Alison Redford's leadership and about their caucus, and I think there is plenty of criticism to go around, but the question is what do you do about the problems that have been exposed by that criticism and can one move forward in the face of what has turned out to be destructive criticism?"

You and I have talked in great detail before about women in politics and how they can be viewed as shrill and bossy, where men are seen as passionate and assertive. How do you think that played into this situation?
"Some elements of this coup — this pressure from within for her to leave — some elements of that certainly are at least partly about gender. Len Webber for whatever reason or collection of reasons, he may have left the party — feeling disgruntled that he was not included in her cabinet, not feeling like he had the kind of influence or kind of input that he wanted to have — made a comment about her being a bully, about having a bad temper and about not being a nice lady. Now let's change the language from lady to man and that's not the type of comment you would expect. We see lots of leaders historically who have not been calm, they have been quite passionate and certainly some might have even described them as bullies. I think Len Webber's remarks, and perhaps the thought of others from within and outside of the party, might have been making judgements of Alison Redford because she wasn't behaving as they expected a woman to behave. Or that women can't do politics in a way they are used to it being done and they are not comfortable with that. There might have been elements of that, but that certainly wasn't the whole story."

"While I think sexism may have been a part of the problem that Alison Redford faced, I think there were bigger political problems in terms of her consultation with caucus, her inclusion of them in decision making — taking advantage of the talents and resources they brought to government. I think there was a great opportunity to do something new with government — as she said, 'renew' government — and to move in a new direction. Unfortunately that promise of renewal — although it would have been difficult to deliver on in any case — was made more difficult by that fact that she didn't include those who brought her to power. Without including them in her plans and vision for the future, she basically lost an important source of support, so you would expect the old guards to be more resistant to anything new — including a new leader — but a female leader, you would expect them to resist that."

"There were a great many people who supported her in the election, in her leadership race and who were elected along with her in the last election who could have been good resources and support for her. She didn't take full advantage of them unfortunately."

Lori Williams is an associate professor of policy studies at Mount Royal University. She is often seen on Global Calgary weighing in on municipal and provincial politics.

Editors note: Answers have been edited for clarity.

Do you think gender played a part in the trouble Redford has had in gaining support?


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