Redford’s out: With audit looming, ex-premier quits politics

[Less than one day before the auditor's report comes out on the investigation into her travel expenses, Alberta premier Alison Redford retires from politics entirely. *RON*]

By Kelsey Johnson,, Aug 6, 2014

Former Alberta premier Alison Redford has resigned, effective immediately.

In an opinion piece published in both the Edmonton Journal and the Calgary HeraldWednesday morning, Redford relinquished her seat in the provincial legislature.

“I am stepping down immediately as MLA for Calgary-Elbow to start the next chapter of my life, teaching and resuming work in international development and public policy,” Redford wrote, adding she and her family will continue living in Alberta.

Redford’s resignation comes less than a day before Alberta’s auditor general is expected to release more information about the 49-year old lawyer’s travel expenses.

A draft of the report – which was leaked to the CBC – accuses staff in her office of fixing passenger lists so that the premier could travel on the government jet alone.

Her departure from provincial politics also comes just hours after Thomas Lukaszuk – one of the party’s leadership candidates who served as deputy premier in Redford’s cabinet – requested an emergency caucus meeting to discuss Redford’s future in both the party and the Tory caucus.

Redford’s sudden exit comes after months of public criticism and party infighting over the former leader’s spending and use of government planes.

A $45,000 tab for a trip to South Africa for Nelson Mandela’s funeral last December angered her political colleagues and Albertans so much she was forced to resign as premier and leader of the Progressive Conservatives in March.

It wasn’t the first time her expenses, though, had been called into question.

Back in October 2012, Redford’s bank book was scrutinized after government records showed the Tories had spent more than $500,000 to send a controversial delegation to the London Olympics. The bill, the records showed, included a $114,000 booking fee for hotel rooms that were never used.

Then in February, more documents showed Redford was using the government plane to fly around her 12-year-old daughter Sarah, along with Sarah’s friends. Thursday’s auditor general report is expected to characterize her daughter’s company no government trips as a “personal benefit” to Redford.

On Wednesday, Redford admitted “mistakes had been made along the way,” but did not elaborate on what she thought those mistakes had been.

“In hindsight, there were many things I would have done differently,” Redford wrote. “That said, I accept responsibility for all the decisions I have made.”

Spending controversies weren’t the only challenges to plague Redford’s short, but tumultuous premiership.

As the province’s first female premier, Redford promised supporters – including the province’s teachers, nurses and other union leaders – a “fresh start.” Poverty would be eradicated, social spending boosted and more investments would be made in education, Redford said during her 2012 campaign.

On Wednesday, Redford acknowledged many of those promises were still outstanding. “I had hoped to have more time to do more of what I promised Albertans,” she wrote.

“There were many issues we could tackle quickly — a new social policy framework, equality rights, better funding for mental health, disaster responses in the north and south, funding for teachers, Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped, a single regulator and sustainable energy development, a more rational royalty framework, and opening new trade offices.”

Despite this, Redford said Wednesday, “I truly believe we made a difference.”

With her resignation, the former premier is eligible for $179,000 in severance pay. On Wednesday, Redford followed through on an earlier 2012 campaign promise, saying she would refuse to accept the money.