Parsing the Alison Redford interview

Who’s the audience for Redford’s astonishing interview? Not the people of Alberta, writes Colby Cosh

Jason Franson/CP

Jason Franson/CP archives

What is the right way to read Gary Mason’s extraordinary interview with Alison Redford, the former Alberta premier who has spent a year in “deep introspection” thinking about various things that were responsible for her downfall that are not Alison Redford? The audience for the article, I think, is not Albertans.

Redford is still defending the many trips she took on government planes with her daughter, for which there may be some justification, even if the auditor general didn’t think they were such a hot idea. There is, however, no discernible mention (in the record of a three-hour conversation) of her staff’s use of fraudulent block bookings of aircraft seats to make sure she could travel alone. Nor does she defend the occasions on which she used the now-sold-off government airplane fleet to travel for purely partisan fundraising purposes, later lying about this to the Legislature. Nor does she explain how the privilege of travelling with her daughter might extend, as it sometimes did, to her daughter’s school friends. They just didn’t get around to that stuff in their chat, I guess.

She was asked about the secret premier’s residence that the government attempted to build on an upper floor of the federal building in downtown Edmonton. Her answer is the most astonishing moment in a post-retirement discussion that would shock even Michael Ignatieff with its cluelessness:

“I became aware at some point of a discussion about making it more into living space, and I also know my staff told infrastructure to stop that and that was all I ever knew,” she said, contradicting reports that she personally ordered the penthouse. “There was one discussion when someone said to me: ‘You’re going to be the premier when this is done; what colour paint do you want on the walls?’ and stuff like that. That was it.”

Albertans remember, from freedom-of-information filings on the “Sky Palace,” that Redford’s executive assistant asked the architects to make sure it included “sleeping and grooming quarters . . . for an adult and one teenager.” (Thanks for the reminder, though!) That seems a little more specific than “What colour paint do you want?” Indeed, the awkward customization of the secret premier’s residence by Redford’s people is one of the underappeciated objections to it, once you get past the whole “they tried to build a friggin’ secret premier’s residence and got shirty with the city of Edmonton when its staff brought up the topic of residential permits” thing.

The hint at the true purpose of this interview comes late in Gary Mason’s text, when he observes that, “There have not been any job offers or board invitations [for Redford], likely as a result of the way she exited from office.” Albertans just have too much detail about her behaviour memorized. This interview provides a convenient overview of her struggles, in which there is talk about double standards for women, nasty rumours about Redford’s personal life, and inherent difficulties she faced with an entrenched Conservative caucus that did not support her leadership bid.

It all seems very sympathetic and sad, if you don’t look too closely and you didn’t actually live through her tenure as premier of Alberta and you overlooked the way caucus colleagues fell suspiciously silent when she began to be accused of isolation, irascibility and irresponsibility. She can paper-clip the article right onto her resumé and hope that sub-Ivy universities and international NGOs don’t do too much follow-up Googling. Certainly, nobody in Alberta will object to her earning a living somewhere sufficiently far away.


Parsing the Alison Redford interview

  1. My own favourite part:

    “She has travelled, read and indulged in pursuits she’s never had time for in a busy career – like baking.”

    Shame her “busy career” as Premier didn’t leave her time to indulge in travel. Wonder what her “advance travel assistant” that cost the Province close to half a mill a year was actually doing.

    • In fairness, I think he meant “baking” as the only example of things she didn’t have time for previously.

      • Lack of baking time was likely a consequence of never being in the Province while Premier. Seriously, when the flight records for her daughter’s trips were released, it didn’t appear as if there was a single week Redford wasn’t flying off somewhere.

    • We all know what her “advance travel assistant” was “actually ” doing; but shan’t discuss it in polite company.

  2. Redford was a tool of the system who failed in her job (and all “Premier of Albertas” jobs) of fooling Albertans into believing they are rich. That is the primary purpose of the government, to deflect, lie, and distort facts about the true environmental and economic situation of Alberta which is becoming ever more apparent by the day. Job “#1” as she put it was to support the oil industry, what is probably one of the most misogynistic industries in all of Canada if the stories many of my female friends tell me that work in the industry are to be believed.

    She failed and got burned by the system she pledged her loyalty too, simple as that, and then the Feds parachuted in Pretenious “I blame Albertans” Prentice to handle the damage control. She knew what this system was about yet played along anyway. She does women an injustice by doing so and she gets no sympathy from me with her self-serving antics.

  3. I have heard people in the government say she is psycho.

  4. And I’m wishing I never had to see her ugly smirking mug in the papers; ever again.

  5. As a male and believer in equality between the sexes; I think this is a good example of how dated the old ‘feminist’ arguments or should I say ‘bellyaching’ have been come redundant on the whole equality issue.
    Alison Redford, Pamela Walin, Hedy Fry and Chief Theresa Spence along with a host of others can lie, cheat and steal as well as any human being.
    Welcome Canada to the 21st Century and move on from these ancient equality discussions.

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