CALGARY — Former Alberta premier Alison Redford is resigning her seat in the provincial legislature, effective immediately.
In an opinion article written for Postmedia newspapers, Redford, who has been sitting as a backbencher since the spring, acknowledges mistakes were made during her time as leader of the governing Progressive Conservatives.
“In hindsight, there were many things I would have done differently,” she wrote. “That said, I accept responsibility for all the decisions I have made.”
Jim McCormick, president of the PC party in Alberta, issued a statement that said Redford’s premiership “started off with such promise” but he added “it was her own personal choices that led to her demise.”
“She is alleged to have broken government rules, and taxpayer dollars were not treated with the dignity and respect they deserve. She has paid a personal and political price for her mistakes and we appreciate her decision to take responsibility for her actions,” he wrote.
“This circumstance won’t happen again.”
McCormick said the Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta “is more than one person.”
Redford resigned as premier in March after facing increased unrest within her caucus, fuelled by concerns over her leadership style and a $45,000 trip to South Africa for Nelson Mandela’s funeral.
Redford and her aide flew to Ottawa, where the premier joined the prime minister’s entourage. Her aide, however, took a commercial flight to South Africa. He and Redford returned to Alberta first class on another commercial flight so she could attend the swearing-in of her new cabinet.
She eventually paid back the money, but only after weeks of pressure and her repeated declarations that she would not.
Since she left office, she has faced increased criticism over her travel habits.
Last week, the CBC reported that a leaked review from Alberta auditor general Merwan Saher found that passenger lists on government aircraft were altered so that Redford could fly alone.
Redford issued a denial via Twitter. She said she had fully co-operated with Saher’s investigation and “would be surprised if these allegations are true.”
She also said “there was never any directive preventing others from flying on government aircraft when I was a passenger. In fact, on most occasions that I can recall, when I was on government flights, I travelled with other elected officials, public servants and staff.”
It’s expected that Saher’s full report will be released to members of the legislature and the public on Thursday.
“I will leave it to others to analyze and comment on the past. I am sure that I will be asked to weigh in, but I will respectfully decline,” Redford wrote in her opinion piece Wednesday. “It is time to move forward.”
Trained as a lawyer, Redford indicated she will teach and resume work in international development and public policy.
There had been calls from within her own party to give up her Calgary-Elbow seat.
Thomas Lukaszuk, one of the men vying to become the next leader of Alberta’s Conservatives, had called for an emergency caucus meeting to discuss Redford’s continued membership in the party.
He said it is now time to move forward.
“It’s a new chapter for Alberta. I wish everyone involved all the best on future journeys. Now is time to focus on tomorrow in Alberta,” Lukaszuk said on Twitter.
Redford said in the letter that she will not accept a transition allowance given to members of the legislature who leave their seats.
She concluded by thanking her friends and family.
“My family stood by me throughout and in the course of my political career there are some truly unique friends who have been volunteers and who have worked in my office,” she says.
“I thank each and every one of them for their friendship and loyalty in the face of some very difficult circumstances.”
There have been suggestions that there should be an RCMP investigation into Redford’s use of government aircraft. Opposition Wildrose finance critic, Rob Anderson, was the most definitive when he said the public has an expectation that politicians who may have broken the law should be investigated.
Flight records from last spring showed Redford also took her daughter, Sarah, on 50 flights on government aircraft, including for two weekends in Jasper. The records simply list “meetings with government officials.”
Shortly before her resignation as premier, Redford admitted to flying her daughter and her daughter’s friend around on a handful of flights and paid back the equivalent air fares. She also admitted taking a government plane to a family funeral in Vancouver and bringing a plane in to fly her back from a Palm Springs vacation.
Then, within days of her resignation, it was revealed her office had intervened with the Infrastructure Department to make changes to the top floor of the Federal Building.
The building, a block north of the legislature, is being renovated to house politicians, political staff and civil servants. In July 2012, Redford’s office ordered changes to the top floor to accommodate a “premier’s suite” complete with changing and grooming areas, a fireplace, separate temperature controls, a butler’s pantry and dining and study areas.
Documents revealed $173,000 was spent on design work for what became known as “sky palace,” before the plans were scrapped.
A Mount Royal University political scientist questioned the timing of Redford’s resignation as a member of the legislature Wednesday.
“Redford made the right decision, but at the wrong time,” Duane Bratt said in a Tweet. “She should have resigned as MLA at the same time as she resigned as premier.”