By Kevin Rushworth
In a 6 p.m., press conference at the Alberta Legislature, Premier Alison Redford announced that she will step down as Premier of Alberta effective this Sunday.
MLAs and members of the media were on hand at the rotunda for the announcement. No questions were taken at the end of the brief conference. Redford said she would remain on as MLA for Calgary-Elbow.
"Quite simply I am not prepared to allow party and caucus infighting to get in the way of building a better future for our province and for all Albertans and that is why I am announcing today that with a profound optimism for Alberta's future, I am resigning as Premier of Alberta effective this Sunday evening," she said.
“I love Alberta. I am honoured to represent Alberta as your premier and I’ve given my heart and soul to this province every single minute of the day for the last two and a half years,” she added.
During the 2012 provincial election, Redford, as part of her address to the media Wednesday night, said she made a promise to Albertans when she was elected.
"I pledged that we would govern with unity and build prosperity," she said during the conference. "Well at least we got the prosperity part right. The PC caucus and party will have a decision to make in the weeks ahead."
"My family is the most important thing in the world to me," she said. "They have been a rock through all of this and no words can thank them for what they mean to me," she added.
Redford, 49, was the first female Premier of Alberta and she led her party to a majority government in the 2012 election. During her speech, she said people were distracted from the real work Albertans had elected them to conduct.
“Quite frankly, too much time the last few weeks has been spent on questions of loyalty, allegiances and character," she said. "Too many people have been distracted from the important work that the people of Alberta sent us here to do.
Redford thanked those MLAs who gathered, the Albertans listening and said goodnight before leaving the rotunda. According to recent polls, her approval ratings had recently dropped to 18 per cent.
This comes after increasing scandals around her $45,000 airfare to Nelson Mandela's funeral, which she recently apologized about. Then Calgary MLA Len Webber announced he was quitting the PC caucus and would sit as an independent.
He said Redford was prone to 'fits of rage,' 'temper tantrums' and was a 'bully'. After leaving the party, so to did MLA Donna-Kennedy-Glans, associate minister of electricity and renewable energy, a few days later.
On March 19, it was learned that the presidents of the 25 Conservative constituency associations in Calgary were meeting in Calgary Wednesday night to talk about Redford's leadership.
Not long after the evening announcement, Danielle Smith, MLA for Highwood and leader of the official opposition, provided a statement about Redford's announcement.
"Premier Redford was elected to lead the PC party as an outsider," she said. "She wasn't part of the old boys club. She was hailed as a new kind of leader who could fix what was wrong with the party and the government. A leader who could put the party's problems behind her and fundamentally change what it meant to be a Progressive Conservative."
Smith said she had no doubt Redford intended to be that leader and that Albertans had high hopes she would be. However, she added that the problems in the PC party and the provincial government run too deep for one leader to change them, no matter how noble their intentions might be.
"The business of governing this province and leading it through its challenges will now once again take a backseat to the internal politics of the PC party--as they will again change their leader to try and solve a problem that can't be solved," she said.
Yet Smith said Albertans must not doubt the committment of any leader who puts their provinces well ahead of themselves and their family members in order to serve.
"Premier Redford gave everything she had to the job she was elected to do and for that she should be proud," Smith said in her closing remarks. "For that, we should be thankful."
For more information on Premier Alison Redford's announcement, please keep reading the High River Times for more information in the coming days.