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Alison Redford and the Politics of Weaksauce

Tomorrow, Alison Redford is expected to resign as the Premier of Alberta. Her inner circle has already begun preparing the way for this to happen, not by accepting responsibility for the critical failings of this Premier -- aided and abetted by that same inner circle -- but instead by pointing fingers of blame.

In the Glove and Mail, Gary Mason and Kelly Cryderman repeat whispered rumours of a "smear campaign" against Redford. They invoke none other than Stefan Baranski -- who as the Premier's director of communications possessed something of a questionable record -- to muddy the waters in regards to Redford's departure.

“You know, you heard the rumours. Literally every media outlet, reporters from each one, were all coming over to me the last little while saying, ‘You know we heard there was an incident …’,” Baranski complained. “It was absolute horseshit. But that’s what the premier was facing.”

“It’s just nonsense. I’ve been hearing literally that same narrative for the last two months: ‘Wait till tomorrow, there’s something else coming.’ It’s absolute nonsense. They can’t criticize her on policy," he continued, "so they resorted to absolute character assassination, and you’ve seen some gender politics at play and a whole bunch of other pretty sad rumours and smears coming out almost daily now.”

This is quite significantly at odds with the detail that the most compelling issues raised about Redford were about policy: her fiscal policies (presenting the budget as multiple sets of books, misrepresenting deficits as surpluses) and about her adherence to government policy regarding the use of aircraft.

In the end Baranski, despite himself, essentially gives up the ghost and admits that Redford simply wasn't willing to take the heat.

“I think she just looked at the environment and said: ‘I have elements in my own party actively working against me. I have elements of my own caucus actively working against me. We have a fairly hostile media environment here," he complained. "How can we possibly go forward if my own party and caucus don’t support what we want to do and what we were elected to do?’ And that’s the sad part.”

And yet Redford's principle (and far more principled) opponent, Danielle Smith, has faced equal, if not greater, hostility in the media, and has persisted just fine. Presumably, some people are just made of sterner stuff.

In the Calgary Herald, a lengthy article by James Wood and Chris Varcoe focus in on the seeming unfairness of Redford's grilling by the Progressive Conservative Party executive.

“Put yourself in her shoes. Can you imagine sitting around a table with 50 colleagues and having them literally go around the table, one by one, and tell you everything you’ve done wrong, and everything you’re doing wrong, challenging your every assumption about yourself, challenging your integrity," an unnamed source identified only as close to the soon-to-be-ex-Premier lamented. “It was just disgraceful — and I would never wish that on my worst enemy, frankly.”

Over the past few weeks Redford has frequently been described as a bully. As Cryderman and Mason note, many of the subjects of Redford's alleged bullying behaviour declined to confirm whether or not she had actually been abusive. (It's only fair to note this.)

Yet as Redford prepares to exit the Premier's office, the defense of Redford's inner circle has essentially been the bully's defense: apparently the problem isn't that Redford did wrong -- even setting aside the bullying allegations, Redford's abuse of public resources was unquestionably doing wrong -- but rather that the opposition, the media, and her own party members called her out for it.

There's a common term for this kind of conduct: weaksauce. It's weak and insignificant. And it doesn't live up to expectations.

It seems worth remembering that the initial defense raised by team Redford was to accuse her critics of sexism -- lo and behold, that meme reappeared today in the pages of the so-called "hostile media" -- another weak defense that overlooked the detail that many of Alison Redford's principle critics were themselves women.

It's all indicative of a Premier and inner circle that just weren't willing to take the heat. In that alone, Alberta will be far better off with the lot of them out of the Premier's office.

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