Alison Redford is enjoying an extended honeymoon with the media, still swooning over the fact a supposedly progressive female has made it to the province’s top job.
But Redford’s short time as premier — what has it been now, about a month? — has been riddled with snafus, foul-ups and flip flops.
In her first weeks, Redford has appointed a cabinet made up of cranky old men in top positions, called a legislative “session” that lasted two days, opened up the pork barrel for Gary Mar, and has begun to back away on her promise of a full judicial inquiry into health care allegations.
And now we have the Royal Alberta Museum fiasco.
You know the details of this foul-up. Ed Stelmach’s legacy, his gift to the city that gave him unexpected support in the 2008 election, was a $350 million provincial museum for downtown. This was announced when Unsteady Eddie was well into his lame-duck phase, which gave it a bit of a rushed feel to it, in my view. The design was mediocre at best, but Edmonton was getting another piece of its downtown revitalization puzzle put into place, so everyone was happy.
This week, a $92 million fly appeared in the ointment. Turns out the federal government has decided not to chip in the $92 million the province was counting on for the project, bringing the whole thing to a screeching halt. The feds, in the person of the useless to Edmonton Rona Ambrose, said they never promised the money. The Harper government made the utterly preposterous excuse that the province had told Ottawa that they didn’t want any federal money, because the province was just so darned proud of the project. (This is like a kid turning down tuition money from his parents because he was just so proud of his studies.) The province, in the form of a brand new and clueless infrastructure minister Jeff Johnson, says he was under the impression the money was coming. So now, with the mystery $92 million missing, the whole project is on hold.
Alberta Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman thinks it’s all a set up, that the new premier doesn’t want to go through with the project, so they conjured up this whole scenario. I think that’s too Machiavellian, even for the Tories. Personally, I think this is a genuine communications foul up. As far as I can see, there was no mention in public of the $92 million. I think the province just assumed that their conservative brethren would come through with the money. The PCs have learned a hard lesson — you can’t trust the Harper government to come through on a verbal promise, or a written promise, for that matter.
The voters of Edmonton have learned another hard lesson as well — the Harper government takes Edmonton support for granted. They pulled the rug out from the Expo project, and now they’ve done the same with the museum. So, Tory voters, how does your golden boy look now?
(This is one positive from this mess. The province can dust off the plans to expand the existing site and save a bundle. Not everything in Edmonton has to be built downtown. The west end location is excellent, with plenty of room to grow. Keep it there.)