BY RICHARD GILBERT - Dave Hancock has been sworn in as the interim premier of Alberta and leader of the Alberta Progressive Conservative (PC) party, after Alison Redford announced that she is stepping down.
"We thank Alison Redford for her commitment to building infrastructure and wish her all the best,” said Peter Pilarski, vice president with Merit Contractors Association.
“I congratulate Dave Hancock on his new role. We hope the new premier will move forward on the legislative agenda that deals with the issue of construction competitiveness.”
Hancock was sworn in as Alberta’s interim premier and replaced Redford on March 23, which is the same day her resignation came into effect.
Redford announced that she was resigning from her position as premier on March 19 in the rotunda of the Alberta legislature.
She will stay on as the MLA for Calgary-Elbow.
Redford became Alberta’s first female premier in October 2011, after winning the leadership of the PC party.
Next, she led the party to a majority victory in the April 2012 provincial election.
“We will work with the government to help deliver their infrastructure plan, but this is a government commitment, not a personal one,” said Ken Gibson, executive director of the Alberta Construction Association.
“So, we will continue to deliver that plan to the benefit of Albertans.”
Hancock, who was deputy premier to Redford, is the longest-serving minister in the PC cabinet.
Redford’s resignation followed criticism about leadership from within her own party.
This resulted in a group of 10 MLAs holding a meeting on March 16 to discuss the possibility leaving caucus and sitting as independents in the legislature.
The president of the Calgary Construction Association said the biggest challenge that currently faces the provincial government is finding a new leader.
“I think Premier Redford was a very hard task master and she had a tough image like Margaret Thatcher,” said Dave Smith.
“The media plays an important role in politics, so the new leader will have to be inspirational, young and smart enough to appeal to the general public and be the leader of the province with the fastest growing GDP in Canada.”
Smith said the recent increase in the popularity of the Wildrose party presents a serious challenge for the Progressive Conservative party in the next provincial election.
A new poll released by ThinkHQ on March 19 found that PC support has declined sharply as a result of Redford’s leadership issues.
PCs represent about 19 per cent of the decided vote, compared to the Wild Rose party with 46 per cent, Liberals at 16 per cent and the NDP at 15 per cent.
The poll concluded that a travel expense scandal that revolves around a trip Redford made to South Africa for Nelson Mandela’s funeral has had a significant impact on support.
It was reported that 90 per cent of respondents were aware of what was going on and about 70 per cent say they are much less likely or somewhat less likely to vote PC due to the scandal.
The ThinkHQ poll was conducted between March 10 and March 16, 2014.
Calgary Tory MLA Len Webber decided to leave the PC party to sit as an independent on March 13.
The representative for Calgary-Foothills said he could no longer be part of the PC caucus led by Redford due to her travel expenses and her management style, which was descried as a form of bullying.
Redford also announced on March 13 that she repaid $45,000 for the cost of the trip to South Africa.
She apologized to Albertan’s for these costs at a news conference at the Alberta legislature where she said questions about the trip were a distraction from her government’s agenda.
Redford flew to South Africa with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper on his plane, but she used an Alberta government plane to fly to Ottawa to meet up with the flight.
In addition, she spent $10,000 to fly back to Canada to attend a ceremony to swear in her new cabinet.
Initially, Redford refused to repay the expenses because she was on government business,
Donna Kennedy-Glans, member of the legislature for Calgary Varsity, decided to resign from caucus on March 17.
She cited the inability to create change from within the party and a culture of entitlement as reasons for her departure.
The PC party constitution requires a new leader to be selected within six months of a leader’s resignation.
The PC party executive planned to meet on March 24 to set out a time line for the leadership race.
Hancock has said he has no plans to run for the post.
The next provincial election is scheduled for October 2016.