'Change agents are not always well thought of': Alison Redford reflects on her turbulent time in office

Redford joined the Calgary Eyeopener on Wednesday morning to talk about her current work — and share her thoughts on the direction of the PC Party of Alberta.

Former Alberta Premier was cleared, for a third time, in the latest ethics probe into ‘tobaccogate’

Former Alberta premier Alison Redford at the CBC Calgary studio for an interview on the Calgary Eyeopener. (Robson Fletcher/CBC)

Another investigation has cleared former Alberta Premier Alison Redford of wrongdoing in the so-called "Tobaccogate" controversy.

Redford was justice minister when she picked a consortium of law firms to sue tobacco companies on behalf of the province. Her former husband, Robert Hawkes, was a partner in one of the firms selected.

An ethics commissioner says there was no evidence of any conflict of interest — the same conclusion as an earlier probe in 2013.

Redford joined the Calgary Eyeopener on Wednesday morning to talk about the decision — and share her thoughts on the direction of the PC Party of Alberta.

Q: You have been exonerated, again. How do you feel about all this?

A: I think it's really important for people to have faith in public institutions and politics is politics. It was a pretty hairy time in Alberta while I was serving as premier. Lots of allegations were made and we continued to insist that if there were those concerns then they should be investigated. They've been investigated three times and we keep getting the same results.

Q: How did this affect your life and career?

A: It was a surprise. You say politics is personal... until you've been through some of what I've gone through and what other public figures have gone through, it's really difficult to understand what that means. I have a great family and we're having a good life, but it was three years of a lot of thinking about the fact that this conversation continued to go on in the public and it's not just about the person who's elected, it's about their spouse, their kids, their siblings, things like that. 

My mom passed away a week before I was elected leader of the party and premier of the province and I will tell you that there were many times in the last three years when I was very thankful that she had never had to see the experience that I went through. 

A portrait of former premier Alison Redford hangs in the legislature. (Kim Trynacity/CBC)

Q: How far away do you feel now from the Progressive Conservative Party?

A: I feel quite a ways away from it. I certainly left the party when the party decided they no longer wanted me to be leader. I moved away very quickly from that and have not been involved in politics in any way since then. I left that behind right away and haven't looked back on that since.

Q: What do you make of Jason Kenney as the leader of the party you once led?

A: I was very proud to be the last elected Progressive Conservative leader in Alberta. The party, after I left it, made choices in terms of the direction it wanted to take and we'll see if Albertans think that those are the right choices. I don't believe that that's a direction that Albertans are comfortable with — but that's their choice.

Q: Do you think the unite-the-right movement is a good idea?

A: We see that come and go and it's always a cycle. Certainly, 15 years ago or so, it worked at a federal level. I don't know if it'll work at a provincial level. I'm not even close enough to know what the leaders are thinking or saying about it. 

Jason Kenney is the newly-elected leader of the Alberta PC party that Alison Redford once led (Todd Korol/Canadian Press)

Q: What are you up to these days?

A: I'm working. I left politics and got a job. Before I was ever justice minister, all of the work that I did was international work. What I tried to do was think about what I like to do, which was that, and try to take what I've learned as premier and combine the two. When I was premier, I'm really proud of the work we did on creating a new energy regulator, putting in place a Canadian energy strategy, and working on Keystone. And so those are all pieces that I've combined now into a new area of work, where I work in countries like Pakistan for the World Bank on gas sector reform. I do work in Colombia and Peru with regulators and with ministers that are making decisions about how to solve particular problems that they have in certain regions around Indigenous consultation and pipeline construction. 

Q: Are you happier today than you were when you were in politics?

A: Yes, I am — because I've had a series of experiences that have tested me, they've tested my family, they've tested my friendships and I'm solidly on my own two feet and very comfortable with who I am. I'm very proud of what we were able to do as a government. One of the things I wanted to do when I was elected as premier was to shift the direction of the province in terms of some pretty significant areas and I'm glad we were able to do that. Obviously that comes with a price — change agents are not always well thought of and life goes on. 

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener