Edmonton·Point of View

Alison Redford absent from her own portrait hanging

Provincial affairs reporter Kim Trynacity had long wondered when the official portrait of Alison Redford would be hung in the Alberta legislature. Surely there would be a splashy event with speeches. Things didn't turn out that way.
There was no ceremony, just a spot on the wall for the portrait of former Premier Alison Redford. (Kim Trynacity/CBC)

Ever since Alison Redford resigned in shame as Alberta's premier, questions have routinely come up about how it all happened, how someone who came into office with such promise could leave so disgraced.

The province's first woman premier, with her celebrated credentials as a human rights lawyer. Bilingual, telegenic and erudite.

Thursday, the official portrait of Redford took its rightful place in the halls of the legislature next in line to the portraits of Ed Stelmach and Ralph Klein. It's just another portrait, but for a few remarkable distinctions.

She is the first female in a long line of premiers, and as such stands out.

Her portrait is slightly smaller, the frame less ornate.

Unlike the other leaders, who are featured looking directly ahead, Redford is looking off to the side, her eyes casting upwards. In her hands is a tartan scarf  — the Anderson family tartan from her mother's side. 

The look on her face is reminiscent of that unforgettable day in March 2014 when a crowd gathered in the rotunda of the legislature, and staffers lined the railings on every floor above, peering down at the unfolding spectacle.

Redford made history again that day — the first female premier resigning from office.

Since then, sightings of the former premier at the legislature have been rare. She made a few comments when she returned as an MLA, then resigned her seat, but has not been seen around the hallways since.

I have asked numerous times about when her portrait would be painted, finished and hung.

Surely, on that occasion, like all the others I have attended, there would be a big splashy event, with rows of political operatives on hand, and the premier of the day saying something nice.

That's the way it was when Ed Stelmach's portrait was unveiled, and I recall Ralph Klein quipping something about being "late for my own hanging," on the day his own portrait was revealed.

There was nothing like that this time.

Thursday morning, as I waited for cabinet ministers to arrive for a treasury board meeting in the premier's office, was a day like any other.

Except for a shiny object on the wall, about eye level, next to the portrait of Stelmach.

"It's crooked," I heard one of the legislature staff say. She was looking at the row of portraits.

A trolley carrying the portrait of former premier Alison Redford is wheeled to a spot on the wall reserved for it. (Kim Trynacity/CBC)

Then, a small step-ladder appeared, followed by a legislature employee pushing a trolley.

A green velvet cloth covered something underneath.

"Kim, you're SO snoopy," remarked Bev Alenius from the Speaker's office, who figured out that I knew what was about to happen.

Alenius was the only person from the Speaker's office in attendance, for a few moments.

The legislature employee dropped the cloth covering the portrait to reveal a wistful image of Redford, her left hand resting on a stack of books about equality, justice and Alberta.

Around her neck, the triple-strand pearl necklace given to her by her mother.

As word got out about the new portrait, tour groups and former political foes dropped by to take a look. Onlookers muttered a few words. Some shook their heads, others stood in silence.

The mood was solemn.

The portrait hanging took place on a day when almost the entire city was focused on the grand opening of Edmonton's new downtown arena.

The Great One himself was also in town.

Had there been a full-fledged legislature ceremony, no doubt lingering questions about Tobaccogate and other issues would have dominated the event, and Redford would have few places to hide.

A silent observation as onlookers take in the new portrait. (Kim Trynacity/CBC)

One former Redford staffer told me she still has a framed photograph of the former premier, the one that hung in every government office, with a confident optimistic Redford flashing her teeth in a wide smile.

It's now in her garage, and that's where it will stay.


Kim Trynacity is a former provincial affairs reporter with CBC Edmonton.