Alison Redford – A real Progressive Conservative

Alison Redford is a mother, the MLA for Calgary Elbow and Alberta’s Minister of Justice and Attorney General.  Alison is kind and she is firm.  Open to listening and not afraid of debating.  Bright, articulate and process and policy focused, she brings legal depth and international experience to the PC caucus team.  To me, Alison Redford personifies the values of the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta very accurately.  Her approach to policy is unmistakably progressive while her politics are firmly conservative.  It is obvious why Premier Stelmach put her in such a prestigious, high energy and high accountability job right out of the gate in her rookie year as MLA.

@crontynen and I recently sat down with her at the McDougall Centre in Calgary to talk about the Safe Communities Initiative, as well as to get to know the ‘real’ Alison Redford a little better.

I’ve been to McDougall several times. As a kid my mom use to hold her own meetings there for a not for profit organization she headed. It was hardly a new experience to be waiting in the hallway waiting to speak with someone. But when @ppilarski and I were waiting I was excited. As a long time Calgarian, and as a young PCAA woman, Alison is somewhat of a star in my eyes.

She finishes up her meeting before and escorts a woman outside. “Thank you for bringing this to my attention. We will get something moving on this front.” And you just know she will. She is the type of person that gets it done – and is passionate about it.

Alison brings us in and apologizes for moving our meeting (we were suppose to meet in the morning and it is now that afternoon). “My daughter was presenting at school this morning – all about the silverback gorilla. It was so interesting. I’m so glad I could go.” Like any working mother Alison strives to find a balance. And although @ppilarski can be quite a monkey in the morning he is no match for a presentation on gorillas by Alison’s daughter. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting this 8 year old – she is as much of a firecracker as her mother and has definitely inherited Alison’s “don’t take no for an answer” attitude. I’m sure the presentation was memorable.

We got right down to business. We wanted to chat about the Safe Communities Initiative. Before Alison took office a number of recommendations were made by the Safe Communities Task Force. It became Minister Redford’s job to implement these recommendations and make our communities in Alberta safer when she became Alberta’s Minister of Justice in 2008. The Safe Communities Task Force includes 9 provincial ministries.  It’s a shining example of the progress that can be made through collaborative approaches and community partnerships. It represents progressive government leadership and innovative solutions towards crime reductions and prevention.  It’s a program that every single Albertans should be proud.

I remember when gang violence was at its peak in Calgary. It was only a few years ago when we heard about daily shootings in the news, when it was getting more and more dangerous to be out alone (daytime or nighttime), and when the tragic gang fighting was catching innocent bystanders in the crossfire. Any Calgarian can testify that this violence has dramatically decreased since Alison became our Minister of Justice and took it upon herself and her ministry to clean up Alberta’s streets.

The Safe Communities Initiative began with a series of consultations across the province focused on one question:  What do people in Alberta’s communities need to feel safe?  Alison and her colleagues visited with Albertans and discovered that this meant very different things in different communities and people.  To some it was traffic, to others bullying, gangs, drugs, etc.  Alison explained that because no two communities were the same, there was no one size fits all solution.

Alison explained that themes were starting to emerge.  “Society has been changing and children are at a higher risk.  We are having a harder time reacting to an ever changing world.”  She went on to tell us that “families are getting busier and life is becoming more stressful.”

Alison often talks about children. She is passionate about the future of Alberta, but she is also a passionate mother. Her focus becomes stopping problems before they start; this means ensuring child education about safe communities. She looks at the deeper issues behind problems sometimes that a child in a high risk situation and sometimes that is a mental health issue. Another key focus under this initiative is learning to give those with mental health issues the help they need. “Throwing them in jail doesn’t solve the problem. The Safe Communities Initiative is about solving problems so they stop happening. We have several programs in place to make sure we meet issues head on and give all Albertans the opportunity to get appropriate help.”

So rookie Minister, Alison Redford got to work.  She knew that making Albertans feel safer would take community help.  She knew that it would require a tough on crime legislative agenda and a close examination of the root causes behind these societal ills. As she explained that “justice” falls on a spectrum between stopping crime and putting bad guys away, and the underlying problems that may contribute to certain behavior, I couldn’t help envisioning how the Government of Alberta so elegantly covers the political spectrum under the Alberta Progressive Conservative banner.

Being a Progressive Conservative means understanding traditional means of punishment are necessary – but moving forward in society is what is most important. It is taking the best of our conservative values through Albertan history and applying new ways of thinking and modern solutions. It’s finding a ‘way forward’.

“Safe Communities brings together provincial & municipal government + law enforcement agencies + community groups + the business sector +social agencies to ensure Alberta remains a place where we are all free to live, work and thrive,” Alison explains. She said she is most proud of the partnerships the government has been able to form – especially with the police.  “We didn’t have a system to identify kids that were starting to exhibit anti-social behavior while the police were telling us that they can see these patterns forming in kids as early as grade 2 or 3. Working together with the police, schools, communities and parents has allowed Safe Communities to achieve success.”

Through Safe Communities, Alison Redford has also brought in the most innovative tough on crime legislative agenda in Canada.  Since the province cannot change the criminal code, Alison decided to go after the criminals where she could and where it hurt – their wallets.  Safe Communities has also increased law enforcement’s ability to gather intelligence and enforce the law through special enforcement teams.  Recently, Alison also announced a new gang reduction strategy to reduce the impacts of gang related crime in Alberta communities.

These two examples are exactly what @ppilarski and I mean by being Progressive Conservative.

In three short years, Alison Redford and Safe Communities have accomplished a lot!  But Alison is committed to doing so much more.  “Safe Communities challenges people to think differently about how they do their job” she told us, “my colleagues and I want to use the Safe Communities approach to change the way government operates.”  She said this in reference to how the PC Caucus was able to get government departments to partner cross-ministry to get the job done.

But she understands that change takes time.  She knows that it’s very difficult to get people who have always done something the same way to start doing things differently.  Through the use of partnerships and incentives, she feels confident we will get there.

As we began packing up, we chatted informally for a couple more minutes.  We talked about the past and about the future.  She told us about her parents in 1975, “my dad would tell my mother it was time to go to the store, so she would immediately drop everything to go to the store,” she reminisced, “we will never be the Alberta of 1975 again.  We live in a new world and we have to do things a new way. The PC Party is changing and moving forward because Albertans have changed and are moving forward.”

Stay up to date on the Safe Communities Initiative and share your ideas for making Alberta a safer place – the $60 million Safe Communities Innovation Fund is the government’s response to reducing and preventing crime within your own community. There are many success stories you can read on their website.

Alison Redford is a true Progressive Conservative and an outstanding Member of the Legislative Assembly.  She will be one of the leaders ushering in the evolution of the PC Party and ensuring Alberta is always moving forward.

PP and CR