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Updated: Wed, 06 Aug 2014 12:55:19 GMT | By CBC News, cbc.ca

Alison Redford, former Alberta premier, resigns as MLA



Alberta Premier Alison Redford announces her resignation in the Alberta Legislature in Edmonton March 19, 2014. Redford said on Wednesday she would resign as leader of the oil-rich Canadian province following an expenses scandal that sank her party's popularity. REUTERS/Dan Riedlhuber (© CANADA - Tags: POLITICS HEADSHOT)

Alberta Premier Alison Redford announces her resignation in the Alberta Legislature in Edmonton March 19, 2014. Redford said on Wednesday she would resign as leader of the oil-rich Canadian province following an expenses scandal that sank her party's popularity. REUTERS/Dan Riedlhuber (CANADA - Tags: POLITICS HEADSHOT) - RTR3HTDR Dan Riedlhuber/Reuters

Former Alberta premier Alison Redford is resigning as member of the legislature for Calgary-Elbow "to start the next chapter of my life."

Redford made the announcement in a self-penned article in Wednesday's Calgary Herald.

Her resignation comes one day before the auditor general of Alberta is to release a special duty report on the expenses of Redford's office while she was premier and Alberta's Air Transportation Services Program.

Travel expense scrutiny

Redford faced calls to resign as a member of the legislature after CBC News revealed that not all of her travel expenses were properly accounted for.

As premier, she was able to fly alone with her entourage because “false passengers” were booked on at least a dozen government flights, CBC News learned after obtaining an internal report to the government.

The same documents revealed that Redford gained a “personal benefit” by taking her daughter on dozens of government flights.

Alberta opposition politicians have called on the RCMP to formally investigate these allegations.

In her article in the Calgary newspaper that's headlined "It's time to start the next chapter of my life," Redford admitted that "mistakes were made along the way," but did not reference any specific allegations.

“In hindsight, there were many things I would have done differently," she wrote. "That said, I accept responsibility for all the decisions I have made.”

Derek Fildebrandt, Alberta director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, praised Redford's decision to forgo a transition allowance she's entitled to that's worth an estimated $179,000.

“She had promised never to take that, and today she has reiterated that comment, that commitment,” he said.

"A lot of us are just happy to see this nightmarish scenario maybe put behind us, pending the auditor's report tomorrow [Thursday]. Maybe things aren't as bad as we are led to believe, maybe things are worse. It's difficult to tell."

Redford says she and her family will continue to live in the province. She writes that she plans to teach and resume working in international development and public policy.

"The ideals that brought me to public life in the first place have not changed. By continuing in public service in new roles, I will look for new ways to make a contribution," Redford wrote.

Resigned as premier in March

Redford was sworn in as premier on Oct. 7, 2011. She stepped down in March.

Her resignation as premier came after she faced opposition from her party over her leadership and questions over her travel expenses, including $45,000 for her trip to Nelson Mandela's memorial service in South Africa.

Redford eventually repaid the $45,000 and a separate $3,156 for a flight to Vancouver for her uncle's funeral and taking her daughter's friends on four other trips.

In her statement resigning as premier, Redford said there has been too much time spent "on questions of loyalty, allegiances and character," distracting people from doing the work Albertans elected them to do.

"I am not prepared to allow party and caucus in-fighting to get in the way of building a better future for our province and for all Albertans," she said at the time.

When she entered the PC leadership race in February 2011, Redford was seen as a long shot to win, especially against perceived front-runner Gary Mar, the former cabinet minister under Ralph Klein. 

But she won on the second ballot and was sworn in as Alberta's first female premier in October 2011.  

Redford fought off the surging Wildrose Party and led her party to another majority government in the April 2012 provincial election. She won 77 per cent approval in a leadership review last November. 

However, questions about the South Africa trip and the use of government planes, and grumbling about her non-consultative leadership style forced her to step down as premier. 

Jim Lightbody, a political science professor at the University of Alberta, said that if she had caucus on her side she may have been able to weather the scandals with a public apology. 

However, she was seen to run what Lightbody describes as "an imperial office." 

“She seemed to me that she saw herself perpetually as the outsider and that’s a very hard role to play when you are premier of the province, because you have to bring constituencies along with you," he said. 

"You have to first and foremost of all have the caucus with you because they’re the people who communicate tough decisions to the electorate."

Three people are running to replace Redford as party leader and premier:

- Jim Prentice, former Conservative MP and cabinet minister.

- Ric McIver, a former Redford cabinet minister 

- Thomas Lukaszuk, also a former cabinet minister who served as Redford's deputy premier. 

Prentice said with Redford's resignation, the party can now focus on its future.

"I think that Alison Redford did the right thing by resigning as a member of the Legislative Assembly. I think she did the honourable thing and you know, from my perspective, I would simply wish her and her family well as she moves forward with the next chapter of her life," he said. 

CBC News has confirmed Prentice will not run in Redford’s riding, Calgary-Elbow, when a byelection is called. 

Earlier this week, Lukaszuk called on PC MLAs to hold an emergency meeting to discuss ousting Redford from caucus.

In a brief Twitter post in response to Redford's resignation announcement, he said: "It's a new chapter for Alberta. I wish everyone involved all the best on future journeys. Now is time to focus on tomorrow in Alberta.”

In a statement released Wednesday morning, PC Party president Jim McCormick tried to distance the party from Redford. 

Redford started with "such promise," McCormick wrote, but "it was her own personal choices that led to her demise." 

McCormick said that the "circumstance" will not happen again under the next party leader. 

"The Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta is more than one person," he wrote.

"It has a membership and supporters that are Albertans of a broad spectrum, from all walks of our society, one where honesty, integrity and service to building and strengthening our community — things that Alberta PC governments are known for — are paramount."

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