Alison Redford was born in Kitimat, British Columbia on March 7, 1965. Her mother’s parents had emigrated from Scotland after World War 2 and her father was an electrician from Turner Valley, Alberta. Due to her father’s work on oil rigs, Alison and her family lived around Canada as well as abroad to Borneo and Malaysia, before finally settling in Calgary when she was 12.
Alison attended Bishop Carroll High School in Calgary and there she showed an early interest in politics when she was elected President of the Progressive Conservative Youth of Alberta as a senior. She went on to complete a law degree from the University of Saskatchewan.
She would marry Robert Hawkes, the son of former Calgary West MP, Jim Hawkes in 1986. Though the couple divorced five years later they remained very close friends and her relationship with him would be one of the many scandals she would later become involved in.
Law and Policy at Home and Abroad
Alison articled for the law firm Rooney Prentice after finishing her degree. She also held a role in Brian Mulroney’s administration as a Senior Policy Advisor to Joe Clark, Secretary of State for External Affairs and in the Prime Minister’s Office from 1988 to 1990.
Throughout the 1990s she expanded on these roles, both in Canada and internationally. She held positions as a technical advisor on constitutional and legal reform for the European Union, and the Commonwealth Secretariat as well as the Canadian and Australian governments.
In the early 1990s she assisted the Independent Electoral Commission of South Africa as it transitioned from the apartheid system to full democracy and helped to coordinate the Election Observer Mission to the Northern Transvaal, South Africa, during the first fully democratic elections there in 1994.
In the mid-2000s she took on a similar role as part of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA). She was one of the International Election Commissioners appointed by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, helping Afghanistan to hold its first parliamentary elections.
She served as an advisor to the Canadian government, as well as providing technical services connected to elections across the world, in countries such as Uganda, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Mozambique, and Serbia.
Move into Politics
Alison’s first foray into politics proved unsuccessful as she failed to unseat the MP Rob Andrew as the Conservative candidate for Calgary-West in 2004. Following this failure to get into national politics, she was however successful at entering at a provincial level, when elected as an Albertan MLA for Calgary-Elbow in 2008. The Conservatives held power under Premier Ed Stelmach, and she was appointed by him as Minister of Justice and Attorney General, which also made her the Provincial Secretary.
When Ed Stelmach announced his decision to resign in 2011, Alison put herself forward as a leadership candidate for the Progressive Conservatives. Despite trailing Gary Mar by 41% to 19% after the first round of votes, Alison managed to win over enough members to win the race and the leadership with 51% of the votes in the third round.
Redford became Alberta’s 14th Premier, at the Alberta Legislature in Edmonton on October 7, 2011. She was Alberta’s first female Premier, and only the seventh across the country. At the subsequent Albertan general elections in April 2012, Redford’s Conservatives won in a landslide despite expectations of a strong showing from the Wildrose Party, winning 70% of the seats.
A Brief Premiership
In December 2013 Redford attended the funeral of Nelson Mandela, whom she had worked alongside during her involvement in South Africa’s first free elections. Early the next year it was revealed that Redford had spent $45,000 dollars on the trip. Despite eventually repaying the money under political duress, the pressure mounted within her party, with successive MLAs refusing to vote for her and casting as independents.
After six weeks of pressure from her own party, Redford resigned as premier, becoming the shortest serving elected Albertan premier. She did however vow to stay on as MLA for Calgary-Elbow, until another scandal about listing false passengers on government jets a few months later caused her to resign that too.
Life After Politics
Since being forced out of politics, Redford has kept a low profile, even eschewing the traditional public unveiling of her portrait among the other Premiers at the Alberta state legislature. Her life since has seen her work closely with international organizations in the area of expanding natural resource exploitation in developing countries.
She has held roles as the World Bank’s chief advisor to Afghanistan’s Ministry of Mines and Petroleum, as well as World Bank Advisor on Gas Sector Reform in Pakistan.
She is married to Glen Jermyn, a fellow lawyer, with whom she has one daughter, Sarah.
1965: Born in Kitimat, British Columbia
1986: Marries Robert Hawkes, son of former Calgary West MP, Jim Hawkes
1988: Completes Law degree at University of Saskatchewan
1990: Senior Policy Advisor to Joe Clark, Secretary of State for External Affairs
1994: Assisted the Independent Electoral Commission of South Africa in first full elections
2004: Failed to unseat Rob Andrew as Conservative candidate for Calgary-West
2008: Elected as an MLA for Calgary-Elbow in Alberta
2011: Wins leadership of Progressive Conservatives, becoming Alberta’s first female Premier
2012: Wins Albertan provincial elections, gaining 70% of seats
2014, March: Scandal over trip to Mandela funeral causes Redford to resign as Premier
2014, August: Scandal over booking fake passengers on government jets causes her to resign as MLA and leave politics