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Alberta Premier Alison Redford resigns amid caucus turmoil

Alberta Premier Alison Redford is resigning.

Redford has been struggling to deal with unrest in her Progressive Conservative caucus over her leadership style and questionable expenses.

She says her resignation will be effective Sunday.

“Quite simply, I am not prepared to allow party and caucus infighting to get in the way,” she told supporters gathered in the legislature rotunda for the announcement. “I’ve given my heart and soul to this province, every minute for the last two and a half years.”

Redford could not weather weeks of revelations of lavish spending by herself and her government.

It began when it surfaced that she had spent $45,000 on first-class air tickets and a government plane to go to Nelson Mandela’s funeral in South Africa.

Other revelations fell like hammer blows: Redford using government planes for a vacation; to fly her daughter and her daughter’s friends around; to go to a family funeral in Vancouver.

Newly released salary details showed six-figure salaries for Redford’s inner circle, including $316,000 for her chief of staff, Farouk Adatia. By comparison, U.S. President Barack Obama’s chief of staff makes $172,000.

There were calls for Redford to repay the money for the South Africa trip. She only did so after tensions within her caucus spilled into the public realm.

Last week, things went from bad to worse when Redford’s character came into question.

Calgary backbencher Len Webber quit the Tory caucus, saying he could not longer stomach Redford’s temper tantrums and abuse of subordinates. She wasn’t a “nice lady,” he said.

On the weekend Redford was taken to task by Progressive Conservative party executive in a closed-door meeting. They emerged to say Redford would be given an unspecified “work plan” to follow.

The turmoil continued.

On Sunday, 10 government members met to debate whether to leave caucus and sit as Independents.

On Monday, Donna Kennedy-Glans, the associate minister for electricity, quit saying the promised reforms by Redford were dying on the vine.

Earlier Wednesday, it was reported that riding association presidents in Calgary would meet in the evening to call for her resignation.

Even Redford admitted the revelations were detracting from the work of government.

Redford was named party leader in the fall of 2011 and won government in her own right on a platform of progressivisim.

Redford promised to eradicate poverty, boost social spending, and invest in education.

A coalition of unions and progressives helped her party to victory in the 2012 provincial election over the more right of centre Wildrose.

But once elected, Redford moved her party to the right.

She cut spending in the budgets to below the levels of inflation plus population, strong-armed teachers and doctors into taking wage freezes.

When the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees refused to accept a wage freeze, she passed a law forcing it on them.

Despite the move, she angered fiscal conservatives, taking Alberta back into long-term debt expected to reach $21 billion by 2017 to pay for new schools and health clinics.

She is the second Tory premier to resign the job after holding it for less than five years.

Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach resigned after only four years as he faced a caucus revolt of his own over his budget.

Within moments of Redford’s announcement on Wednesday, Twitter exploded as pundits, politicians and the public weighed in on her depature.

Don Braid, a Calgary Herald columnist, noted that “Getty, Klein, Stelmach all stayed during leadership campaign for successor. Not Redford.”

One supporter named Duncan Wojtaszek tweeted his thanks to Redford for her public service: “I wish you happy trails and joy.”

Others, such as Jeff Woodward, weren’t as impressed: “None of this changes the fact that #ab is governed by a corrupt entitled party that is entirely out of touch with its citizens.”

Others had more fun.

Shelley Wallis suggested she saw “lasers firing out of her eyeballs,” and added the hashtag: “@Premier_Redford taking her marbles and going home.”

The CBC’s “This Hour Has 22 Minutes” joked that: “Alison Redford resigns in wake of expense scandal, explaining she couldn’t reach Nigel Wright.”

And Robyn Urback was just one of many sneaking in a couple of sharp transportation jabs: “Is it in poor taste to ask whether Redford is leaving on a jet plane?”