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Redford chewed up and spit out: Calgary mayor

Redford chewed up and spit out: Calgary mayorCalgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi speaks to reporters in Calgary in a Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013 file photo. Nenshi says the fall of Alberta Premier Alison Redford demonstrates how the partisan political system is broken and chews up good people in high places.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Bill Graveland

CALGARY - Calgary's populist mayor says the fall of Alberta Premier Alison Redford demonstrates how the partisan political system is broken and chews up good people in high places.

After Redford resigned Wednesday night, Naheed Nenshi condemned the type of partisanship that he feels did her in.

He said while Redford made mistakes, she's a "good person" who made "incredible sacrifices" for the province.

"It's the story of a system that takes someone like that, chews them up and then spits them out. I think all of us as Albertans need to really think about what has happened over the last several weeks and what that means to how we get great people to be politicians, how we get great people to enter into public service," Nenshi told reporters.

"The partisanship under that dome in Edmonton is what leads to this and I hope that whoever the new premier will be will think hard about how we make sure that what happens under that dome isn't just for party and caucus."

Redford was facing increasing unrest within her caucus over her leadership style and her expenses.

One backbencher who resigned last week called her a bully. An associate cabinet minister who left the caucus on Monday said the PC party has problems with entitlement. There were 10 other members who were considering leaving the fold, and there were reports that constituency presidents in Edmonton and Calgary were about to ask Redford to step down.

Nenshi and Redford had similar paths to power in that they both pulled off unexpected victories.

Nenshi was a no-name business professor when he harnessed the power of social media to win the 2010 Calgary mayoral election.

Redford was a first-term justice minister with almost no caucus support when she won the Tory leadership race in 2011 by relying on the backing of many from outside the party.

Both used the same strategist, Stephen Carter, to win.

"We were successful because we know who the population of Alberta is. We are filled with small-L liberals. We are not the Republican wing of Canada and some parties believe that we are," said Carter.

He said Redford "lost her way" and was dealing with a party that is simply interested in remaining in power.

"They've walked the last four premiers out the door — the caucus and the membership. The electorate hasn't had a chance to decide what the party should be or what the vision should be."

Nenshi, who was re-elected in a landslide last fall, noted there are representatives from all political stripes at the municipal level and everyone manages to work together for the public good.

He said the way things are run on the larger stage isn't working.

"I'm saying that this is a horrible situation. How did we end up in a place where party and caucus, a bunch of unelected people, a bunch of people who meet only behind closed doors, make decisions about the future of this province?"

Nenshi was asked if he would consider running for Redford's job.

"There will be lots and lots and lots of opportunities to talk about lots and lots and lots of different people," he said. "I can tell you, regardless of whatever role I'm in personally, I will take a very serious part in this next election, always fighting for the interests of Calgarians and Albertans.”

Carter said it's unlikely Nenshi would seriously consider moving to the Conservatives and he's not optimistic his former party can turn things around.

"I'm not sure the Progressive Conservative party can win the next election," said Carter. "The Wildrose have cleaned up their problems — they're not the old Wildrose of extremism."

While Nenshi wouldn't rule anything out, there were names of other potential contenders floating around.

Rod Love, who was the longtime chief of staff for the late Ralph Klein, said it will take a while for people to commit.

"In the first few days after this kind of earthquake, it's unknowable about who's in, who's out, who's up or who's down," he said.

Love thinks there will be pressure on former Alberta treasurer Jim Dinning to run for leader as he did in 2006.

Dinning couldn't be reached for comment. His Twitter profile says he's a "recovered politician and never going back."

"I think the pressure on him is going to be pretty intense," Love said. "He's sitting down in Palm Springs but I bet his cellphone was smoking."

Love said he thinks the leadership vote is likely to be in July. After that, the new leader will have the unenviable task of trying to repair the damage.

"Everyone's asking the million-dollar question: 'Can this thing be brought back?' Now having said that, this party has been to the brink before, got rid of leaders, turned it around and won another majority, but man, it's a big hill this time."

Follow @BillGraveland on Twitter

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