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Monday, December 04, 2006

something about a new premier?

To millions of Canadians (and maybe a million Albertans), Ed Stelmach is not a familiar name. When the 13 year political veteran was selected as the Leader of the Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta last weekend, this quiet little known political entity was thown into the political spotlight.

For those of you not totally familiar with Premier-designate Ed Stelmach's background, here's a bit of it...

A farmer from south of the Village of Andrew, Stelmach served as Reeve of Lamont County until being elected MLA for the newly created Vegreville-Viking riding in 1993. The election saw Stelmach defeat two-term NDP MLA Derek Fox (MLA for Vegreville 1986-1993). Stelmach was re-elected in Vegreville-Viking in 1997 and 2001. In 2004, Stelmach ran in and was elected MLA for the newly created Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville riding.

After entering Ralph Klein's Cabinet, Stelmach served as Minister of Agriculture from 1997 to 1999, Minister of Infrastructure from 1999 to 2004, and Minister of Intergovernment and International Affairs from 2004 to 2006. Years of Cabinet experience aside, I seriously cannot name anything that Stelmach did while he was a Cabinet Minister. Can someone help me on this one?

One of the challenges that Stelmach faces as Premier is articulating a vision for which direction he would like to lead Alberta. Stelmach's campaign, which was largely vague on policy, was as far as I can tell based on "Honest Ed" or "Steady Eddie" being a moderate conservative comprimise candidate between social conservative Ted Morton and Corporate Calgary Dauphin Jim Dinning. This said, I have nearly no idea where Stelmach stands on most issues.

It should be interesting to see just how different Stelmach is from Klein as Premier and if Stelmach is able to heal the body-wounds his party delivered to itself during this race in preparation for the next General Election.

Speaking of the next General Election, since 1993 the Alberta PC's have centered their image around a single man - Ralph Klein. Since 1993, many Albertans voted for "Ralph's Team" or "Ralph" himself not knowing who their actual PC candidate was (it's like an intense form of leader-based elections). Also, the PC Party generally polled lower support than Ralph Klein. With Klein out of the picture, can the Alberta PC's survive once his card is removed from the deck? Can Stelmach sucessfully replace Ralph Klein as the central figure of the PC Party? Will Stelmach be able to appeal to the broad cross-section of Albertans that Klein was able to?

Also, it should be interesting to see what Stelmach's new cabinet looks like. Which MLA's are rewarded and which are put to pasture. As well as what the configuration of the Cabinet Ministries look like as there is a good chance that some Ministries may be merged to create a smaller Cabinet (which I believe currently has 23 Ministers).

Should be interesting...


Anonymous said...

I think that the PC's will be successful under Premier Stelmach. (Is he officially the premier yet?) One of the more practical reasons for this is that there is very little alternatives to the PC’s for the majority of Alberta voters, in terms of perceptions of the parties. Whether fair or not to either of the opposition parties, most Albertans reject the idea of voting for any form of Liberal (large l) party, and most will not go along with the idea of a quasi-separatist Alberta Alliance. Again I’m not saying this is fair or correct, just that it is reality as I see it. And outside of the most urban ridings in the province, the NDP aren't even a consideration, and have no chance of bringing down the government.

So my prediction is that in the worst-case scenario (for the Alberta PC's), even if Premier Stelmach articulates almost zero new ideas or vision, they will continue to govern. But having said that I don't think this will be a "worst case" type of leader. I think that you will see some real, if moderated, change within the party as well as in terms of government policy and direction. I think the Stelmach people will look to the best ideas put forth in the leadership race and implement most/some of them. Canadians don't need flashy or sexy (see Harper, Stephen and Dion, Stephane) - we want and need steady, reasonable leadership, and I think we’ve just elected someone who will deliver just that.

Jim said...

There was an interesting Lorne Gunter article that likened Stelmach to Harry Strom. Given Dave Bronconnier's generally complimentary post-election comments on Stelmach, I highly doubt he's going to insert himself into the Alberta Liberal leadership now, though. (But weirder things have happened.)

Anonymous said...

I wonder about Anne?

Anonymous said...

Very good analysis! Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Please give us your guesses on the cabinet positions.

Anonymous said...

Is anyone else a little concerned that no one really knows what Stelmach stands for?

PC members voted for him because he wasn't Diamond Jim or Scary Ted.

Here is one worried Tory.

"Steve Smith" said...

I count 24 ministers (25 ministries, with the only overlap I could find being Vanderberg being in charge of both Government Services and Innovation and Science).

Anonymous said...

Stelmach is a nice guy, but he's got the charisma of a doorknob. He seriously needs some speech training.

Anonymous said...

"Years of Cabinet experience aside, I seriously cannot name anything that Stelmach did while he was a Cabinet Minister."

Are you kidding!

He was infrastructure minister from 1999 to 2004! What he did was save Albertans some hard-earned tax dollars by making sure that absolutely no infrastructure got built or upgraded!

Deep six, deep six, deep six!

Anonymous said...

Jim said...
"There was an interesting Lorne Gunter article that likened Stelmach to Harry Strom."

Gunter is an idiot. The Strom reference is very old; he did not come up with it. Gunter's predictions about the race - like pretty much anyone in the media - were completely wrong. I think Gunter will be proven wrong again.

I must say, the only one who got it right - and early - was Don Martin. Several months back, he called it a race between "Diamond Jim" and "Honest Ed". An lo an behold, it was. But I must say when Ed's campaign got quiet in the intervening period, Martin got quiet also.

Anonymous said...

13 year MLA and Klein Cabinet Minister Ed Stelmach has a huge challenge in front of him to become a "fresh face" for a 36 year old government tired of new ideas.

The Alberta Tories are a true establishment Party in the spirit of the Liberal Party of Canada. I see no difference between the politics of Ralph Klein and Jean Chretien. I wonder if Ed Stelmach will change this.

To me Stelmach comes from an older political guard from rural Alberta - the same one that placed Ralph Klein in power in 1992.

Stelmach has little connection to the new urban political guard that is growing and is Alberta's future. Stelmach represents what Alberta was. Alberta needs a leader that will represent what Alberta can be.

Anonymous said...

I'll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I'll get on my knees and pray
We don't get fooled again...

Meet the new boss
Same as the old boss (?)

Change will come when Alberta gets a new government.

The winds of change are blowing across Alberta! Say good bye to the wounded and divided Tories!

Anonymous said...

Stale Stelmach?

Anonymous said...

"that there is very little alternatives to the PC’s for the majority of Alberta voters"

The PC's aren't even good enough for the majority of voters. The majority of voters stayed home in 2004. Do you think Stelmach can energize Albertans to actually get out an vote?

We know he has the support of Ted Morton's people, so they won't have to worry about teh Alliance. It's the Liberals and Kevin Taft in Edmonton and Disappointed Diamond Jim's Red Tories in Calgary that Stelmach has to watch out for.

Anonymous said...

Kevin Taft has to deliver in the next election or maybe he should be gone ....

Anonymous said...

Kevin Taft is a good man, I like him, but if he cant beat Ed the Farmer in the next election, then there is something more to it than a soiled Liberal brand that is the problem...

Anonymous said...

Ed Stelmach has to deliver in the next election or maybe he should be gone ....

Chris said...

Someone is copy & pasting from my facebook? Now I've seen everything.

Anonymous said...


By Graham Hicks
Edmonton Sun

It's not that Ed Stelmach is anti-Calgary ... but we hear perogies and kubasa are replacing pancakes and bacon at Calgary Stampede breakfasts.


Ah yes, it was a wonderful feeling over the weekend to see the Calgary establishment's stranglehold over the provincial government disappear with the defeat of Jim

Dinning and the election of the Man from Lamont as the next premier of Alberta.

Steady Eddie looked just fine at his first press conference yesterday morning.

He handled himself well, answered all questions, looking ready and willing to slide easily into Ralph Klein's boots.


Doesn't matter how nice a guy Stelmach is, the laws of the political jungle must be obeyed.

Steady Eddie will be handing out the ultimate goodies to his political backers ... cabinet positions! A huge office, staff, a car, perks and power, power, power.

Ed's in a really unusual position. He hasn't that many IOUs out there. After a dozen or so necessary appointments, he's free to pick whomever he wants.

The spoils of victory will go to those MLAs who supported him from the git-go, or at least in the last week.

In Stelmach's cabinet for sure will be faithful lieutenants Iris Evans (Sherwood Park) and Ray Danyluk (Lac La Biche).

Ted Morton (Foothills-Rocky View) is a shoo-in, because his people put Eddie over the top at the end.

Dave Hancock (Edmonton-Whitemud) gets a juicy cabinet position in return for supporting Stelmach last week. He'll be the only city MLA in cabinet.

Lyle Oberg (Strathmore Brooks) is in the same happy boat. He gives Stelmach some southern presence.

Pearl Calahasen delivered up in Slave Lake. It also helps to be female and aboriginal.

Core Stelmach fella Lloyd Snelgrove (Vermilion) delivered his riding big time.

Luke Ouelette (Innisfail- Sylvan Lake) should be in cabinet, as a core supporter. He got his vote out, and he'll do as the minister from the Red Deer region.

No cabinet job, as he's not an MLA - but rumour has it that leadership candidate Mark Norris , who swung his support behind Ed, will be appointed head of the Alberta PC party machine.


Guy Boutilier (Fort McMurray) was an enthusiastic late addition to Stelmach's camp, but his riding went to Dinning. However, Guy has cabinet experience and represents a major city.

Doug Horner (Spruce Grove) wasn't there at the start, but he's respected, came on board and delivered his vote to Ed.

Mel Knight (Grand Prairie) is a core supporter and gives regional representation to the northwest.

Denis Ducharme (Bonnyville-Cold Lake) is a current cabinet member and was neutral due to his party position. But geography (so many Stelmach MLAs in the rural north) is not in his favour.

Hector Goudreau (Dunvegan), George Groeneveld (Highwood) and Fred Lindsay (Stony Plain) were all core Stelmach guys, delivered their vote, but may lose out, again because of geography.

Ron Stevens and Harvey Cenaiko could get real lucky.

Some Calgarians have to be in the cabinet. Those two were reluctant Dinning supporters, and respected as cabinet ministers. Calgary's Yvonne Fritz might get lucky too. Stelmach needs more women in his cabinet.


All those MLAS who jumped on Dinning's sure-thing bandwagon back in June are feeling the pain.

Edmonton's Gene Zwozdesky, Thomas Lukaszuk and Leduc's George Rogers have 100-1 odds for cabinet jobs.

They campaigned hard for Dinning. Plus Stelmach already has Hancock in Edmonton and lots of loyalists in the capital region. Could Gene work the Ukrainian solidarity angle?

The two co-chairs of the Dinning Edmonton campaign, Janet Riopel and Tim Boston, rolled high-stakes dice and lost. Both have jobs (Riopel as City of Edmonton's general manager, growth initiatives, Boston as EPCOR manager of government affairs) that depend on strong provincial government connections.

Nor does Dinning's loss augur well for professional political strategists/consultants like Calgary's Rod Love and Edmonton's Hal Danchilla, who were a big part of Dinning's campaign team.

Don't think the Stelmach boys will be too quick returning those phone calls.

Mayor Steve Mandel won't be snubbed for backing Dinning, as he has a good relationship with Stelmach.

But he's not going to get too many favours either.

Anonymous said...

Graham Thomsons cabinet predictions from his column today:

IN: Ray Danyluk, Lyle Snelgrove, Ted Morton, Iris Evans, Ron Stevens, Dave Hancock, Gary Mar, Lyle Oberg

OUT: Heather Forsyth, Barry McFarland, Ty Lund, Victor Doerksen.