By Stephen Dafoe
Riviere Qui Barre – Six years to the day after he was elected Senator-in-waiting, Link Byfield has stepped down from the position.
Byfield, a founding member of the Wildrose Party and the current Wildrose candidate in the constituency of Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock, said he felt he no longer had a mandate beyond the six-year-term he was elected to by Albertans.
In May of this year, Premiere Ed Stelmach extended the term to nine years, something that didn’t sit well with Byfield at the time.
“As soon as I heard it back in April or May, I thought, ‘I didn’t realize he could do that, legally,’” he said. “Legally, though, he can. Morally, he can’t and shouldn’t, but legally he can and did.”
The politician said he respects the decision of fellow Senator-in-waiting colleagues Betty Unger and Cliff Breitkreuz to accept the extended term. “They’re trying to protect the process Stelmach damaged,” Byfield said. But I’m not going to, and even if it is only symbolic – and largely it is symbolic – I want to quit. I should not go around styling myself a Senator-elect because the deal when we got elected in 2004 was six years from now if you haven’t got appointed – it’s over.”
Byfield said what Stelmach has done is simply reappoint the Senators-in-waiting, something he feels is contrary to the reason the election was held in first place.
“He’s forced the others and me into an impossible choice,” Byfield said. “There really is no good answer to what he did.”
The former Senator-in-waiting said Albertans should have gone to the polls to elect future senators in October during the municipal elections. Byfield said there had been some talk about tying the provincial senator-in-waiting elections to a federal election, something he feels is inappropriate.
“It defeats one of the main purposes, which is to ensure that senators are elected by people in their capacity as provincial voters,” he said. “The priorities of each province, federally, are quite different than that of the national parties.”
But Byfield’s criticism of the premiere and his handling of senate reform extended outside party press releases and interviews with reporters. The Wildrose candidate and former senate contender sent a letter to Premiere Stelmach Monday in which he chastised Stelmach for what Byfield perceived as inaction.
“As premier you have provided no meaningful support to the repeated efforts of Prime Minister Harper to reform the Senate, he being the first Prime Minister in Canadian history determined to do so,” Byfield wrote.