By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – With a PC leadership race about to ramp into high gear and with more than three decades under his belt as MLA, there has been considerable talk about the prospect of Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock MLA and Speaker of the Legislative Assembly Ken Kowalski’s plans to announce his retirement this August.
But while Twitter tweets have heralded the end of Kowalski’s run in provincial politics, the man himself said the matter is not so cut and dried, nor is it the first time he had been asked the question about his future plans recently. “I said I would be letting everyone know the answer to that question in mid-August,” Kowalski said Wednesday afternoon. “The reason I said mid-August is because my wife has had some medical problems and her next consultation is in August and we will have a pretty good indication of how she is doing then.”
Kowalski said while his seeking another term as MLA remains to be seen, he has told those in his party interested in taking his place should he step down to be prepared.
“I want to be transparent and very open,” Kowalski said, noting he has been clear on the specifics surrounding the possibility of his not seeking another term and why, and that those in his association wishing to run in the constituency should be prepared for that possibility. “This is what democracy is all about.”
The speaker said at this point his decision to run again is a 50/50 decision, but his wife is doing well. “We’re going to take everything in context,” he said, adding he will know more in mid-August.
Candidate in the wings?
Coupled with the rumours of Kowalski’s departure are rumours of who will step up to take his place. One name that has been presented is that of Morinville Mayor Lloyd Bertschi. But the mayor said he has not heard the rumour himself.
Bertschi said he is familiar with the MLA’s family situation and the possibility he may or may not seek another term as MLA. “He’s made it clear that when those results come back he’s going to make a decision as to whether he’s going to go again or not,” Bertschi said. “Until such time as he decides one way or another, I’ve got a job to do and I’m certainly not in a position to do anything else until he makes up his mind.”
Although it is an option for the four-term mayor, he said Wednesday he is not prepared to entertain pursuing a step to provincial politics until such time as Kowalski makes a decision. “I have too much respect for Ken and what he’s been able to do for our community. You look at the dollars that he’s been able to garner for us for the 100 Street improvements, for our cultural centre, and now our overpass. It has been tremendous. His attendance at community events for our riding for the size that it is with the number of communities – it’s absolutely incredible. I have supported him and will continue to support him until he decides that he’s had enough.”
As to the possibility of running in Kowalski’s place when he ultimately decides to step down, Bertschi said he would cross that bridge when he comes to it and that the rumours of his lining up to take the long-serving MLA’s spot are news to him. “I certainly haven’t heard them,” Bertschi said of the rumours. “I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. I’m not going to even consider anything until Ken announces one way or another. I have way too much respect for him and the job that he’s doing. I wouldn’t even contemplate it.”