Stelmach to step down – cautions US-style politics coming

Premier Ed Stelmach
By Staff

Edmonton – Premier Ed Stelmach announced Tuesday morning he will not run as a candidate in the next election and would at some point in the future provide written notice to the president of the Progressive Conservative Party of his intention to resign as leader of the party.

Stelmach told reporters he’d spent the past few weeks asking members of his caucus about their intentions to serve for the next provincial election, asking them to make a minimum five-year commitment to serve Albertans. The premier said the discussions prompted him to reflect on his own future in provincial politics.

“As I’ve been having these discussions, I’ve also been reflecting on my own commitment to serve beyond the next election, and upon much reflection and consultation with family, close friends, I’ve determined that after 25 years of public service I am not prepared to serve another four year term as premier,” Stelmach said. “Therefore I have decided to announce today that I will not be running as a candidate in the next general election.”

Stelmach went on to say he was certain the decision would be a shock to some and a disappointment to others, but that until he resigned he would continue to govern to fulfil commitments he made in the last election.

Tough budget ahead

Part of that commitment will include presenting the 2011 budget; a document Stelmach said will show how the province will be balanced on a fully consolidated basis by 2013, a year later than the government had originally hoped.

“It will be a budget that will be received by most as tough but responsible,” Stelmach said Tuesday morning. “But it will not be a budget that guts funding to municipalities, mothballs health projects, halts schools [and] road construction at a time when people need work and the prices for construction are good. The budget my government brings in will use the cash we saved during the boom to help us through the bust and position us to keep ahead of the nation and the continent.”

While a leadership race is certain in the not to distant future, Stelmach said his successor, whoever that might ultimately be, will be under no obligation to send Albertans to the polls in March of 2012.

“That was my timetable and mine alone,” the premier said. “My successor has the parliamentary authority to call an election any time up to the constitutional deadline of March, 2013.”

American politics coming

While just when the new leader of the PC Party would call an election, Stelmach ended his speech with some cautionary words on what he felt the style of that election would be.

“There is a profound danger that the next election campaign will focus on personality and US-style negative attack politics that is directed at me personally,” He said. “The danger is that it could allow for an extreme right party to disguise itself as a moderate party by focusing on personality – on me. This type of US wedge-style politics is coming into Canada and it comes at our peril. Albertans deserve to have a better level of public debate on our policy options.”

Stelmach has served as premier since December of 2006 when he was elected leader of the PC Party. Stelmach’s party went on to take 72 of Alberta’s 83 seats in the 2008 election.

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