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…