Alberta Politics

6 reasons why history will be kind to Ed Stelmach

Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach
On January 25, 2011, Ed Stelmach announced his plans to step down as premier of Alberta. He left office on October 7, 2011.

Two years ago today, Ed Stelmach quietly stepped out of the political spotlight after a nearly five years as Premier of Alberta. The mild-mannered farmer from Andrew dedicated more than twenty-five years of his life to municipal and provincial politics and led the Progressive Conservative Association to win one of its largest electoral victories in forty years. Despite this win, his party’s Calgary establishment never forgave him for defeating their choice for leader.

On January 25, 2011, facing dangerous divisions in his party and caucus, Mr. Stelmach announced his decision to resign. On October 7, 2011, he was officially replaced by Calgary MLA Alison Redford.

While there were certainly controversies and missteps during his time as premier, Mr. Stelmach made significant decisions that have had a positive effect on our province. Considering my history with the man, some readers may be surprised to learn that I believe history will be kind to Alberta’s thirteenth Premier. Here’s why.

Six reasons why history will be kind to Ed Stelmach

1) Mr. Stelmach reinvested in public services and infrastructure. After years of neglect, his government tackled the province’s growing deferred maintenance budget by investing billions of dollars into public infrastructure. The $1 billion GreenTrip Fund provided to municipalities allowed for the expansion of public transit in Alberta’s fast-growing cities. A series of 5% increases to the health care budget helped to stabilize the see-saw of unpredictable funding allocated by his predecessor, Ralph Klein.

2) The creation of the Capital Region Board helped de-escalate the tensions and narrow the deep divisions between the dozens of municipalities in the Edmonton region. While tensions still exist in some corners of the capital region, Mr. Stelmach helped usher a détente‎ by forcing the municipal politicians to use a process for resolving grievances and planning the future.

3) The creation of the Ten-Year Plan to End Homelessness set a bold plan in motion to eliminate homelessness in our province by 2017. Along with plans to end homelessness in Calgary, Edmonton, and many other cities in the province, thousands of Albertans have been successfully housed through programs like Housing First. In 2012, Edmonton’s Homeward Trust honoured Mr. Stelmach with Special Recognition for Leadership towards Ending Homelessness

4) The introduction of the Lobbyist Registry helped shine a spotlight into the shadowy world of political lobbying and horse-trading. Although not foolproof, the registry gives Albertans a chance to see who is being paid to influence their elected officials on a daily basis.

5) During his first year in office, Mr. Stelmach concluded a deal with the Alberta Teachers Association in which the province agreed to contribute $2.1 billion towards the $6.6 billion unfunded pension liability. In exchange, Alberta’s 34,000 teachers  agreed to a five-year contract.

6) Mr. Stelmach moved the Tories back to the centre of the political spectrum. While he did not stay to face them in an election, he recognized that to compete with the upstart Wildrose Party, he needed to move his party to the middle, rather than the political right. While this angered his opponents both inside and outside his party, this decision may have helped save his party from political defeat in the 2012 election.

6 replies on “6 reasons why history will be kind to Ed Stelmach”

Interesting analysis, but not entirely correct. The whole move to the centre is what started the Wildrose. It is also what almost lost the PC party the 2012 election.

Under Alison Redford, the party realizes that the only way to stave off the Wildrose is to move further to the right. This has been evident with taking on the unions and getting 0% wage increases, cutting spending, and resisting public sector strikes – all strong, bedrock, conservative principles that will ensure the longer term survival of the party.

$2 billion for a 5-year contract? That’s pretty steep. And now we have austerity in education. Well played.

7) In 2007, Mr Stelmach responded to the electorate’s mood by announcing an oil royalty regime, like Norway’s. It served him well in the 2008 provincial election, with a few Liberal voters probably defecting in support of it.

The Wildrose/Alberta Alliance Party was the anti-royalty and pro-tax haven answer to the royalty increase. Stelmach reversed the decision, 2010.

At least he tried.

Joe is wrong, as Albertan Joes usually are. That is. he’s quite right that Ms. Redford’s government is moving to the right to stave off the Wildrose challenge. But he’s mistaken if he thinks that’s likely to work for them. Why would Albertans, even Joe Albertans, vote for Wildrose Alison when they can have the real Wildrose Danielle? I suspect the Redford Tories are arrogant enough that they think they can fool all the progressive voters that saved their bacon last time once again by resurrecting the Wildrose boogey-person, despite delivering a far-right program that in some ways is actually worse than what a real Wildrose government would be likely to do. I don’t think they can count on another Pastor Hunsperger waiting in the wings to play the role of deus ex machina, though. Mr. Stelmach was a fine man who served both Alberta and his political party well.

David is wrong and this foreshadows his electoral obliteration on October 21. Alberta voters will not be kind to the Wildrose for their liberal policies like legalizing prostitution, legalizing drugs, or spending more money to blow up Alberta Health Services for ideological reasons. The Wildrose party has become anything but conservative and the smartest thing for the PC’s is to do what they’re doing and move further to the right, particularly in taking on the unions.

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