Provincial political upset

The Alberta political landscape certainly saw its share of changes recently with Premier Ed Stelmach’s announcement he would not seek another term in the top job.

Two days later, Ted Morton resigned as finance minister, and announced he would be seeking the premier’s post down the line.

Stelmach said that he believed his announcement would come as a major surprise to many, but we don’t think that it was too much of a shock.

Politics has a way of grinding a person down – regardless of whether they are popular or not – and it’s clear that Stelmach has been feeling the wear and tear as of late.

Years back, he was a relatively fresh face when he pursued the Tory leadership. Yes, he had been in politics for years but leading the party was something new and apparently an exhilarating prospect. In those days, he would venture from place to place with that big smile and infectious optimism that he was the man for the job – even though many felt he wasn’t and expected Jim Dinning to easily capture the lead.

Well, Stelmach shot up the middle and became premier. And it’s been a relatively unsteady journey since for ‘Steady Eddy’.

From our perspective, he certainly hasn’t seemed to always enjoy being premier. Gone are the days, seemingly, when he appeared to relish the role. He was chatty, friendly and all smiles – most of the time.

Over the past couple of years, he seems to be often wearing a frown as he talks with reporters and in communication with the public. He’s become guarded and almost scripted in his dialogue with media. Oftentimes, he also comes across as defensive and snippy.

Last fall, during the premier’s dinner in Red Deer, these attributes came through quite clearly. That evening he went back and forth between sounding ticked off some of the time to being just downright unhappy. It was hardly an inspiring evening – regardless of the party faithful who were cheering their leader on nonetheless.

We think this is the right step for Stelmach, who says he is wary of the growing negativism of the scene and didn’t want to face it anymore. But he could also see the writing on the wall. Reports of a divided caucus don’t seem to want to die, and he just seems weary of it.

Morton may have the smarts for the job but isn’t the most charismatic fellow around. If elected, we may see this same scenario repeat itself in a few years.

The party is clearly at a crossroads, and deciding who is going to lead has never been more critical than it is at this juncture.