Stelmach’s resignation: Why he did it

By DJ Kelly January 25, 2011

While the timing of today’s announcement by Premier Ed Stelmach may be a surprise, his resignation itself should not be. For months there have been grumblings about how the Progressive Conservative party will handle the next election.

The Wildrose Party has positioned itself as an heir apparent making room for all Alberta conservatives. Meanwhile disenfranchised progressives – mainly, but not exclusively PC members – have been toying with what the Alberta Party could be for them. In short, the party that’s been in power for 40 years was being torn in two with only the most ardent supporters who have fought tooth and nail to get where they were inside the party remaining loyal.

Observers and every PC insider knew something had to give. Polls, predictions and even gut feelings all were showing that with Stelmach leading the party into an election they were going to take a beating on all fronts. My?prediction?was a minority PC government being the outcome. To many, this was a best case scenario.

PC members aren’t stupid however. They could see the future coming too. With so much outsider anger (and even insider for that matter) directed at Stelmach’s seeming?inability?to gain enough traction with Albertans his fate was sealed. It was just a question whether he stepped aside before or after the next election. Obviously he’d prefer to wait to do it on his own terms, but as things got more and more dim for his party’s future, more and more of his own caucus mates began pondering how to speed things up to save the entire party. And their own seats.

Given all this there was a small movement afoot within caucus to push Stelmach out. However things hadn’t gotten dire enough for it to be a full blown organized coup yet. But if things did get worse, it would be. And for the internal politics of the party to blow up so close to an election would have all but handed the premier’s seat to Danielle Smith. Stelmach, a 25 year veteran, must have seen this too. And so he decided to do what was best for him and his entire party. Today he swallowed his pride and jumped on the grenade.

The table is clear now. The future is whatever the PCs make of it. The Stelmach baggage is gone and there is still enough time for a new leader to set a new tone to rival the other parties and win voter support. The party has had its biggest burden lifted. They still have lots of baggage, but it’s now at least more similar in size to that of it’s competitors.

Next in part 2: what the resignation means for opposition parties.