Ed Stelmach may well go down into history as the man who initiated the downfall of the Progressive Conservative (PC) Party that has held the power in the province for four decades.
All the talk about the PC caucus enjoying unshakable unity aside, it is very clear that Mr. Stelmach’s surprise decision to announce his resignation in advance can only ruin any little chance for the governing party to win the next election.
It is inconceivable that the premier has not foreseen that this announcement would not only put him in the position of a lame duck politician (to use the phrase coined for outgoing US presidents), but also that it would trigger a leadership race in the party and precipitate a crisis of governance until the next elections.
In this process, the lack of authority to govern and the jockeying for position among the leadership hopefuls can only weaken the Progressive Conservatives, increasing chances for the Wildrose Alliance to cover a lot of distance to start the next election campaign with huge advantages.
Simply put, Mr. Stelmach put neither the province, nor his party first, as claimed by some of his colleagues. It looks like his move was aimed at damaging the rival faction of Calgarians in the PC, but it could well destroy the whole party.
This is not the first miscalculation on the part of the premier.
When he took power, he antagonized the oil and gas sector and allied himself with the power industry, promising them billions of dollars worth transmission lines, to be built with taxpayers’ money.
To deliver on his promise, he caused a lot of resentment within his own power base, the agricultural communities, by threatening to appropriate land without proper compensation and without allowing the due process of law to take its course.
When he realized that he would not be able to do what he promised, he tried to save face by announcing a review of the controversial bills that threatened farmers’ property rights. That meant giving up on his promise on the transmission lines.
Having been left with no supporters or allies in any one of pillars of the province’s economy, Mr. Stelmach decided to quit.
Now unless a miracle happens, the next election will probably be claimed by the Wildrose Alliance, another right wing party.
It should be realized that the clumsiness in governance in the province is the result of lack of effective opposition that should force the government to think twice before taking any steps.
The problem, in a wider context, one that is also valid for Canada, is that there is no efficient left wing force to prevent the political median in the province (and in the country) from shifting steadily to the right.