Premier Ed Stelmach remains the best leader for getting rid of Alberta’s $7-billion deficit in three years, say Central Alberta caucus members.
Progressive Conservative delegates gave Stelmach a strong 77.4 per cent endorsement to continue as Progressive Conservative leader after a mandatory leadership review was held at the party’s weekend convention in Red Deer. A total of 922 delegates out of 1,191 voted against holding a leadership contest.
Mary-Anne Jablonski, Red Deer North MLA and minister of seniors and community supports, called the results “very acceptable” for the leader who first took the post in December 2006. But the fact he didn’t receive a higher degree of confidence, like 85 or 90 per cent support, signifies a strong message, Jablonski said.
“It says to me that ‘we are happy with the premier, but we must see something more,’” said Jablonski during Saturday’s banquet at the Capri Centre.
“We’re in the right direction, but we need to pay attention.”
Stelmach pledged to curb government spending and said on Saturday that “change is coming.”
“We have to be realistic,” said Jablonski.
She said some “adjustments” will be made in order to meet Stelmach’s mandate of balancing the books in three years.
Luke Ouellette, MLA for Innisfail-Sylvan Lake and transportation minister, believed Saturday’s vote should have been unanimous because Stelmach has been doing a “great job.”
“This really speaks wonders of how the media has been seeing it,” said Ouellette, referring to some reports that Stelmach may not survive the leadership review. “It looked like it was going to be a dreary weekend.”
The PC government is alive and well in Alberta, he added.
He then took aim at newly crowned Wildrose Alliance leader Danielle Smith and her party which is experiencing surging support from right-wing Albertans.
One recent independent poll shows the Tories have only 34 per cent support from decided voters, down from 55 per cent a year ago.
The Wildrose has moved into second place with 28 per cent.
“I think they have a long road to hoe before they make inroads to our good PC government that people in Alberta believe in and the great leader that we have,” said Ouellette.
Red Deer South MLA Cal Dallas said he wasn’t surprised by the level of support give to Stelmach.
“I see a leader that has provided all of the elements that are important to Albertans, specifically with respect to making difficult decisions and advancing long-term vision for Alberta,” said Dallas.
And he said the government is keen to get back in the black while using the least amount of discomfort to Albertans.
Dallas was also thrilled party delegates supported his constituency association’s resolution. Builders would receive incentives for constructing “visitability” homes that are more accessible to people with mobility issues.