Some local longtime Conservative Party supporters aren’t sure where Ralph Klein is coming from when he suggests that Premier Ed Stelmach should step down if he doesn’t get 70 per cent support from party membership in a mandatory leadership review.
“If I was in front of the room, at this time, and got a 65 to 70 per cent majority, I would be very happy with that,” said Garett Cupples, who has long volunteered with the Red Deer provincial Tories.
“In fact, if I got 60 per cent, with the economy being the way it is, I would be happy,” he added.
While Cupples feels former premier Klein has every right to express his opinion, he said he hasn’t heard too many serious inside rumblings of dissatisfaction about Stelmach’s performance as Alberta’s premier.
Sure, many people within the party are nervous about the economy and a few members with tunnel vision might see it as an Alberta problem, said Cupples.
But he believes most Tories “who take a step back” realize there’s a worldwide recession on and are not blaming Stelmach for their business not doing as well as in previous years.
“I’m not hearing that people are upset with Ed,” added Cupples, voicing an opinion that’s shared by another longtime local Conservative party supporter, Craig Soderquist.
Soderquist and Cupples know some elderly party members are concerned about recent health care changes, but neither believe this is causing major baggage for Stelmach.
And while the current premier has never matched Klein’s populist touch, neither Cupples nor Soderquist know of any MLAs who are jockeying to replace him.
“I honestly haven’t heard of anyone who wants the job at this time,” said Cupples, referring to the Stelmach’s role in steering the province through the turbulent economy.
Soderquist, who feels this would be an inopportune time for a leadership change, believes some party members will be directing questions for Stelmach at the upcoming annual general meeting and leadership review — but not accusations.
“It’s a difficult job,” said Soderquist, “and I wouldn’t think people would be overly critical — especially since I haven’t heard of anybody else carrying a book of solutions.”
The routine review that’s part of party policy will be held at the Tories’ annual general meeting at Red Deer’s Capri Hotel and Convention Centre on Saturday, Nov. 7.
Stelmach will also be in Red Deer on Thursday, Oct. 15, for the Premier’s Dinner, also at the Capri.
The premier and his cabinet ministers, including Red Deer North MLA Mary Anne Jablonski and Sylvan Lake MLA Luke Ouellette, are in a three-day cabinet retreat in Pincher Creek and could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.