Steady as he goes

Premier Ed Stelmach received 77 per cent support to continue leading the Progressive Conservative party after a secret ballot among party members was held on Saturday in Red Deer.

Premier Ed Stelmach raises his fist in victory after hearing the results from the leadership review at the Progressive Conservative Annual General Meeting

Premier Ed Stelmach received 77 per cent support to continue leading the Progressive Conservative party after a secret ballot among party members was held on Saturday in Red Deer.

A total of 922 delegates voted against a leadership review while just 269 voted in favour of one.

Red Deer North MLA Mary-Anne Jablonski 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 night’s banquet at the Capri Centre.

About 1,200-some delegates attended the two-day annual general meeting and convention which ended Saturday. It’s the second one held since the Tories amassed a resounding majority in the March 2008 provincial election. Each time Stelmach walked to the podium on Saturday, he was given a standing ovation.

Public discontent has been growing over the government’s handling of several key issues, including changes made to the oil and gas royalty regime and the set up of H1N1 flu vaccination clinics.

More than 600 people from across Alberta converged on Red Deer for a Stop the Cuts! rally as Stelmach and others met inside the hotel. The crowd of protesters, shouting “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Stelmach has got to go!”, paraded along the road near the hotel.

The rally was organized by Public Interest Alberta, Friends of Medicare and several other advocacy groups.

Alberta’s largest unions were represented, including members from Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union which was holding its own meeting in Red Deer.

“We’re not happy with what’s been happening with health care,” said Rick Klimchuk of Edmonton.

Sam Denhaan, president of the Central Alberta Council on Aging, said there seems to be no transparency and accountability from the government. “We want to stop the cuts and the privatization,” he said.

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