Ed Stelmach will win solid endorsement on Saturday in Red Deer to carry on as leader of the Tories and, as leader of the ruling party, premier of Alberta.
And when he does, members of the Wildrose Alliance Party of Alberta, who have been so quiet since all the hoopla after they so smartly chose bright and promising Danielle Smith as leader, will secretly kick up their heels as though Christmas had arrived early.
They so want their target to remain Stelmach that they’ve barely uttered a peep over the Conservatives colossal mishandling of the H1N1 vaccination program.
Besides Premier Stelmach, there’s nobody else praying more than Wildrose Alliance for him to win leadership re-endorsement at the two-day annual general meeting of the Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta, at the Capri Centre, beginning on Friday.
Best not to criticize too much, lest Tory party members start agreeing and thinking, “Hey, maybe dumping Steady Eddy is not such a bad idea.”
To some, Stelmach has seemed weak as leader, despite the reality that the recession is not his fault. Unfair or not, the buck has to stop somewhere.
Wildrose Alliance will get their secret wish that Stelmach survives his review, unless something so eventful between now and Saturday convinces Conservative party members it would be best to toss Stelmach, either by way of weak re-endorsement or simple total rejection.
If Tories were to do that, it could open the door to someone else — perhaps Jim Dinning, the man who should have been premier — who might make mincemeat out of Wildrose Alliance, a party whose policies so far are at worst unknown or at best rather fuzzy.
But it would have to be something super colossal for Tories to reject Stelmach right now. It would be seen as faltering, fearful, unsteady. The PC machine is in a pinch. Hang on to Stelmach and hope for the best, or reject him and appear unsteady in an Alberta political/economic climate that could see an ultra-right party (Wildrose Alliance) take full advantage of growing discontent with a party that has held the helm for almost 40 years now.
Stelmach is working hard at convincing everyone that it’s the economy that needs attention, not his leadership, and now is not the time to rock the boat.
“Stability” he said, when he met with a few members of the newsroom (myself included) in the Advocate’s boardroom recently, is what business needs and wants. From this we are to conclude that to dump him is to create instability.
A serious guy, with his big-knot gold-stripped tie and blue suit, Stelmach is clearly a “gosh-darn, gee whiz” kind of politician, probably more comfortable leaning on a fence post and shovel chatting things over than in front of cameras and media.
He’s a nice guy, but Conservatives should ask themselves if this is the fellow who can lead them and their supporters successfully through such big-ticket issues as the tarnished economy, health-care and education cuts, wage freezes for provincial contractual employees, failed immunization procedures, and growing unrest amongst seniors and rural Albertans.
Tories should also ask: Is the Stelmach government instilling confidence in ordinary Albertans?
But when the weekend is over, those questions will not have been pressed and there will have been no blue blood spilled here in Red Deer.
And Wildrose Alliance will start dancing in the streets.
Mary-Ann Barr is Advocate assistant city editor. She can be reached by email at email@example.com or by phone at 403-314-4332.