You could make the argument that Ed Stelmach was the Barney Fife of Alberta politics; but the one thing you could count on was that he wouldn’t show up blotto at a shelter in our capital city, and throw 20 dollar bills at homeless men while telling them to get jobs.
For this left-leaner at least, the resignation of Stelmach, for all his crimson-collar ways, is unwelcome. Yes, his recapitulation to the clamouring oil-clan on the royalty review policy was despairing. And his enunciating decent environmental steps without either the intention, or more generously, the ability to enact them, was, if your expectations were raised, demoralizing. Still, when the global panic was upon us, he didn’t run for the hard-line hills. Which is now pointed at as his undoing, and probably was.
I believe this Premier was straight-jacketed in many ways and tried valiantly to keep a big tent and maintain a similitude of balance; and in Alberta, while we never want to believe that’s as good as it gets, perhaps, that’s as good as it gets.
Ed the man is not complex, personal integrity—which I believe he hung on to as best he could—rarely is. Ed Stelmach revealed an honesty and a compassionate demeanour that genuinely endeared him to people in need. I saw this first hand at a Hope Mission graduation banquet—a graduation that celebrates the sobriety and changes and new hopes of former street-survivors and addicts.
(Below: Ed Stelmach at a Hope Mission graduation banquet)
I grew to respect Ed Stelmach, and I grew to respect parts of his politics. Despite his policy failures, he did have some successes. His support for social housing and his desire to help social agencies better address homelessness resulted in capital and program backing, which in turn brought a significant decrease in people living on the street in our major cities.
What now? Not surprisingly, with the Wildrose chill blowing down the Tories’ back the change coming will be a conservative lurch to the right, a big-C corrective" to try, if it’s not too late, to undo Danielle Smith. And when the budget drops watch for cuts to health, education, environment, and social housing; this will all accomplished without chafing the lifestyle of one Ted Morton. What this was, after all, was a high-noon showdown between Ted and Ed. A showdown plainly forced by Ms. Dee Smith.
Ed Stelmach’s mistake was that he saw Alberta as Canada’s Mayberry and himself as a kind of Andy Griffith. He loved Mayberry, even restored to it some land-use traffic laws, as well as some common decency and manners. But when the credits roll and the whistling stops, everybody remembers that it’s Aunt Bee who runs the place.