ALBERTA VOTES 2008

Parties & Leaders

Progressive Conservative Leader Ed Stelmach

Andree Lau | CBC Online News | Updated Feb. 4, 2008
 

Premier Ed StelmachIn fewer than 13 months, Alberta's rookie premier, affectionately named Steady Eddie, has distinguished himself from his predecessor with a soft-spoken, measured approach to managing the province's explosive growth issues.

Ed Stelmach took over as Tory leader with a surprise come-from-behind victory in December 2006, after the retirement of longtime premier Ralph Klein. Even though Stelmach had served as a cabinet minister in intergovernmental affairs, agriculture and infrastructure for a decade, few Albertans knew who he was before the leadership race.

With competitors Jim Dinning and Ted Morton grabbing all the headlines, the understated farmer sold himself as the compromise second choice, eventually winning with endorsements from other candidates who dropped out. Stelmach was seen as the peacemaker who brought the party together after a divisive leadership race.

It's that unassuming style Stelmach hopes will resonate with voters as he leads the province's longest-serving party with 36 years in power into this election. But that record may work against Stelmach.

Few Albertans remember a time without the Tories in power, and the opposition parties are highlighting the need for change, as the debt-free province grapples with the best way to manage the oil and gas boom, housing shortages and health-care pressures.

It was Stelmach's pledge to review Alberta's royalty regime that served as a catalyst to the biggest debate in the province leading up to the election. The panel he appointed concluded that Albertans were getting ripped off and recommended hiking the rates charged to energy companies.

Stelmach also has to contend with sagging support from Calgary and the southern part of the province after he filled his first cabinet with MLAs from rural areas and northern Alberta.

Born and raised in Lamont, northeast of Edmonton, Stelmach was raised on a homestead established by his Ukrainian grandparents in 1898.

In 1973, while he was studying at the University of Alberta, his older brother died suddenly. He and his new wife, Marie, decided to abandon his dreams of a law career and return to take over the family farm.

Before heading to the Alberta legislature in 1993 to represent the largely rural riding of Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville, he served variously as a county reeve, school trustee and health unit board chairman. When he was sworn in as the 13th premier of Alberta, Stelmach called it "one of the most humbling days" of his life as he replaced Klein, his inspiration for entering political life.

 

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Quick Facts

Born:May 11, 1951 in Lamont

Education:Left the University of Alberta pre-law program in 1973 to run family farm

Employment:Farmer

Politics:Reeve of Lamont County (1987-1992), MLA Fort-Saskatchewan-Vegreville (1993-present), cabinet minister (1997-2006), premier (2006-present)

Family:Wife Marie, four children, one grandchild

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