Alberta Premier Stelmach looks back

After 25 years of public service, Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach is getting ready to make his exit from the political stage. And he has no regrets.

After 25 years of public service, Ed Stelmach is getting ready to make his exit from the political stage

Stelmach looks back

12 years ago
Duration 2:32
Ed Stelmach reflects on his time as Alberta premier, the CBC's Kim Trynacity reports

Within six weeks, Ed Stelmach's nearly five-year run as Alberta's 13th premier will come to an end, and he'll be heading back to the land.

Some say he never left.

When he announced he wanted to lead the Progressive Conservative party, some critics wrote him off as a soft-spoken farmer. 

After he won in 2006, some didn't think he could lead the party to a traditional Tory landslide in the 2008 election.

He did, and it's something he's proud of.

"All those political pundits, they don't have to be accountable to anybody," he told CBC News from his family's farm, about 80 kilometres east of Edmonton.

"But they were wrong and I knew in my heart that they were wrong."

Despite the landslide, the win had unfortunate timing. 

'You develop a long term plan, and you stick to it.'—Ed Stelmach

The big financial downturn that followed hurt the province's bottom line, but Stelmach insisted on spending billions on infrastructure while running deficits, and not scale back like the government did in the '90s.

Despite a strong push back from his caucus, it's something he's convinced was the right move.

And it's something he believes the next premier should keep in mind: "Don't knee-jerk like a day trader. I've seen too much of that. 'Oh, oil's down, everybody's caving in, well we've gotta change our plans,' and then oil goes up: No. You develop a long term plan, and you stick to it."

Stelmach also hopes the next premier will be able to expand trade on an international scale.

"Remove some of the trade barriers that we've had to exist under, and look at Asia. It is what, maybe a generational opportunity, and we're going to be looking at who's competing with whom, he said.

"The competition today is continent to continent. It's not city to city or province to province. That's the big picture."

Prairie character

A lot of Stelmach's character — some woud say resilience — comes from the farm and his family history.

Though the 1916 farmhouse his grandfather built outside Mundare is dilapidated, it still stands and it still inspires the premier as evidence of his family's perseverance.

'You did what you could to survive.'—Ed Stelmach

"There were catastrophic events. Sometimes parents died prematurely. During the flu epidemic my dad would go from —he was only 17, no 14 at that time — he would go from one neighbour to another and water their livestock, 'cause there wasn't any electricity and people were ill. You did what you could to survive," he said.

"[I] stilll marvel at how my grandfather saved that much money, with grandmother, and built the house. It's a big house for its time.

"They helped a lot of people out in the community, especially in the '30s. There were a number of families here that were evicted off their land and some stayed here for a period of time."

Hay is grown on the Stelmach family farm, outside Mundare, Alta. ((CBC))

After spending the last 25 years in public service, Stelmach will now have time to look after that history and heritage. The 95-year-old farmhouse is going to be rehabilitated and relocated.

"They will move the house to the Ukrainian Village, in celebration of the 120th anniversary of Ukrainian settlement in Canada," he said.

"Because it's a large home, they'll use it for seminars and for education opportunities for people who come to the village."

No regrets

And he'll see it through, he said, just as he saw things through in politics.

'When it comes push to pull, I put the foot down a few times.'—Ed Stelmach

"I don't show this in real life but when it comes push to pull, I put the foot down a few times.

"I had to apply some discipline. That wasn't easy, but it had to be done.

"Maybe people didn't see that quality in me, but I surprised a few folks," he said.

Stelmach insists he's leaving office with no regrets, and of his own volition.

If he wished to stay on, he would.

"One thing Albertans know is that I don't get pushed around by anybody. If I wanted to go another term, we would be successful," he said.

Ed Stelmach's last day as premier is Oct. 1.

He said his plan for the following morning is to have a cup of coffee, and then get to work helping his brother with the fall harvest.

With files from the CBC's John Archer and Kim Trynacity