Edmonton

Won't seek re-election, Oberg tells caucus colleagues

Denying any rift with Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach, Finance Minister Lyle Oberg confirmed Monday he will not be running again in the next election.

Denying any rift with Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach, Finance Minister Lyle Oberg confirmed Monday he will not be running again in the next election.

"As minister of finance you're basically going out on the top," the MLA for Strathmore-Brooks told reporters in Edmonton. "In any sporting world history you want to go out on the top. Well, minister of finance is probably as close to the top as you can get."

Oberg sent an e-mail to his colleagues in the Progressive Conservative caucus Monday to announce his planned departure from the government once an election is called, widely expected in early spring.

"Over the past five or six weeks, I just sat back and thought, 'This is what's best for me,' is to move on," he said.

The former family doctor from Brooks, Alta., has been a controversial politician, suspended from caucus last year for criticizing former Premier Ralph Klein and facing down 14,000 teachers as education minister during a 2002 strike.

Oberg, 47, finished fourth in the race for the premier's job last fall and was given the finance portfolio after backing Stelmach on the decisive second ballot.

Oberg denies a rift betweenStelmach and himself, even though they appeared to hold opposing viewpoints on Alberta's royalties.

However, Alberta Liberal Leader Kevin Taft believes there was a power struggle — and Oberg lost.

"Lyle Oberg was the senior minister from southern Alberta. If he feels he can't get a voice in the Stelmach cabinet, I don't think southern Alberta's going to feel they'll ever get a voice in the Stelmach cabinet," he said.

Oberg has held several cabinet posts since he was first elected in 1993, including health, social services and transportation. He was acclaimed in his riding earlier this fall.

Oberg said he will stay on as finance minister and plans to introduce the budget in February.