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Today's Big Story

Canada's Other New Leader

Alberta has a next leader. What does that mean for the rest of us?

By Richard Warnica 5 Dec 2006 | TheTyee.ca

Richard Warnica is a senior editor at The Tyee.

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On Saturday, a mild-mannered ex-cabinet minister came from behind to win the leadership of one of Canada’s most entrenched political machines.

Ummm, make that two mild mannered ex-cabinet ministers.

While Stephane Dion was taking control of the Federal Liberals in Montreal on Saturday, an equally unassuming pol was doing the same thing with a different party in Alberta.

Ed Stelmach, a former cabinet minister and Northern Alberta farmer, moved from third to first on the second day of voting in the race to replace (King) Ralph Klein as Alberta’s premier.

Stelmach inherits the most entrenched political regime in Canada. The Progressive Conservatives have held power in that province since 1971 and show no signs of losing anytime soon.

And while this isn’t really today’s big story (more like Sunday’s A3), it is a big story. (Quite frankly, if The Tyee had more money I’d be pushing this. Coup be damned, Fiji in December sounds about right to me.)

Alberta is Canada’s richest, most polluting province. And if the new Liberal leader is serious, the next federal election will be fought on the environment -- not least on how to stop the oil-rich province on B.C.'s eastern border from doing so many bad things to it.

So who leads that province, and how they feel about the rest of us is of vital importance.

So who is Ed Stelmach? Tough to say.

The short story is that before he became premier, Stelmach was a cabinet minister (four different posts, thank you very much). And before that, he worked the family farm. His time in public life has been exciting enough to earn him nicknames like “steady Eddy,” “Honest Ed,” and “The Rural Guy.”

(Check out either of these profiles for a more in-depth look.)

But real information about Alberta politicians is hard to come by. Alberta is a one party state. And you don’t earn any favours by ratting out that one party to journalists.  So how and for who Stelmach will govern is mostly a mystery.

As for web reading, the two serious dailies in the province are both CanWest, which means they keep their columnists behind the firewall.  You can find out about Stelmach’s arts policies in this blog post by the Edmonton Journal’s Todd Babiuk. Or get a sense of how Tory bloggers feel in this post by Journal web editor Larry Johnsrude. But in general it’s a tough nut to crack.

I guess you'll just have to wait for Stelmach to do something. And then wait three days to read about it here.  [Tyee]

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