Outgoing Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach trades barbs with leadership candidate

Political decorum dictates that when running for the leadership of a political party you don't go out of your way to criticize your predecessor.

In the same vein, outgoing leaders don't generally campaign for one candidate over another.

This seems to be a universal truth everywhere — except Alberta.

The vote to replace Premier Ed Stelmach as leader of the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party is set for Oct. 1.

In unusual fashion, frontrunners and onetime Stelmach cabinet ministers Ted Morton and Alison Redford have been actively critical of the Stelmach government's initiative to install two high-voltage electricity transmission lines from northern to southern Alberta.

In an editorial for the Calgary Herald, political scientist Duane Bratt questioned the candidates' intentions.

"Morton was able to forget that as minister of sustainable resources he introduced some of this legislation. For her part, Redford forgot that she was justice minister and her department had to approve the legal language in the legislation," he wrote.

"Obviously, the PC candidates believe that the public anger towards the Alberta PC party, and the resulting rise of the Wildrose Alliance party, are all due solely to the policies and leadership of Ed Stelmach."

Redford, a former human rights lawyer, has gone even further than her counterparts by staking out different positions from her party's current leader on two other hot-button issues: the government's refusal to consider a judicial inquiry into health care abuses, and the premier's attempt to blame teachers for education layoffs.

Last week, despite publicly giving leadership candidates the green light to differentiate themselves from him, Stelmach fought back with some blunt comments likening Redford to a Tory turncoat.

"Stelmach maintains he won't tell party members who to vote for in the race to replace him," wrote Graham Thomson from the Edmonton Journal. "But what he has done with Redford is tell party members who not to vote for."

Blogger David Climenhaga wrote, "The premier has all but accused Redford . . . of high treason."

This exchange is just the beginning of what's expected to be an "entertaining" summer of political discourse in Canada's most Conservative province.

(CP Photo)