ALBERTA

Ed Stelmach Says Next Alberta Tory Leader Needs To Be Humble, Modest

04/10/2014 05:52 EDT | Updated 06/11/2014 05:59 EDT
ASSOCIATED PRESS
Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach speaks during a news conference at the Canadian Embassy in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 17, 2008. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
REGINA - Former Alberta premier Ed Stelmach says the province's next Conservative leader needs to "be modest, be humble" and acknowledge that mistakes have been made.

Stelmach, who was premier from 2006 to 2011, says whoever is chosen to replace Alison Redford will also need to connect communities across Alberta.

"Given that it's Easter season, it's almost, you know, washing the feet of Albertans and starting new," Stelmach said in Regina on Thursday before speaking to students in the Junior Achievement program.

Redford resigned March 19 amid a spreading scandal over lavish travel expenses, flights, and perks for herself and her inner circle.

She said the infighting had become an intolerable distraction to the business of the province and left just hours before PC riding association leaders were expected to unite in a bid to demand she quit.

Redford has been silent since she resigned and has not been in the legislature. However, she started tweeting as a member of the legislature Thursday.

Stelmach declined to comment on whether he thought Redford got a fair shake.

"Her situation and my situation were completely different. I retired because I thought it was the best, not only for me personally, for family, but the province was in a good position. We were going to have a third-quarter that was going to be very positive," he said.

"And so we achieved exactly what we wanted to in the five years that I served as premier."

Opinion polls show the Tories dipped to historically low popularity levels under Redford, but Stelmach says the party has been low in the polls before and he's confident it will recover.

"We hold office because people had the confidence and the trust in the Progressive Conservative Party to hold office. We have to work hard to win back that trust," he said.

"But it is always an issue that you do fight as any political party that has been in office for a long period of time, that it's difficult to fight the perception of (arrogance). That's why I insist that the next leader has to be humble and modest and really speak to Albertans on a basis that they understand."

No one has formally entered the race, but Ken Hughes stepped down as Alberta's municipal affairs minister Monday and is expected to soon launch a bid. Cabinet members including Jonathan Denis, Doug Horner, Thomas Lukaszuk, Ric McIver, and Diana McQueen have said they are considering it.

Interim Premier Dave Hancock took over from Redford and will run the province until PC party members vote in a new leader in September.

Stelmach says whoever throws their hat in the ring will have to win the leadership, a byelection if they're not already elected, and then campaign for the next provincial election in 2016.

"This is like going for the Olympic gold," he said.

"You set aside your family, you set aside your personal time, you set aside vacation and it's two years of hard work."

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