04/30/2012 02:47 EDT | Updated 06/30/2012 05:12 EDT

Alberta campaign kingmaker quits as chief of staff; won't say what's next

EDMONTON - He's won three hard-fought political battles, two of them for Alberta's sitting premier, but Stephen Carter won't be around to help Alison Redford run her new majority government.

Carter stepped down Monday as Redford's chief of staff, a week after the premier's come-from-behind win in the Alberta election.

"It felt great to win and I would have been pleased to work for the premier in any fashion that she wanted," said Carter. "I think this is a pretty good solution for both of us."

A solution to what problem?

"Government's a little different than campaigning," is all the normally blunt and outspoken Carter would say.

He was, however, willing to talk about the three campaigns that established his reputation — Naheed Nenshi's successful out-of-nowhere bid for Calgary's mayoralty, Redford's bid for the Tory leadership, which she started with the backing of only one sitting Tory, and the recent drubbing of all other parties in an election that polls and pundits had picked the Progressive Conservatives to lose.

"People just don't care about (political) labels," is Carter's conclusion.

"Imagine going to your kids' soccer game and asking people what they are. They're not going to answer the question with, 'I'm a conservative or I'm a liberal or I'm a neo-con.'

"I think we're in the middle of the next great shift in political decision-making, and it's essentially ideological freedom. People are not going to allow themselves to be typecast."

He was also willing to compare the three campaigns — campaigns that have been pointed to nationally as marking sea changes in Alberta's political climate.

"They were all very different," Carter said.

"Nenshi's victory was such a coming together of non-ideological people who just wanted a better system. It was just fabulous to work with.

"(Redford's) leadership campaign became far more partisan, but we were able to bring in so many people from outside the party — which I think is ultimately the success of any campaign, appealing to people outside your stripe.

"This (provincial) election, to be written off in the first week, was just frustrating. It showed such a lack of understanding of that campaign."

Carter repeated oft-made criticisms that reporters and columnists rely on polls too much for election coverage. He said it now takes 18,000 phone calls to get 1,000 completed surveys. At that point, the commonalities between the 17,000 who didn't answer are more significant than the 1,000 who did.

Reporters are like "crack whores" for polls, said Carter.

"It's an easy story and it's easy to sum it up."

Carter said he's tired after two years of non-stop political battle and is looking forward to a break. He refused to comment about where he might turn up next.

British Columbia, where Premier Christy Clark might soon need a hand?

"I'm very intrigued by British Columbia," he said.

"It seems to me they're trapped. They don't know which way to go, left (or) right. I would argue with them that neither is a particularly solid option."

Carter is being replaced by Farouk Adatia, a lawyer with the impeccably connected Calgary firm of Bennett Jones, where former premier Peter Lougheed is a partner.

Adatia is a former head of the city's United Way campaign and was a Tory candidate in the recent election, where he came in second to a Wildrose rival.

In a release, Redford thanked Carter for serving in the key post for the last six months and said she has the greatest respect for him.