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Stelmach leaving good news for rural Alberta: Smith

Premier Ed Stelmach's announcement that he will not seek another term is good news for rural Albertans, says Wildrose Alliance Leader Danielle Smith.

Premier Ed Stelmach's announcement that he will not seek another term is good news for rural Albertans, says Wildrose Alliance Leader Danielle Smith.In an exclusive Gazette interview, Smith said provincial landowners, including those in West Central Alberta, have not been well served by the Stelmach-led Progressive Conservatives.ìI think part of the reason why Mr. Stelmach stepped down is the internal caucus dissent overthe budget, but another reason is that there is pressure on him from landowners all over this province because of ill-conceived legislation that he has brought through in the last few years,î said Smith.ìWe announced our property rights policy a week and a half ago and that was in response to four bills that have been passed ñ Bill 50, 19, 36 and 24 ñ which all undermine property rights, limit compensation and take away due process.ìHundreds and hundreds of landowners in Alberta have been going to town hall meetings and I think Mr. Stelmach has been feeling a lot of pressure from a constituent base that has normally been on his side.îSmith's party has been running a close second to the PCs in recent opinion polls.For his part, Stelmach says the PCs remain the best party for all Albertans.ìI believe that the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta is the best institution that we have to unite Albertans around a positive, progressive future,î Stelmach said during his Jan. 25 resignation speech.Although he did not mention the Wildrose Alliance Party by name, during the same resignation speech Stelmach took aim at ìsmall-cî conservative parties in Alberta.ìThe danger is that it could allow for an extreme right party to disguise itself as a moderate party by focusing on personality,î he said. ìThis type of U.S., wedge-style politics is coming into Canada and it comes at our peril. Albertans deserve to have a better level of public debate on policy options.îSmith calls speculation by some media outlets that she plans to work for the merger of the Wildrose Alliance and the PCs entirely unfounded.ìI heard that rumour too and I have to tell you that's the dumbest thing I have ever heard,î said Smith. ìI have spent the last year and a half building a party that's on the way up and I have no intention of joining a party that's on its way out.îAsked if Stelmach's departure is a boost to her party, Smith said: ìIt doesn't matter one way or another who is at the head of the PC Party. They are a party that is coming to the end of its dynasty. They are out of ideas and I think Albertans want fresh ideas and a new agenda.îInnisfail-Sylvan Lake Conservative MLA and Stelmach cabinet minister Luke Ouellette says the changeover to a new PC leader shouldn't concern Albertans.ìWe have a party that has been in power for 40 years and I think we are the envy of the country and even the world and why do we want to destroy anything like that? I think we've got a government that has built a great province and that was led by the PC Party and we want to keep that PC Party doing the same thing, moving us ahead.îAsked if he will be running for the leadership of the PCs, Ouellette said: ìI think I will just keep working away for Albertans the way I am now.îRocky Mountain House MLA Ty Lund declined to comment on Stelmach's resignation.Asked if he plans to run for the PC leadership, Lund replied: ìI wasn't interested in that before and I'm not interested now.î

Dan Singleton

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