It looks like Stelmach made the decision for us.

There’s no need for an election to make it happen. There will be a new premier by next year. And in the wake of Premier Stelmach’s resignation the long list of potential replacements is starting to pile up.

Ted Morton has to be the front-runner at this point — if not for the caucus budget brouhaha we’ve been reading about, then at least for the number of Wildrose Alliance members who could very well purchase a PC Party membership to install him as the next premier. (Consider this a hedging-your-bets play by more conservative-minded politicos.)

But behind the obvious choice of Morton, the pack starts getting very confusing. The other contenders may include Dave Hancock and Doug Horner, as well as “outsiders” Jim Dinning and Jim Prentice.

But it is 2011 now. The upcoming election campaign will be unlike any the Progressive Conservatives have faced in their 40-year run. It will take a different kind of leader to pull off another win over the upstart Wildrose Alliance and Alberta Party.

It’s going to be someone like Lindsay Blackett, Jonathan Denis, Thomas Lukaszuk, Alison Redford and their like who will have to lead the party forward. But sadly, the majority in this group have ended up in their seat by playing the “old” game well and don’t really represent a “new,” less partisan way forward.

The only man I can see in a position to be the right person at the right time is a little-known MLA from Hardisty: Doug Griffiths.

To begin with, he is Alberta. He fits in everywhere and everyone has an immense amount of respect for the man — north, south; rural, urban; conservative, liberal; the energy sector, farmers. He gets Alberta as a whole, and is the only person, regardless of party, who bridges all these traditional opposites.

Griffiths has tough decisions to make, too. The PCs have barely embraced him, let alone recognized him as the golden boy who could lead them into the next century by transcending the type of election every other party is going to run. Sources tell me that at this point, he’s just as likely to not run in 2012 and be closer to his young family, who will no doubt show him more appreciation.

The Alberta Party, which is entering into a leadership race of its own, sees Griffiths’s value.

Before Stelmach’s announcement, Griffiths was no doubt being pursued to run in the Alberta Party contest for the reasons I list and more.

I don’t want to put too fine a point on it, but the future of Alberta’s government could hinge on Griffiths’s decision. If he were to run, I think he would have a very good chance as a dark-horse candidate to put aside all the PC baggage others will inadvertently carry and win.

Because during leadership conventions the best candidate to lead the party into an election isn’t always the one who comes out on top (Stelmach?), I should stop short of saying Griffiths will be our next premier. But he would offer the Progressive Conservatives, and Albertans in general, a great choice.

Calgary Original: “Griffiths right man at right time?”–dark-horse-griffiths-the-man-to-lead-tories
Edmonton Original: “Dark-horse Griffiths the man to lead Tories”–dark-horse-griffiths-the-man-to-lead-tories