Preston Manning launched a broadside yesterday against Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach, attacking the Progressive Conservative leader’s competence and predicting his electoral demise.

The former Reform Party leader – whose father Ernest was Alberta’s longest-serving premier, as part of the Social Credit dynasty in the mid-20th century – said Mr. Stelmach failed to consider larger issues such as the environment and energy security last month in deciding to raise oil royalties.

“I think he’s a sincere and honest man,” Mr. Manning said yesterday on CTV’s Question Period. “I think the bigger question with Premier Stelmach and the administration is one of its competence. Does it have the competence to deal with these big-picture issues?”

Mr. Manning said the opposition Liberals and New Democrats display even less understanding of Alberta’s potential leadership role, but predicted they could benefit from Tory failings.

The Progressive Conservatives have been in power since 1971, but Mr. Manning cast doubt on whether Mr. Stelmach will win the next election.

“I think it’s becoming increasingly unlikely unless, say, the government demonstrates a capacity that it hasn’t shown thus far,” he said.

“I don’t see votes going to the Liberals or the NDP. I think their biggest danger is another 150,000 people staying home who voted Conservative the last time and then that puts

dozens and dozens of seats up for grabs.”

Tom Olsen, Mr. Stelmach’s spokesman, said that the Premier wouldn’t be “rattled” by Mr. Manning’s comments, and that he remains focused on achieving a number of goals before calling the next election.

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