Alberta Party leader Stephen Mandel gives a speech in Edmonton after the polls closed for the provincial election in Alberta on Tuesday, April 16.
Larry Wong / Postmedia
The Alberta Party will search for a new leader after Stephen Mandel announced Friday he’s standing down following 15 months on the job.Mandel told Postmedia it’s time to move on and start a new phase of his life.While he’ll continue supporting the party, he said he’s looking forward to going back to his role as chancellor of Edmonton’s Concordia University and spending more time with his family.“I think we did positive stuff,” Mandel said of his time as leader.“The party is now known in the province of Alberta much better than it was, and hopefully the next people will look forward … because there really is the need in Alberta for a centrist party with values that are more reflective of Albertans.”‘Caught between two extremes’Mandel secured Alberta Party leadership in February 2018 after a two-month campaign, clinching 66 per cent of the vote.Despite his decisive victory in that race, the party failed to capture a single seat in the provincial election — not even in his own riding of Edmonton-McClung, which he lost to NDP’s Lorne Dach, placing a distant third behind the UCP’s Laurie Mozeson.But the party did see an upswing in its popular vote overall, receiving just shy of 172,000 ballots and nine per cent of the popular vote.Mandel put that loss down to a number of factors Friday, most notably the polarizing nature of the election.“I think we were caught between two extremes and we couldn’t find a place,” he said.“We were having a hell of a time getting publicity, because there was this Kenney versus Notley (narrative), and at the end of the day we couldn’t compete with that.”Mandel took a swipe at the media, saying it was “fixated” on the race between the two heavyweights.“I don’t know if it’s a chicken-or-the-egg situation, but when the media decides this is the polarity, that’s what happens,” he said.“Was it our time? Probably not. But I think we ended up doing remarkably well.”He also had some harsh words for the former NDP government, accusing it of engineering the “stupid decision” that landed Mandel and five other Alberta Party candidates in a political penalty box two months out from the election, after they failed to submit paperwork on time.The court ended up ruling in his favour, but Mandel said Friday the move hurt him and his party.The party’s next movesMandel said he’s heard a few names bandied about for future Alberta Party leadership, but kept his lips tightly sealed about who.Either way, he dismissed any notion that the party is dead, saying, “it has a great future in Alberta politics.”The key will be maintaining creative, economically driven, socially progressive policies and avoiding dogmatism or ideology, he said.“I hope we can continue doing that and not get bogged down with left or right, and continue to push forward with ideas that are reflective of what we need,” he said.“Without good economic policy and strong opportunities for the growth of the province, all the social programs you want aren’t going to happen because you have no money to do them.”Prior to his time as Alberta Party leader, Mandel served as a Progressive Conservative MLA and health minister. He moved to provincial politics following three terms as Edmonton email@example.com/EmmaLGraney