Ball now in Khan's court
| Posted: Saturday, Feb 09, 2013 06:00 am
Stephen Khan may be down but heís not out. Well, OK, St. Albertís MLA is out in the sense that Premier Alison Redford did remove him from her cabinet. But heís NOT out in the sense that his career as an MLA is essentially over. Itís not. Khan has too much to offer to be counted out now, but his future success does depend largely on how he handles himself going forward.
Khan was elected for the first time in his life in the provincial election last April. Within short order he found himself with a seat at the cabinet table, a spot usually reserved for experienced government MLAs.
This meteoric rise was a very nice feather in the cap for Khan and the local PC constituency association. But, like the flight of Icarus, Khanís lofty soaring was ill-fated.
Entering politics for the first time, being a new MLA, and being a new cabinet minister are all steps that come with a steep learning curve. Doing them all at once is the political equivalent of climbing Mount Everest.
Imagine it: hereís a political neophyte who was unemployed after having managed the family business. A few months later heís ushered to a seat among Albertaís most powerful decision makers. His new role requires that he answer questions of a rabid opposition in question period. It makes him the governmentís main political contact for the prickly upper crust of Albertaí post-secondary institutions. And it puts him in charge of making a success of a new ministry that combines two different departments: Advanced Education and Enterprise.
The explanation from Redfordís office that cost-cutting is the reason for Khanís removal from cabinet is a smokescreen. In removing Khan and fellow rookie minister Christine Cusanelli, Redford didnít cut two ministries. She cut two ministers and replaced them both. The only savings comes from the fact that Redford only added one body to cabinet because one of the replacements, Thomas Lukaszuk, was already in cabinet.
So clearly this move is related to performance. As reported this week by some political commentators, Khan was a tentative speaker in the legislature and failed to make an impact with his work as a minister. It certainly looks as if Khan was in a position he couldnít handle, but itís not entirely his fault. Now he has the time to earn his political stripes and gain the seasoning required to move up the ranks.
It should be remembered that Khan won the election handily and enjoys strong support from local party members. The PC association is rallying around him now after his public demotion. Plus, all the characteristics that made Khan an attractive candidate a year ago are still there: heís young and energetic, intelligent, charismatic and personable. Now you can add a smidge of political experience to that list.
What happens now is largely up to Khan. He got a free pass the first time around and it didnít work out. From now on heíll have to earn his promotions and thatís not a bad thing.