Alberta Finance Minister Ted Morton resigned from cabinet Thursday afternoon saying he plans to run in the upcoming leadership race later this year.
“It is my intention to seek the leadership of our party upon the premier’s departure,” Morton told reporters in Calgary today.
“Under these circumstances, I believe it would be difficult, if not impossible, to continue to discharge my duties as minister with the required perception of impartiality.”
In the interim, Treasury Board president Lloyd Snelgrove will assume the finance and enterprise portfolio.
“I am confident that with minister Snelgrove assuming my responsibilities, that Albertans will be assured of continuity and stability in public administration,” said Morton.
Premier Ed Stelmach, who announced Tuesday that he intends to resign after the spring session, said anyone seeking the leadership of the party should first resign from cabinet, something he did in 2006.
“Minister Morton indicated to me his intent to seek the leadership of the party and as a result he offered, and I have accepted his resignation as minister of finance and enterprise,” said Stelmach.
“Minister Morton supports this government and he supports the provincial budget developed by his department and treasury board,” he said.
Stelmach said Morton will continue to assist caucus with the budget, which will be introduced in the legislature this spring.
After Stelmach announced his intention to resign, media outlets reported that several MLAs, including Morton, were prepared to quit over the budget, which is expected to include another deficit of nearly $5 billion.
“When budgets are put together, there is a large divergence of opinion,” said Morton, when asked about this.
“We have some arguments, those arguments can get pretty strenuous. There are a lot of compromises, everyone has to give up something,” he said.
“Am I completely happy with last year’s budget? No, probably the premier isn’t either. I tell you Dave Hancock isn’t happy either but at the end of the day we make a decision and everyone supports it.”
Stelmach told reporters the budget would not gut funding to municipalities, health projects, schools or road construction.
Since Stelmach’s announcement, several other cabinet ministers, including Doug Horner, Alison Redford and Lindsay Blackett have said publicly they are also considering putting their name forward for the upcoming leadership race.