The number of incumbent Wildrose politicians who will be running in what many expect will be a spring election has dropped to three after house leader Shayne Saskiw announced Thursday that he is leaving politics.
Saskiw, 33, said he will not seek re-election in his constituency of Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills, but will stay on for now.
"You just become a bit disillusioned with politics altogether," Saskiw said, referring particularly to 11 former Wildrose colleagues who crossed the floor late last year to join Premier Jim Prentice and the Progressive Conservatives.
"One day, individuals are talking about keeping taxes low, not going into debt, and the next day they're saying the complete opposite," said Saskiw.
"Now is the time to push for a model that pressures politicians to keep their word and their promises, and that to me is outside of the traditional party model."
Saskiw is in his first term as a member of the legislature after defeating PC cabinet minister Ray Danyluk by a tight margin in the 2012 election.
Saskiw said he has found the legislature to be a "flawed model" for getting things done. Partisan fighting among parties prevents valuable collaborative work on legislation, he suggested. And true change is blunted when politicians arrive promising bold change, but instead craft minor policy alterations to remain popular.
"I see a fair amount of people who are just in it for a job and a paycheque."
Saskiw said he expects a safe approach in Prentice's March 26 budget, which is expected to be followed within days by an election call.
Prentice has said the budget will reflect sacrifice and budget cuts to help replace billions of dollars taken from the treasury due to low oil prices.
But Saskiw expects Prentice to deliver something far softer before going to the polls.
"You're going to see a centre-of-the-road budget despite all of the tough talk."
The Wildrose became Alberta's official Opposition when 17 party members were elected in 2012, but only Pat Stier, Drew Barnes and Rick Strankman are running again.
Interim leader Heather Forsyth announced some time ago that she would not seek re-election. Joe Anglin quit caucus in November and sits as an Independent.