The Fascinating Candidacy of Danielle Smith

I’ll start with a bold prediction that might eventually make me look like a fool: Danielle Smith is the greatest threat to the Tory dynasty in Alberta since Laurence Decore.

This is high praise for someone who has yet to win a seat in the legislature, or her party’s leadership, and only publicly launched her leadership campaign four days ago for a party that currently does not have a single seat in the legislature. Furthermore, many people have looked foolish betting against the Tories and the current Premier. Nonetheless, I believe she has the most potential to shake up the political landscape of anyone who has come along in the past 15 years.

Reading her speech to the WRAP convention from this weekend, I can’t help but be impressed. I don’t agree with her vision, but I’ll grant that it’s a heck of a speech. She articulates a clear message about business and fiscal responsibility in this province, and where the current government has erred. She makes an emotional connection to the audience, first by relating her family’s experiences from the recession of the 1980s, then by explaining her involvement with the PC Party and why she left. Finally, the requisite Trudeau dig aside, she gives a speech that avoids demagoguery, ad hominem attacks, and instead relies on a well-constructed argument that she backs up with facts and figures.

Following the 2008 election, there was much ado about problems on the left – vote-splitting, issues with the Liberal brand, and so forth. There is much talk about – through merger, rebranding, or creating a new party – some action to consolidate centre-left voters and disaffected Tories. After more than a year, there is no public evidence that such outcome is any closer to reality. The left remains divided, lacking an idea, institution, or person it can rally around, and disaffected Tories are left searching for the lesser of the evils and hoping for something better.

However, flying under the radar were issues that might lead to a surge of support for a centre-right, fiscally conservative party: the high spending, and sudden reappearance of a deficit in the provincial budget; controversy surrounding the new royalties regime; the appearance that the government lacks big ideas. All three of these topics are covered in Smith’s speech.

While the 2008 election saw the WRAP lose their only seat, they have nonetheless seen an uptake in donations, largely from businesses disenchanted with the government. Their conservative credentials are unquestioned, and they could take advantage of a potential rift between the Tories and their federal counterparts. Most importantly, if they choose a fresh, young leader like Smith, they can make the Tories suddenly seem old and stale. She can generate excitement and interest in a province where it’s sorely lacking. It’s tough to predict the future, but the Tories would seem to be a lock to win the 2012 election. Beyond that, if the Alliance gains a beachhead in that race, they could grow fast.

The last transfer of power between parties – the 1971 defeat of the Social Credit Party at the hands of the Progressive Conservatives – was less about ideology, and more about image. There was little that separated the two parties policy-wise. But Peter Lougheed and his team were new, fresh, and energetic. The SoCreds were a tired government, and failed to bring forward new ideas and new personalities. The same opportunity exists for the Alliance here. Most of the new faces in the Tory government are still buried in junior cabinet posts or the backbenches. More and more voters see them as lacking ideas. Can a new, fresh face bring about the downfall of the mighty Tory dynasty? It might take her 2-3 elections, but I’d bet on Danielle Smith before I bet on any of the other alternatives.

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13 Responses

  1. I couldn’t possibly disagree more. The Wildrose Alliance is nothing more than a fringe party competing with the Social Credit. It is going nowhere.

    I don’t like Stelmach but his party best represents the views of Albertans.

  2. Peter D is correct. The WAP is too disfunctional and distant from core Albertan plurality and inclusiveness values. She will be Sarah Palin but brighter. That means she will be a media darling but not seen as a viable alternative to represent the change we need to make in governance for Alberta. If progressives don’t show up – the social conservatives will and voila – we see the WAP becoming very successful politically.

  3. The Tories are long overdue for implosion.

    The weight of Danielle Smith’s intelligence, integrity, and telegenicity will be more than enough to collapse them.

    Stelmach and his gang are utterly bankrupt intellectually, morally, spiritually, and politically.

    Criticism of Danielle Smith at this point can only be a) paid; b) reactionary; c) envy-based; d) sexist (sorry, but it seems to be emerging as a negative factor, now); e) by buffoon Craig Chandler (who is hurting the already poor chances of the otherwise decent Mark Deerholm);

    I have not bought a membership to Wildrose Alliance. But I can tell you as of right now Danielle Smith is sorely tempting me to do so.

    Let’s give her a chance to show she can do this — and be the giant-slayer.

  4. Well-articulated blog post, Alex.

    I’ve read Smith’s speech and while it was good, it does gloss over an important point or two. The major one being that conventional oil is in decline in Alberta, and has been for many years. Her stories about the oilpatch do not reflect the totality of industry in the province. The industry is shifting into oil sands, SAGD, coal gas and other unconventional means of production that aren’t accounted for by statistics gleaned from Baker Hughes rig counts.

    Secondly, while I don’t want to make excuses for the Stelmach regime, there is a global financial crisis that is causing a collapse of government receipts all over the world. Granting, of course, that it’s probably not too wise to re-jigger royalty regimes and in turn add uncertainty to an already chaotic world.

    And finally, it would be useful to note that while we have nine upgraders on hold in Alberta, many of those projects were debt financed, and the recent liquidity crunch in financial markets is a logical reason for their delay.

    I’ll reserve judgement in light of these errors of omission while crossing my fingers that someone may actually provide an alternative to the status quo. If it’s not Danielle Smith, it’s going to be another person. It seems many Albertans are looking for the next Premier and next ruling party. Maybe we need to have an “As Premier” contest on CTV or Global to draw some of these people out of the woodwork.

  5. This lady deserves watching. I was around when Lougheed dumped the Soc Creds that had been in power for 23 years. When Alberta switches it switches fast. With clear cut policies and honest upfront dialogue, Danielle could rock the halls of the legislature.

  6. Danielle Smith will be no different that Morton, Byfield and Chandler. By that, I mean she will try and shove the bible down our throats, while all the time telling us how libertarian she is. Albertans don’t want to be told how to live their lives.

  7. I’d keep an eye on her for sure. She’s a very impressive candidate, who will be taken seriously by the media. I’m not saying she’ll win the election, but a Wild Rose breakthrough of 5-8 seats and a good chunk of the popular vote is certainly possible.

    And, who knows what happens the time after that…

  8. If the WRAP can do two things, I will give them a look:

    1) Change their name. They need to create a NEW conservative brand; and

    2) Come out against extreme right-wing social positions. Fiscal conservatives, OK, but they will flounder if they keep their right-wing religious nutbag reputation.

  9. You wrote:
    “There is much talk about – through merger, rebranding, or creating a new party – some action to consolidate centre-left voters and disaffected Tories. After more than a year, there is no public evidence that such outcome is any closer to reality.”

    Keep your eye on the scene and you might be surprised. There’s a new, vibrant movement arising including many progressives — Greens, NDs, and Liberals — in both Calgary and Edmonton who are now organizing and will be pushing for strategic voting in the election – (DRPCalgary.com and DRProject.ca Edmonton).

    You’re right that they’re not quite on the public radar yet, but their voice isn’t one I’d discount down the road.

  10. Smith? Dyrholm at least as principles. Having said that they are both pieces of shit.

  11. I disagree completely. The only opportunity that exists for Smith or any other leader of this fringe party is to split the right-wing vote and elect a bunch of Liberals.

    I don’t like a few things the PC party has done, but I don’t like some of the things the feds have done either (i.e. income trusts). My vote stays parked with the party with a proven track record.

  12. […] the Wildrose Alliance Party held a leadership forum in Edmonton. Being a follower of politics, and particularly interested in the candidacy of Danielle Smith, I had to check it out. You can see my photo gallery here, and read my thoughts […]

  13. […] months ago, Danielle Smith first caught my attention, after she delivered what I thought was a very savvy speech at her party’s AGM. She […]

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