In less time than it took Liz Truss to crash and burn, Danielle Smith transformed the United Conservative Party into the Libertarian Populist Party. And that’s why they’ll lose in the next election.
Smith has been the LPP’s leader for just over two weeks.
In that time she’s demonstrated that she’s fluent in the populists’ language. She spoke it before she became premier when she speculated Putin may have been justified in invading Ukraine (yes, she’s since apologized for her “ill-informed” comment, feel free to applaud her for catching up with the rest of the world).
And she’s speaking it now with her vigorous defence of the unvaxxed, apologies and pardons all around for the most discriminated-against group she’s seen in her lifetime.
Her supporters say these are just “blips” which are to be expected when a civilian moves into a public life. Really? Smith led the Wildrose from 2009 to 2014, she’s an experienced politician.
She may have been a civilian when she made online posts* expressing harebrained ideas ranging from alternative covid remedies to buying and selling property using crypto, thereby eliminating the “bureaucracy” of going through Land Titles. She doesn’t appear to understand that the Torrens system of land registry provides conclusive proof of title and protects third party interests (like her bank mortgage) registered against the property.
Smith’s “blips” are not innocent misstatements. They’re glaring examples of poor judgment and a wobbly grasp of reality.
Liz Truss, another libertarian with an alarming lack of understanding of the real world, blazed ahead with her ill-informed economic plan and almost crashed the British economy.
Likewise, Smith is forging ahead with her Sovereignty Act so Alberta will no longer have “to ask permission from Ottawa to be prosperous and free.” The fact that the Act rips up the rule of law and will surely fail when it’s tested in the courts, is irrelevant as long as it served its purpose which was to sweep her into the premier’s office.
Not content to increase Albertans’ animosity toward Ottawa, she’s creating strife within Alberta by viciously attacking our healthcare system.
Smith accused AHS of manufacturing staffing shortages and blocking therapeutics to treat covid and, wait for it, being in cahoots with the World Economic Forum (a perennial target of conspiracy theorists).
She’s assured her populist supporters that she’ll dramatically reorganize AHS, weeding out the miscreants, while at the same time bringing top tier healthcare to all, and she’ll do it in 90 days.
One wonders whether the premier, who has an answer for everything, is aware of the scope of this undertaking.
AHS has over 900 facilities across the province, including 106 acute care hospitals, 5 stand-alone psychiatric facilities, and numerous cancer centres and community health sites. It has more than 100,000 direct employees. Another 12,500 work in wholly owned subsidiaries like Precision Labs. And more than 10,900 physicians practice in Alberta.
The worry that AHS will be a chaotic mess 90 days from now is creating real stress for healthcare workers across the province just when they need every ounce of fortitude to face the next wave of covid.
The populists are watching
Take Back Alberta, a grassroots group “built to advance freedom and transfer power from the ruling elite to the people,” takes credit for leading the charge against Jason Kenney. TBA identified Smith and another leadership candidate as their “freedom candidates” and was delighted when Smith became UCP leader and premier.
Having successfully replaced Kenney with Smith, TBA’s next target was the UCP board of directors, because they believe it’s the Board’s job to keep the premier in line. The TBA’s slate of nominees were elected to the UCP board at last week’s AGM.
TBA has a number of goals including stopping any future vaccine mandates, preventing future lockdowns and restructuring AHS. All of which Smith has promised to do.
One can only wonder what TBA will demand of her next…and how they’ll react if she’s unable to deliver because while they may be able to influence the party leader, the premier is answerable to all Albertans.
If Smith loses the populists’ support, she’ll crash headlong into reality.
First, she wasn’t the United Conservative Party members’ first choice (or second, or third, or fourth, or fifth) because she’s just too much of a wingnut.
Second, since she’s been elected the UCP is trailing the NDP in the polls, 53% to 38%.
Truss lasted 45 days. How long with Smith last in the real world?
*reported by freelance journalists Justin Ling and Jeremy Appel