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
Interesting in what the polls tell. If only about half of the UCP voted for DS that means that there is only about 17% of Albertans that may agree with DS. Of course this is all unscientific and only my imagination. As to fixing historical staffing shortages in 90 days truly shows that DS is clueless. I predict that her disruption will affect peoples lives in the most literal sense. Especially anyone who needs healthcare and anyone who works within the healthcare system.
Mary Jane: I saw an article by journalist Jason Markusoff who said less than 4% of Albertans voted for Smith. Given that it took 6 rounds before Smith finally made it over the 50% threshold I suspect that many in that 4% didn’t expect her to win.
You’re absolutely right about the upheaval Smith’s reorganization of AHS will cause. I used to work in a large corporation that underwent a few reorganizations. Productivity plummeted and paranoia went through the roof while people waited to see whether they’d still have a job when it was all over.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t take a look at how to improve our public healthcare system, but this is not the way to do it.
Govt Departments, that manage renewable resources & protect the environment, have been shuffled and renamed so many times in the past 3 decades that it is impossible to interpret the goofy titles given to the multitude of executives and their assistants. Meanwhile in the field (where science happens) fisheries managers have the same staffing as existed 50 years ago.
I expect we’ll all be getting a couple of hundred dollars from Dani Warbucks and told to heal ourselves. That’ll be it for health in this province. We can thank 1.9 percent of Albertans for doing this to us. Thanks for nothing.
Albertarian: well, that would certainly fit in with Danielle Smith’s belief in choice and the wonders of ivermectin, etc. God we’re in for a rough ride.
I am trying to see things from Dangerous Danielle’s perspective but I can’t get my head that far up my a$$. This woman is crazy and will get what she deserves but unfortunately, average Albertans, who she is marginalizing, will be the collateral damage. And no businesses will be attracted to lawless Alberta. What a disaster
Sharon, I heard Justin Ling, the journalist who first reported on Smith’s posts to the Locals.com private site, on CBC radio. He’s of the view that Smith truly believes the malarkey she’s been spewing. Which, as he said, is truly terrifying because it shows she’s incapable of separating fact from fiction or of even doing a bit of research to confirm the stuff she’s reading is true before she endorses it. (All you have to do is google Ukraine nuclear weapons to discover Ukraine agreed to give up the Soviet nukes stationed in Ukraine in 1994).
And the Sovereignty Act…God, don’t get me started!
Excellent commentary Susan 😊 she needs to call an election and then she can say she speaks for all Albertans 😞
Bota28. I agree with you. Smith claims she’s simply picking up the mandate Albertans gave Kenney. This is interesting because Kenney denounced the Alberta Sovereignty Act, and not once did he say anything about reorganizing AHS. Nevertheless Smith is going ahead with both.
I’m an RN with 30+ years of experience. I’ve NEVER seen vacancies on my unit last more than a month (there’s been 6 for over a year now), and today there were 1300 postings for nurses within AHS. That excludes Caritas. #notmanufactured
Karen, thank you for giving us a much needed reality check!
Perhaps she is the message Albertans need to hear. There’s usually a price to pay for thumbing your nose at reality, the rule of law, and common sense. Too many of us have watched from the sidelines as things got crazier in our province. Perhaps its time to engage with politicians who do their homework………seek out some good candidates planning to run against her and her party, and do some door knocking.
Its always good to talk to our neighbours.
It’s absolutely the right time to get involved in the political process to ensure that the ill informed, shallow and delusional Premier Daniel Smith is defeated as soon as possible… she has no mandate to be making the decisions and actions she is undertaking. Get involved everyone and make a real difference in the future if our province! Now is the time !
Ingamarie and Deb: I 100% agree with you. If these kooks get re-elected in May we’ll have no one to blame but ourselves. I was reading about how hard the Take Back Alberta group worked to get control of the UCP. They’ve been traveling around the province for over a year, meeting people in parking lots, pushing their freedom message and getting people to stand for election to the UCP board. They say their next objective is to defeat the NDP in the next election. We have to work just as hard, if not harder, to make sure they don’t succeed.
Your mention of Land Titles made me wonder about the reports of delays in land transfers. Is the UCP trying to break it so it will be easier to make the case for selling it and the other registries to some private operator?
That’s their MO for destroying every other functioning, publicly provided service, so don’t see why this should be any different
MaggieC and Goinfawr: I’ve heard the same thing. The LTO used to slow down to a snail’s pace in boom times because it couldn’t keep up with the volume of transactions, but I don’t think that the case here. I wonder how much covid-related absences are playing into it.
In any event we’re now in the situation where the premier thinks the LTO is just another layer of bureaucracy (as GoinFawr says, her modus operandi would be to under-resource it, let it fail, and then privatize it).
But as I said, the part that floored me was she had no idea of the legal function it serves. Did she buy all her properties with cash, no bank mortgages, no builder’s liens, no caveats, nothing registered against the title? If not, her naivety is staggering.
Susan: Thanks for another great blog. Danielle Smith is certainly going to do a lot of damage, as she tries to do damage control from all her gaffes. For an unelected premier, she has a lot of ideas, that are quite risky and costly. Liz Truss is an apt comparison. So is Kim Campbell, who replaced Brian Mulroney, almost 30 years ago. I’ll share some more fitting music. This is a song from The James Gang in 1971, called Walk Away. It features Joe Walsh on guitar and vocals, later of The Eagles, Dale Peters on bass, and Jimmy Fox on drums. I do have this in my music collection, and Joe Walsh also played James Gang songs, when I saw the Eagles live in 2013.
Susan: Here’s my final song pick. This is a Bobby Womack and Shirley Jean Womack song, which the Rolling Stones covered in 1964, It’s All Over Now. This is also in my music collection, and I did see the Rolling Stones live, 25 years ago, this month. This song seems fitting.
Dwayne, thanks for the music. I fervently hope that “It’s all over now” will soon become Danielle Smith’s theme song.
Thanks for reminding us about Kim Campbell. There are quite a few similarities between the two leaders.
Campbell became the PC’s leader when Mulroney, facing a statutory election date and declining popularity, decided to step down. Campbell was elected party leader and plunged headlong into the federal election where the PCs were clobbered by the Liberals. The PCs sold their souls to the Reform Party and Harper’s Conservatives finally made it back into power 13 years later.
I suspect the UCP will splinter if Smith loses the 2023 election and she, like Campbell, will go down in Canadian history as one of the most unsuccessful politicians on record.
Time will tell.
Susan: I recall Kim Campbell saying things that didn’t resonate too well with voters, especially younger voters. That’s why she got defeated. This is another cold and harsh reality that the UCP has to deal with.
For better or for worse, I suspect Smith will last somewhat longer than Truss. First of all, in the UK, Conservatives are well more conservative and haven’t fallen quite as much for faux populism which seems to be so fashionable now in North American right wing circles. Secondly, Smith does not have a national economy to derail, so she will not get the clear market punishment that was so quickly given to Truss. People do notice when interest rates suddenly go up and the value of their currency plummets.
Fortunately, unlike the UK, we have a provincial government much closer to the end of its mandate. UK Conservatives realized still had some time to get their act together, if they acted quickly with Truss, which they did. Here, that would be difficult. So, in Alberta the real verdict will likely be delivered by the voters.
However, what Truss and Smith do have in common is bad ideas. Both are also examples of what can happen when a few party members out of touch with the mainstream decide on who the next leader will be. Of course the UCP was particularly ripe for a fringe take over. It was a new party, whose members had conflicting loyalties or loyalty to nothing but staying in power. It was unpopular, the previous membership was not that motivated and they were desperate to find a leader who might turn things around. So just then in walks a smooth talking candidate with a lot of glib answers.
The UCP has made its choice and will have to live with it, as will the rest of us for a while, but fortunately Alberta voters will soon have the final say.
Dave, these are very good points. I was just looking through some of the emails I’ve received from the fringe groups (I don’t know how I ended up on their email lists). All of them are patting themselves on the back for getting Smith elected, but they’re also saying that they’re watching her closely to ensure she delivers, failing which they’ll oust her.
They’re prepared to split away from the UCP and form their own party. As David Parker of Take Back Alberta said, they’ve already got the Buffalo Party waiting in the wings should the need arise.
Smith may be loony but I thing (hope?) there are still a few UCP MLAs with the backbone to pull her back off the ledge. When that happens, the fringe will rebel and that will be the end of Smith and the UCP.
I also believe that there is a great difference between the 2 but I fully understand what Susan is trying to talk about and of course I agree they both already live in a world that few of us understand or desire.
Neither Truss or Smith have ever experienced their version of Conservative Populism because in fact they do not exist and I doubt they can exist in a democratic context. Anything that extreme, like for example communism, needs a lot of controls to function, which is exactly what they do not want. Expecting a libertarian society to operate without any regulations is to me as credible as a unicorn.
Danielle Smith is a good saleswoman and she can easily convince her very smart UCP followers of stuff like the Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine as per whatever she heard in weird sites that only people of her low reason function understand or pay attention because anything that requires research and deeper reading she will not get it. In fact I am not sure she can read anything and learn other than conspiracy theories and slogans.
A person that cannot figure out truth from conspiracy theories is now our premier. This is the person who wants to change our Health Services even without ever being elected to the Legislature. This is, by her definition, a person that loves freedom. She just forgot to define what is her concept of freedom. To her it seems that anything like science and facts is totally unnecessary and she thinks that the people that chose not to get vaccinated are the ones that understand real freedom. According to her, in her lifetime they were the most discriminated people in Canada. WOW I wonder if she ever noticed at least our indigenous peoples. This alone defines her character well.
She is indeed very persuasive and she knows well how to manage crowds to her benefit but that will not be enough. I am not sure how she will convince those of us closer to reality to follow her circus.
To me, she is a black belt opportunist.
Carlos, well said. You and Dave pointed out some very real differences in the Truss/Smith political environment, but we all agree that both Truss and Smith were hardcore libertarians who believed an unfettered free market would be the panacea. When Truss got the chance to test her ideology in the real world it all fell apart. I believe the same will happen here with Smith.
Like many populists Smith provides simple solutions to complex problems, only to discover later that these simple solutions don’t work. Sadly the first place she’s going to test her “simple” solution is on AHS. She’s going to get rid of the “bureaucracy” and likely privatizing whatever she can and we’ll end up worse off than before.
Thank you for your comment. Always great to get some feedback and find out what people are thinking.
I just wanted to say that I agree with you about the populists easy answers to complex problems. We saw time and time again how Jason Kenney really failed with his easy solutions. Unfortunately I think Danielle Smith is going to be worse because she is more extremist than Jason Kenney. Interesting what this magician will bring about?
Carlos, I’m afraid I agree with you 100%. It’s going to be a rough ride.
I’d like to have some of the names attached to Take Back Alberta, so I know which businesses to boycott.
Erin I’m looking for the news article about David Parker which listed the 9 TBA candidates who were elected to the UCP board. When I find it I’ll update this comment. In the meantime here’s a link to the UCP page listing the board’s directors. I know that Vince Byfield, Mark Hunt, Calen Warkintin and Elbert van Hierden are TBA candidates. I’ll see if I can find the article which lists all the rest. I wonder how long Cynthia Moore (president) is going to last. She was very closely aligned with Jason Kenney’s agenda. https://www.unitedconservative.ca/about/
Most Premiers,Prime Ministers, Mayors, and elected officials get a Honeymoon period. DS needs a time out as she is at annulment stage. The clowns that put her in this position should have to take a good look at themselves and of course DS a train wreck in the making!!!!
Paul, you’re right that DS is not going to get a honeymoon.
TBA, Project Confederation, the Alberta Institute, and the rest of those far right groups are watching her like a hawk to ensure she gives them what they want. Meanwhile the Kenney-type UCPers are shell shocked by the TBA takeover of the UCP board and their party. Smith’s cabinet is too large which means it will take longer to make decisions (unless she brings the hammer down on them, in which case they’ll say she’s just as bad as Kenney). And she’s made two tricky promises: get the Sovereignty Act passed and “fix” AHS in 90 days. The House doesn’t get back until the end of November which means she doesn’t have much time to do anything before the Christmas break and when they come back in January she’ll be in full bore election mode to get ready for the May 29 election.
What could possibly go wrong?
Susan: There seems to be no end to what Danielle Smith is doing wrong.
Dwayne, can you imagine having the hubris to say the experts have let you down so you’re just not going to listen to them anymore when the experts she’s complaining about are the healthcare professionals who got us through covid in the first place (notwithstanding Kenney’s reluctance to impose vaccine mandates).
But then again, if you believe the conspiracy theories around covid, then you’ll reject the advice you get from the experts, won’t you.
What a mess.
The school principal elected by truants.
Mike: this is why I think DS won’t last too long. By all accounts she blew up the Calgary school board. She definitely blew up the Wildrose when she crossed the floor to join the Prentice government. There’s no way she can appease the fringe who got her elected and carry out her duties as premier representing ALL Albertans. It’s just a matter of time.
It is dismaying to see just how limited she is. The carries part of the patina of a leader in the body politic but there seems to be absolutely no substance. That lack of discernment means she also misunderstands even her own “core” support. I don’t think she can help but inadvertently pit them against each other. Of course, in the meantime, that is small comfort to Albertans and our institutions.
I wonder how often our new queen has heard the phrase “No, you can’t do that.” She’ll be hearing it a LOT as she tries to push through her agenda.
Mike J: she’s put herself between a rock and a hard place. The political science prof, Lisa Young, wrote a piece saying Smith might be curbed somewhat by the “bumpers”– the apolitical public service whose job it is to help her deliver on her agenda without breaking the law, and the UCP caucus. However Smith might sabotage herself by getting rid of top ranking public servants (for some reason she thinks they’re loyal to Notley even though they served Kenney for the last 3 years) and pushing caucus too hard (they weren’t exactly stalwart supporters in the leadership race, were they).
We’ll know soon enough!
Here’s Lisa’s article https://lisayoung.substack.com/p/bowling-with-danielle
At least that poll is heartening, thanks Susan.
Why is Danielle Smith looking to require municipalities’ politicians to register as lobbyists?
“What is the problem they’re trying to solve?” – Okotoks Mayor Tanya Thorn
GoinFawr: that one stumped me as well. The practice of registering lobbyists is based on a desire for transparency. The public wants to know who’s lobbying the government and whether they succeeded. But the feds and the municipalities are pretty obvious when they’re working with the province. There are big announcements all over the place saying “look we’re in this great partnership, aren’t we wonderful!” I can’t tell whether Smith is trying to create the impression that the feds and municipalities are sneaky (like those corporations that hire lobbyists to pitch their case to the government) or what.
It’s hard to tell with Danielle Smith.
She (and her cohort?) seem to not understand that municipalities are part of the institution we call Alberta.
Whether or not Smith is a huckster like Little PP or if she really does believe what she is selling, it doesn’t matter. She is the Premier and will turn this province upside down for the next several months, or longer, if she so desires. Who is there to reign her in? Her Cabinet is more than compliant, the backbenchers will do as told and Post Media will never utter a discouraging word. Fasten your seat belts and welcome to the Danielle Smith revenge tour.
As for the recent polling numbers, this is still her election to lose.
Jaundiced Eye, you’re right. It doesn’t matter whether she’s a huckster or a true blue conspiracy nutcase, the end result is the same. Yesterday I sent letters to everyone who ran against her in the leadership race (except Todd Loewen) asking them to exercise their influence to temper her in her mad rush to reform the province in the next 7 months.
Contrary to UPC-leader Danielle Smith’s criticism, minority governments like the confidence-and-supply agreement between the federal Liberals and NDP are probably the closest that Canadians will get to fully democratic governance, i.e. proportional representation. Sadly, many mainstream news-media consumers may never know it.
Minority governments, like the confidence-and-supply agreement between the federal Liberals and NDP, are probably the closest that Canadians will get to fully democratic proportional representative governance.
In federal-electorate popular-vote support, that received by the NDP and Liberal parties combined typically significantly outweighs that for the Conservative party. (In last September’s election, those parties garnered 17.80%, 32.60% and 33.70%, respectively.) To me, that’s definitely a more democratically representative governance than if, as with this case, the Conservatives rule with much less of the popular vote.
Following the 2021 election, there was abundant news-media commentary about the likely-otherwise-Tory electorate that defected to Maxime Bernier’s PPC camp thus potentially costing the Tories election-winning seats. Yet I heard nothing about the usual center-left vote-splitting between the Liberals and NDP, which, I believe, often enables the Tories to squeeze up the middle.
All of this, of course, is basically thanks to our first-past-the-post electoral system, which to me barely qualifies as democratic rule within the democracy spectrum and is least representative of the electorate as a whole. Additionally, I understand, such low-representation governments are therefore easier for lobbyists to manipulate, something the same said news-media typically don’t mention.
fgsjr2015: well said. The only thing I can think of off the top of my head that’s worse as a system of democratic rule is the American electoral college system which is even more wonky.
It is strange, isn’t it. And the U.S. also uses the flawed FPTP system, although it seems to well-serve corporate interests.
I believe it’s basically why powerful corporate and big money interests generally resist attempts at changing from FPTP to proportional representation electoral systems of governance, the latter which dilutes corporate lobbyist influence.
Low-representation FPTP-elected governments, in which a relatively small portion of the country’s populace is actually electorally represented, are likely the easiest for lobbyists to manipulate or ‘buy’.
While legislation and governance can get stalled thus take longer with the truly democratic proportional representation electoral system, it is worth it for those of us who insist that our vote truly counts.
Meanwhile, the political parties’ leadership elections are more-democratically decided by (I believe it is) a ranked-choice ballot system, that typically results in multiple counts. We, the commoners, apparently are unworthy of such democratically representative choice; we are unworthy of not potentially having 15-20 percent of the nation’s populace deciding how we all are 100-percent ruled?
Glad to see that we are opening up to change our electoral system. The First Past the Post is a thing of the past in democratic terms. We need better systems and they are available. Having Federal. provincial and municipal governments allows us to try different systems. Just staying with what we have just because it came from Britain and great grandpa used it does not mean they make any sense
Interesting comments, thanks fgsjr2015
It appears the inmates are running the asylum. Did anyone else read about how the UCP passed a motion – incidentally, Ms. Smith was against it as per the report – that requires municipal representatives – your majors, councillors & the like – to register as lobbyists in order to be able to raise concerns regarding provincial policies? Your vote: does not necessarily mean the folks you actually elected can speak for you. When questioned about this latest obstacle to democratic dialogue, the reply was on the order of ‘we aren’t actually going to make them do it’. Really? Yet the UCP voted in favor of the measure. It is now approved policy. The gun is loaded, the safety is off, my finger is tightening on the trigger & the gun is pointed at you but – I don’t actually intend to use it. I’m sure you feel ever so reassured.