Darwin Awards, the political edition: So long to Danielle Smith, turncoat former Alberta Opposition leader

Posted on March 29, 2015, 1:48 am
6 mins

PHOTOS: Danielle Smith introduces Alberta Premier Jim Prentice to the friendly folks of Okotoks, the principal community of her Highwood riding south of Calgary. Apparently the scene portrayed in this screen capture from her PC nomination campaign website was not exactly as illustrated. Below: Newly elected Wildrose Party Leader Brian Jean (CBC photo); successful PC nominee Carrie Fischer (High River Times); and de facto Alberta premier Preston Manning.

Surely if there were a political edition of the Darwin Awards, former Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith would be a nominee tonight.

Barely a year ago, as leader of the Opposition Wildrose Party, Ms. Smith was seen as all but a certainty to be the next premier of Alberta, as Alison Redford’s catastrophic tenure in the province’s top political job neared its calamitous end.

BRIAN_JEAN(CBC)Then came the replacement of Ms. Redford as leader of the moth-eaten Progressive Conservative dynasty by Jim Prentice, a seemingly competent politician if not exactly a bonfire of charisma. This was a tough break, but hardly insurmountable, no matter what the Highwood MLA and her rapidly diminishing circle of supporters claimed afterward.

Then came the bizarre and craven deal to surrender the supposedly more principled Wildrose caucus to the Tories, purportedly because Mr. Prentice was the resurrection of true conservatism in PC ranks, but more likely because orders had come down from the Manning Centre, for all intents and purposes the political wing of the oilpatch.

For her troubles, Ms. Smith and many of the other 11 members of the 17-MLA Wildrose caucus that accepted the unwholesome Tory embrace were promised cabinet posts and influence in the Prentice Government – a deal that lasted barely 48 hours after the MLAs who had stuck it out through the Redford nightmare inside the PC caucus rebelled.

Many of Ms. Smith’s former supporters in the Wildrose Party were furious at her betrayal – and justly so – and large numbers of PC supporters were not all that enthusiastic about the idea of someone who had been slamming them for three years in the Legislature being welcomed to sit in the party’s front benches. Unlike Ms. Redford, who tried recently to make the claim, Ms. Smith truly had become the most polarizing figure in Alberta politics.

FISCHERAirdrie MLA Rob Anderson, Ms. Smith’s House Leader and finance critic, faced the same backlash and had the good sense to get out with a few tattered remnants of dignity. He can “pursue new opportunities” for a couple of years with the not unreasonable hope of making a political comeback.

Not Ms. Smith. Scorned by her former party, distrusted by members of her new one, the former Fraser Institute apparatchik ran for the PC nomination in her old riding anyway against Carrie Fischer, a popular town councillor from Okotoks, apparently confident she could win with the support of Premier Prentice despite her recent history.

Yesterday, party members in Highwood handed Ms. Smith her walking papers. Her elected political career is done like dinner.

Mr. Prentice has hardly emerged from this debacle crowned with glory either.

You can decide if yesterday’s vote result means Tory party voters distrust Mr. Prentice almost as much as they had come to dislike Ms. Smith, or if he ruthlessly cut her loose when his promises to her turned out to be inconvenient.

ManningIf you’re wondering about the calming promises made in the budget that was tabled on Thursday by Mr. Prentice’s finance minister, Robin Campbell, Ms. Smith’s fate yesterday is something to think about.

Holding the Highwoods nomination vote on the same day as Ms. Smith’s former party was scheduled to choose a new leader was supposed to be a brilliant stroke of political gamesmanship. Instead, it may have breathed new life into the effort by the successful candidate, former Fort McMurray Athabasca MP Brian Jean, to resurrect the nearly moribund Wildrose Party.

We’ll see about that. Mr. Jean, not long ago the underemployed Crossword King of Parliament Hill, still has many obstacles to success to overcome. Just the same, yesterday didn’t exactly turn out to be the worst possible day for the new Wildrose leader.

As for his party’s former leader, about the only question remaining is whether she will beat it out of town as Ms. Redford did, or stick around and wait for some half-hearted consolation prize from Mr. Prentice. Too bad 2011 front-runner Gary Mar’s former position in Hong Kong has already been filled!

And as for the real premier of Alberta, well, Preston Manning probably now has some more work to do to ensure the universe unfolds as it should.

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

10 Comments to: Darwin Awards, the political edition: So long to Danielle Smith, turncoat former Alberta Opposition leader

  1. TC

    March 29th, 2015

    If I live in Highwood, I’d have bought a PC membership just so that I can vote against Danielle Smith. While her elected political career is over, for some reason, I feel that this isn’t the end of her political career.

    Reply
    • Sam Gunsch

      March 30th, 2015

      TC says: ‘ I feel that this isn’t the end of her political career.’

      I agree. Calgary’s corporate/petro-elite will likely think of a role for her.

      Below at the link: the same family is ID’d that hired her in the first place because Stelmach’s PC’s weren’t paying sufficient obseisance. Alberta-stan raising royalties review!

      Getty, Klein had properly governed AB in joint-venture with them.

      Then, OMG! shades of Lougheed’s ‘think like an owner’ re AB’s assets.

      Smith to the rescue as telegenic front.

      http://calgaryherald.com/news/local-news/the-princess-of-alberta-leaves-public-life-behind-after-pc-nomination-defeat?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

      excerpt: ‘She was soon recruited by Calgary oilman John Murdoch to join the fledgling Wildrose Alliance and later secured the 2009 leadership contest — attracting nearly half a million dollars from business and oilpatch leaders.’

      Now that they successfully recruited Prentice to manage the joint-venture in the proper way — i.e. no corp. tax increases, and no royalty increases — they’ll keep Smith for market fundamentalist corporate propaganda role outside.

      They might re-invent some new sort of think tank for her. Can never have too many to make sure the media is saturated.

      My guess, anyways.

      Reply
  2. Bob

    March 29th, 2015

    Smith succeeded when she kept her market fundamentalist policies. When she went to the far left and supported the PC’s and Prentice, she abandoned these policies. Market fundamentalism is what Albertans want and that’s the reason for her failure.

    Reply
    • Athabascan

      March 29th, 2015

      Good one troll!

      Maybe you’ve abandoned your market fundamentalist roots too. After all, aren’t you commenting on David’s blog? Did you forget to make a donation for that privilege, or are you another socialist moocher?

      How do we know you are a “real” Albertan anyway, and not so Toronto socialist masquerading as a dyed in the wool tea bagger/republican/fundamentalist/Reaganite like the rest of us true Albertans?

      Yeah, I don’t think you are far right enough. You should look in the mirror for tinges of red.

      Reply
    • anon

      March 29th, 2015

      Prentice and the PCs are “far left” you say? Amusing, but you are going to need medicare to get that tongue out of your cheek.

      Reply
  3. Bloozguy

    March 29th, 2015

    I assume she will pop up soon in a federal riding near you ….

    Reply
  4. Ward

    March 29th, 2015

    In Smith’s concession speech after her loss she sang the praises of Mr. Prentice and repeated the mantra all conservatives must unite behind the Premier to deal with the urgent financial crisis brought on by low oil prices. Does no one remember the recent history of oil prices? In 2009 oil plunged to less than $40 a barrel. Between 2000 and 2004 the price of oil ranged between $20 and $40 a barrel. Claiming current oil prices pose a generational financial crisis to Alberta is laughable.

    Fluctuations in oil prices are to be expected. Planing for low prices during the good times would make todays “financial crisis” a bump in the road.

    Reply
  5. Jared Milne

    March 29th, 2015

    The funny thing is, if she’d stuck to her guns Ms. Smith would probably be raking Mr. Prentice over the coals right now for the budget. If Prentice had implemented the hard cuts he was originally floating, she could have talked about how the Wildrose’s advocacy was making this possible, and playing up the fact that they had the right idea all along.

    Hell, the Wildrose were actually taking some solid steps to move towards the political centre under Ms. Smith. She came out in 2012 noting that the party had quite a bit of “soul searching” to do, and began denouncing homophobia, supporting the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and dumping many of the policy ideas advocated in the old “firewall” letter signed by Stephen Harper and company (e.g., forming a provincial police force, having Alberta collect its own taxes, etc.). It also talked about intervening in the market to reduce energy price spikes and provide incentives to have more of our bitumen refined here at home, and it even promised to respect the Canada Health Act if it formed government!

    http://www.vivelecanada.ca/article/235931274-the-wildrose-alliance-an-example-of-alberta-centrism

    Instead, the Wildrose is in Brian Jean’s hands, so who knows what will come of that, and Ms. Smith is left on the outside looking in.

    Makes you wonder what could have been…

    Reply
  6. Skeptical

    March 29th, 2015

    i have lost count of the number of ways I am experiencing schadenfreude over this result.

    Reply
  7. Jerrymacgp

    March 29th, 2015

    You know, High River is in the federal riding of Macleod, which according to Daveberta’s tracking, doesn’t yet have a HarperCon candidate… I wonder if she’ll end up seeking that nomination instead? I imagine the federal level is much friendlier ground for one such as her, since there is only one Conservative Party federally, and the voters there are about as likely to elect a Martian by write-in vote, as elect anyone other than a Conservative.

    Reply

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