Alberta Politics
Danielle Smith and then-premier Jim Prentice on the day of the shocking Wildrose floor crossing in 2014 (Photo: Dave Cournoyer/Flickr).

What’s next for former Wildrose leader Danielle Smith now that she’s dropping out of right-wing talk radio?

Posted on January 12, 2021, 1:06 am
8 mins

Former school trustee, former Wildrose Party leader, and former controversial legislative floor-crosser, Danielle Smith announced yesterday she will add right-wing talk-radio bloviator to her long list of former occupations. 

The woman thought in 2012 to be on track to become Alberta’s first Wildrose Party premier announced yesterday she is ending her six-year stint as the province’s best known right-wing talk radio host on Feb. 19.

Ms. Smith just before she announced her intention to seek the Wildrose Party leadership in 2009 (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

While it’s not yet clear what Ms. Smith’s long-term plans are – her name keeps popping up as a potential candidate for mayor of Calgary – for the moment she is moving her efforts to a subscription newsletter website called Locals.com. 

Locals.com sounds like a combination of Parler, the far-right microblogging site now being chased off the Internet for its role in the Jan. 6 riot in Washington, and Substack, the online publishing platform that is attracting journalists who no longer work for mainstream media.

Ms. Smith’s radio swan song yesterday had a complaining tone: “I am gravely troubled by how easily most in our society have chosen to give up on freedom. Free enterprise, freedom of religion and conscience, free assembly, freedom of movement, freedom of the press. Freedom of speech, in particular, is in a dire state,” she wrote.

“Unfortunately over the last few years far too many topics have become unchallengeable and the mob of political correctness thinks nothing of destroying a person’s career and reputation over some perceived slight, real or imagined. I’ve found that as a result there are many topics I simply choose not to cover anymore. … So it’s time for me to go.”

Sounding positively Ayn Randian, she grimly predicted “a great reckoning in the next several years.” 

Ms. Smith’s message welcoming readers to Locals.com – which touts itself as place where contributors don’t have to worry “about being banned at a moment’s notice because someone on Twitter or Facebook doesn’t like what you have to say” – took a similar tack. “By creating a community of subscribers my hope is it will keep away the trolls and allow us to explore a wide range of topics from a variety of perspectives, without the mob of political correctness hounding us or shouting us down.”

Since some of the opinions Ms. Smith has expressed recently on her CHQR 77 program in Calgary have strayed into Trumpian Sturm und Drang, one wonders if someone complained.

Ms. Smith campaigning for the Wildrose Party just before she crossed the floor with eight of her MLAs to join the Progressive Conservative caucus (Photo: David Climenhaga).

Perhaps her statement on social media that hydroxychloroquine offered a 100-per-cent cure for COVID-19 troubled someone in Corus management.

Regardless, pretty well everything Ms. Smith has done in her career since she was president of the Progressive Conservative Club at the University of Calgary has been motivated by her right-wing, market-fundamentalist convictions. Nor has she been shy about her own political ambitions, despite having burned more than a couple of bridges along the way to where she is today.

And she has survived stumbles more politically damaging than an infatuation with Trumpian snake oil at a moment when the public on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border has turned against it, at least for the moment.

Her first job in public office, as a Calgary Public School trustee elected at 27, ended suddenly in 1999 when a dispute among trustees in which she played a pivotal role resulted in the province firing the board and turning management of the school district over to an administrator. Nobody came out of that looking good. 

Soon after, she was hired as a strike-breaking editorial writer at the Calgary Herald. Later, she worked for a couple of right-wing lobby groups and as a TV commentator. 

Then Ms. Smith was recruited to run for the leadership of the fledgling Wildrose Party – funded by a group of independent oil companies angered by Premier Ed Stelmach’s flirtation with the idea of collecting marginally higher oil royalties. 

In 2009, she was overwhelmingly elected Wildrose leader and by 2011 was being widely touted in media as the next premier of Alberta. Alas for her, when the next Alberta election rolled around in 2012, a timely leak that one of her candidates had blundered into a Lake of Fire and the enduring popularity of the Progressive Conservative brand allowed PC leader Alison Redford to salvage a comfortable majority. 

Ms. Redford’s leadership soon foundered. She was eventually replaced as permanent leader by Jim Prentice and, on Dec. 17, 2014, Ms. Smith astonished almost everyone by leading eight of her party’s MLAs across the floor of the Legislature to join Mr. Prentice’s PC Government.

That history-making desertion to the government benches by more than half of the Wildrose Opposition caucus shocked and appalled many Albertans. The mass defection – which we now know was brokered by Preston Manning and had been plotted for several weeks in deepest secrecy – left in its wake a legacy of anger, bitterness and betrayal on the right. 

The disillusionment sown that day, compounded by the arrogance and foolishness of Mr. Prentice’s year-early election call in May 2015, contributed to the NDP’s stunning majority victory on May 5, elevating Rachel Notley to premier. 

How Ms. Smith, who was defeated in her bid to get the PC nomination in the Highwood Riding the previous March, must have ground her teeth that night! 

She remade herself as a radio host. Justin Trudeau’s Liberals captured the federal government that October. Stephen Harper exited, stage right. A year later, in November, Mr. Trump was elected President of the United States. Then Jason Kenney came to Alberta and united the PCs and the Wildrosers in the uneasy coalition that rules the province today. 

So she’s had plenty to talk about on the radio. 

Now she’s 49, and moving again. 

Don’t count her out. She’s a hard worker. If you don’t think about the dangerous implications of her hard-right neoliberal beliefs, she’s congenial and pleasant. She’s got plenty of well-heeled friends willing to provide the money she needs to succeed. 

I expect Locals.com is just a way station, and we’ll be hearing more from Ms. Smith whether we like it or not. 

41 Comments to: What’s next for former Wildrose leader Danielle Smith now that she’s dropping out of right-wing talk radio?

  1. Anonymous

    January 12th, 2021

    It would be a very scary prospect in having Danielle Smith in power again. I also believe she was a Fraser Institute employee. The Fraser Institute is where former PC premier of Ontario, Mike Harris is. The Fraser Institute’s neoliberal policies are very harmful. I think Danielle Smith’s resignation from Corus, has other things behind it. The UCP are faltering. The premier of Alberta and the UCP’s approval ratings have plummeted. It would not surprise me one bit if Danielle Smith is returning to provincial politics. Watch for this. When Danielle Smith and a bunch of Wildrose MLAs crossed the floor to join the Alberta PCs, this was Preston Manning’s doing. I wonder what influence Preston Manning, (who was in the UCP’s) Fair Deal Panel is having here? When Danielle Smith was in politics, and started praising Ralph Klein, the Wildrose were a no go. Danielle Smith had some farfetched ideas, such as giving rancid beef to the needy, Dani Dollars, (a carbon copy of the foolish Ralph Klein Bucks), and she couldn’t, and wouldn’t reign in MLAs and candidates who said and did bad things. I would be very cautious about electing Danielle Smith to any political position. It will not end well. It’s unfortunate, but there are Albertans who would fall for it. If the UCP are bad enough, whatever political aspirations Danielle Smith has would be worse. If the premier of Alberta gets dumped like stale bread, maybe Danielle Smith will take over as leader. In any case, if Peter Lougheed was still around, he wouldn’t be thrilled at what he would be seeing. We definitely have to pay attention to this, because something is going on.

    Reply
    • Anonymous

      January 12th, 2021

      * (who was in the UCP’s Fair Deal Panel) *

      Reply
    • Jim white

      January 14th, 2021

      Kind of hard to take your post seriously if you sign off as anonymous

      Reply
  2. Dave

    January 12th, 2021

    Gee, I wonder what Ms. Smith will do with her free time now that she doesn’t have that radio gig? Isn’t there a saying about idle hands?

    I agree with you, I suspect she will find something more substantial to occupy her time soon. Perhaps it is just a coincidence the Calgary mayorality race will be starting soon. The non party nature of it might be a necessary change for her, given she abandoned one party and helped lead another to its eventual demise. Working with school boards or political parties does not have seemed to be her forte, so perhaps the next thing to try instead is municipal politics. Does not work well with others is a phrase that comes to mind for some mayors, so perhaps it might seem to be the perfect job.

    However, before you feel to sad for her current much less lofty ambitions than in 2012, remember both a radio personality and a Calgary mayor have gone on to a much bigger public political position in Alberta. We can only hope this time, if she is successful, she does not eventually leave mayhem and destruction all around her before leaving. She has already had two strikes in politics, three strikes really would not be very good for further advancement.

    Reply
  3. Josie Lindstrom

    January 12th, 2021

    Wow, you’re not biased at all.

    She’s not right-wing, she’s centrist. You clearly don’t view her with an open mind, otherwise you’d not paint her as “complainy”

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      January 12th, 2021

      Ms. Lindstrom: We’ll have to agree to respectfully disagree. If you dispassionately examine Ms. Smith’s core beliefs, you will see she is very far to the right, dangerously so. The only “centre-right” things about her are her pleasant, charming, and congenial manner and the fact she constantly describes herself and the things she supports as “centre-right.” They are not. As for my bias, it bears repeating that this is a one-man opinion blog, not a supposedly unbiased media organization. In other words, it is inherently biased toward a progressive view of how society should be run. It’s a commentary on the sad state of the media in Alberta that so many people rely on alternative sources like this one simply to get some balance in their understanding of the political scene here. And it is “complainy” for privileged, powerful, well-funded, white people with influential jobs to complain constantly about how unfairly they’re treated whenever anyone challenges their point of view. If you’re going to dish it out, you ought to be able to take it. DJC

      Reply
      • tom in Ontario

        January 12th, 2021

        Ms. Smith’s own words as compiled by warrenkinsella.com

        “…abortions are a horrific practice. Any politician who challenges the status quo gets pilloried by the media, abortion rights groups and opposing politicians…the taxpayer should not be on the hook for this.” Windsor Star, December 4, 2000
        On two-tier health care: “Bring it on.” Calgary Herald, June 1, 2003
        “…the courts are out of control [because they have been] striking down the abortion law, the change in the traditional definition of marriage, the legalization of swingers’ clubs.” Calgary Herald, June 14, 2006

        As for swingers’ clubs, why do these “centrists” always want to spoil the fun?

        Reply
      • Roger

        January 13th, 2021

        A scholarly, gentlemanly and accurate reply.

        Reply
      • T Siemers

        January 19th, 2021

        I quite agree with you. Danielle Smith is a traitor and a dangerous woman. Keep her out of politics. Please! And, woe for Calgary if she gets her crooked little fingers in their affairs!

        Reply
    • Abs

      January 12th, 2021

      Danielle Smith centrist? Not.

      Reply
    • Neil Lore

      January 12th, 2021

      Sorry friend, a reasonable adult can defend individual actions of Mrs. Smith’s, but no reasonable adult will say she is anything except right wing.

      Reply
    • Alan K Spiller

      January 12th, 2021

      I can assure Josie that she is a right wing extremist of the worst kind, from what the former MLAs from the Lougheed era taught us. No one has promoted privatization more than Smith, it got her fired from the Calgary school board.

      There is nothing intelligent about these Reformers . While they give away billions in oil royalties and increase tax breaks for their rich friends they try to force us into a lot more privatization and there is nothing intelligent in that.

      Reply
    • Anonymous

      January 12th, 2021

      JOSIE LINDSTROM: Danielle Smith is as right wing as you can get. It’s impossible not to think otherwise, given her beliefs.

      Reply
    • David Colley

      January 12th, 2021

      Nope
      She’s far right wing and positive Trumpian.
      The UCP were to the right of the AB PCs and the AB PCs were right wing.
      Heck even the AB NDP ran the province as Red Tories.

      Reply
  4. ronmac

    January 12th, 2021

    If I was forced to make a prediction I would say she will land a gig bashing China. Public opinion is slowly being conditioned against China and the CCP which means there’s a lot of money floating around for that purpose. (The anti-Chinese Epic Times recently landed in my mailbox -who is paying for that?) Rarely a day goes by when she’s not talking about the China threat -that and the sanctity of Alberta oil.

    Steve Bannon, the American political gunslinger and former Trump associate, who’s been on a China bashing binge lately, was recently arrested on a yacht owned by a dissident Chinese billionaire.

    Reply
  5. David Bridger

    January 12th, 2021

    Ms. Smith is the far right’s wet dream but is nothing more than a front and tool to achieve their goals. She showed that in her floor crossing from Wild Rose to PC. Someone elses idea, not hers.

    Reply
  6. Jim

    January 12th, 2021

    An interesting actor in the Alberta politics play much more likable than some of the other fringe players, never really went beyond an understudy with the occasional fill in. But that was her role: put a good face on what is the rigid hard right in Alberta. I think she is correct that we have given up too much freedom at least in the past year. Something I think the progressive left will learn the hard way south of the border as well as in Canada.

    Reply
    • Neil Lore

      January 12th, 2021

      What freedoms have been given up in the last year? When were they given up? To whom?

      Reply
      • Jim

        January 13th, 2021

        I would never want to discourage someone who is clearly too young to remember 911 and the aftermath from becoming politically aware, I comment purely in the interest of education. We have given up the freedom of movement, freedom of health choice, and the freedom of association. To whom you ask well currently in Alberta the Kenney UCP government, if that doesn’t scare you it should. In the aftermath of 911 the freedoms we gave up never came back so the argument that these are temporary measures doesn’t work.
        It is possible to be concerned with the freedoms we have given up and not be an anti-masker or anti-vaxer or a supporter of the Kenney government, I can assure you I am not any of these. If I make these comments in public however the labels are applied which is really sad that we have come to this point. This strategy of attacking the person rather than the ideas started to become the norm under the Klein government, I am sure there are many who were labelled left-wing nuts that read this blog.
        Before we became such a polarized society one could agree with someone like Danielle Smith on some points and disagree on others but at the end of the day both sides would show respect. I fear those days are gone perhaps another consequence of 911, if you are not with us then you are with the terrorists.
        One final note it is important to view those you disagree with as humans however hard that may be, once we dehumanize our perceived political enemy terrible things happen. Another lesson from history.

        Reply
    • Dave

      January 12th, 2021

      Who have we given it up to? Billionaires who were planning Lockdowns for the general public based on climate change before corona virus offered a better reason. Follow the money. Canada’s billionaires wealth has sky rocked while many workers were forced out of work and financially ruined.

      Reply
      • Neil Lore

        January 12th, 2021

        I totally agree that billionaires are a problem, but I’m still not sure what freedoms you are referring to. I’m guessing the freedoms you are referencing us giving up are in relation to combating COVID? Masks, curfews, etc?

        Also, I hadn’t heard a link between climate change and lockdowns before. What do you base that on?

        Reply
  7. Kang

    January 12th, 2021

    When I have listened to Ms. Smith and her acolytes, I’m reminded of a quote which I seem to remember came from the Nobel laureate economist Paul Krugman:

    “There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.”

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      January 12th, 2021

      Though often quoted by Krugman, the quote is actually from American screewriter John Rogers. DJC

      Reply
  8. Alan K Spiller

    January 12th, 2021

    I wouldn’t be surprised if her buddy Jason Kenney doesn’t have some special job for her spreading his lies with her big mouth. She made such a fool of herself by joining Jim Prentice’s reform party and got them all defeated.
    While her candidates were telling us their party didn’t believe in global warming, they didn’t care about the massive pollution Alberta was creating and Ralph Klein did a wonderful job destroying this province but he didn’t go far enough he should have privatized our health care and education systems. Albertans didn’t buy it.
    It’s hard to believe how dumb these reformers are they just keep getting defeated in elections and not one of them is smart enough to suggest the obvious solution to our financial problem, like Notley did. Follow Lougheed’s lead of collecting proper royalties, taxes, health care premiums and run this province properly , like Lougheed did, and Alaska and Norway are doing.

    Reply
  9. Abs

    January 12th, 2021

    The alternate rumor to the rumor that she is running for mayor (and other rumored subplots within the rumored plot) is that she will return to provincial politics. In other places, she would have done enough to make that idea ridiculous, but this is Alberta. All this talk of “freedom” makes the idea plausible. Hold onto your cowboy hat, Jason, and watch your back.

    Reply
  10. Neil Lore

    January 12th, 2021

    “Free speech” is the idea that the government should not be able to arrest us for speaking our mind.

    “Speech acts” are when, by saying something, we are also performing an action. For example, marriage vows, a declaration of war, or a promise. Note that we hold people to account for their speech acts in a way that we don’t for their free speech.

    The “Principle of Harm” states that we ought to be free to do whatever we please, as long as it doesn’t harm someone else.

    Some people make a metric F-tonne of money using their Free Speech to perform Speech Acts that violate the Harm Principle. We don’t have to let them get away with it.

    Free speech is not purely good and it’s much less simple than it seems. Everyone makes exceptions to it. Copyright law, intellectual property, limits on campaign contributions, sedition, libel, hate speech, false advertising, holocaust denial, incitement to suicide or murder, etc etc etc. When people try to excuse immoral actions by citing free speech, it’s important that we be able to throw exceptions at them to illustrate that “Free Speech” is not a blanket excuse to do terrible things, and every ideology makes exceptions to free speech somewhere.

    Reply
  11. Bob Raynard

    January 12th, 2021

    I can certainly see how someone complaining about Ms. Smith’s ideas would offend the radio show host’s sense of freedom of ideas, and moving to a platform with fewer controls would have appeal. That said, I do not understand it from the perspective of a career move or a political one.

    At 49 she is of an age where she really should be thinking about financing her retirement, so moving from ‘the province’s best known right-wing talk radio host’ to a subscription newsletter has to come with a huge drop in salary. For her sake, I hope her financial advisor has shown her how the money she has saved from her stint as an MLA, and her radio show gig, has set her up so she can afford to retire already, so this is just a retirement hobby.

    I really hope she is not expecting that her radio audience will migrate to Locals.com, pushing up subscriptions and providing her with an income that way. Ms. Smith hopefully realizes that most of her audience listens to her while they are engaged in something else: driving, working etc. as opposed to sitting around their radio listening intently.* As such, turning off the radio and logging into the site is not really an option.

    I really can’t see how this can be considered a stepping stone toward a return to politics either. If she is moving to a platform that will allow her to express politically incorrect views, that has to be considered a death knell to a successful political career. It might help her gain the leadership of the currently leaderless Wildrose Independence Party, but the views she expresses that help her win the leadership will also make sure she never wins a general election. She would be very effective at splitting the right wing vote, however.

    *This also explains some of her success. Her audience hears her ideas while distracted by their task at hand and do not apply the BS filters they should be.

    Reply
  12. Jimmy

    January 12th, 2021

    Characterized by smiles, simplistic ideas and one liners with the words liberty and freedom included. If the premier’s popularity stays low more opportunists could begin to emerge and begin making noises. Maybe some from inside the UCP?
    We may expect some will court the anti mask – yellow vest – freedom fighting – conspiracy theorist – twilight zone dwellers. Reformers survive and remain entrenched by switching allegiances, latching onto trends and changing the brand name.

    Reply
  13. Ken Cox

    January 12th, 2021

    Some interesting similarities to the Christy Clark saga out here on the left coast. It would have been great fun if the two of them were Premiers of their respective provinces at the same time. Bloggers such as yourself would have had a lifetime of material to write about.

    Reply
  14. John T

    January 12th, 2021

    Nice work, David. Thanks.

    I think you have the date wrong with respects to the recent capitol mob. Should read Jan 6th.

    Cheers.

    Reply
  15. All..in

    January 12th, 2021

    Happy to see the back-end of her…perhaps Corbella or Bell will apply for the job…if so Smith’s diminishing fan base will be intellectually disappointed…or maybe the two UCP blondes from Banff and Lethbridge should give it a go…ha..aargh.

    Reply
  16. Bruce Turton

    January 12th, 2021

    Whenever Ayn Rand’s name and philosophical musings come up, I am reminded that when she turned 65 she accessed the public purse by taking Social Security cheques until she died. She used her married name when applying so as not to endure any mocking for her choice that was 180 degrees from her previous deliberations. Since ‘philosophy’ means ‘lover of wisdom’, it might be the wrong word to use in this instance.
    Have to wonder when the notion of individualism in every arena of living came into being and has become the grounding of neoliberalism. Whatever happened to the long evolutionary and social history of the human species as co-operative social actors in order to survive? The extreme of social, financial, and asset access at this time will surely have its comeupance as it did in the 1930’s. At the same time, those in the world who have marginal access to our ‘freedoms’ will probably be better off just as they did during the 1930’s since the “First World” could no longer confiscate the assets of those ‘lesser’ peoples and countries.

    Reply
    • Neil Lore

      January 12th, 2021

      For what its worth, most real philosophers don’t consider Ayn Rand to be a philosopher herself because she didn’t engage with the ideas of other philosophers. Philosophy is more of a millennia-long dialogue than it is a book that you publish or a set of “justifications” for behaving like a greedy asshole.

      Reply
  17. David Wasserman

    January 12th, 2021

    I applaud the creation of Locals.com. It will provide a handy way to identify whom to beware of and what regressive ideas are being currently promoted, serving as an early-warning system.

    Reply
  18. Just Me

    January 12th, 2021

    It’s pretty clear to me.

    Smith’s next stop will be the Premier’s Office and Kenney’s special advisor.

    Couldn’t Smith off of that public gravy train for very long.

    Reply
  19. Lester Landry

    January 13th, 2021

    Smith is and always has been an opportunist.
    It is obvious she is setting her path towards a UCP nomination.

    Reply
  20. Comment

    January 13th, 2021

    I hadn’t heard the rumours of her running for mayor of Calgary.

    I seem to remember talk of UCP planning to change municipalities from non-partisan to partisan. If so, I’m sure Kenney/Harper/Manning/whoever else is running the show already has plans in place for those upcoming mayoral elections in Calgary and Edmonton. Danielle Smith would make perfect (scary) sense for those plans.

    Reply
  21. Farmer Brian

    January 13th, 2021

    It is interesting to me that many of your readers David hold up Peter Lougheed as the only good conservative Alberta ever had and that so many like Danielle Smith are dangerously far to the right. While I do agree that Peter Lougheed was a strong Premier I also believe he created an unaffordable beurocracy that hamstrung those that followed. I found an interesting article online called “Alberta’s problems of plenty” by Herb Emery and Ron Kneebone. Some interesting quotes:
    “Newly elected in 1986 Premier Don Getty noted he had “inherited an economy and budget based on $40 oil-and the price of oil was $13.” “Getty’s quote about inheriting an economy and budget based on $40 oil when the price turned out to be $13 highlights how the Alberta government budget and economy had treated the extremely high prices of the late 1970’s and early 1980’s as a permanent condition. But the quote also represents the nature of the Alberta government’s problems after 1986. Alberta didn’t have a revenue problem, it had a spending problem.”

    When Peter Lougheed retired in 1985 Alberta did not have a budgetary deficit. By 1994 Alberta had an accumulated deficit of $21 billion, small by today’s standards but large in 1994. No doubt that Peter Lougheed was smart and retired before the crap hit the proverbial fan.

    Reply
  22. D

    January 13th, 2021

    She is a 5 time loser; education board, 3 failed marriages, political fiasco Benedict Arnold. Enough said.

    Reply
  23. GregP

    February 12th, 2021

    The rightwing has a legitimate right to exist, but they have torpedoed their own ship. Many times. Danielle Smith badly miscalculated when she crossed the floor, upsetting most of her former base. Conservatives everywhere are losing ground as they continue to kowtow to their radical base. The saner ones are seeking to build a more centrist platform. The age of tribalist political thinking must eventually extinguish itself.

    Reply
  24. Brian

    February 19th, 2021

    As I recall, the so-called disfunctional school board situation when Smith was a trustee was because of her antics.

    Reply

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