Apparently Danielle Smith – the other former leader of the Wildrose Party – has made it official that she intends to make a run to lead the United Conservative Party.
It must be true. After all, it was in the Calgary Herald today.
“Former Wildrose leader Danielle Smith returns to politics with eyes on UCP leadership,” proclaims the headline in Calgary’s website of record, formerly one of the great metropolitan daily newspapers of Canada, where Ms. Smith worked for a spell as a strike-breaking writer of right-wing editorials.
To paraphrase Karl Max paraphrasing Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, somewhere all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice … the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.
You know, Jim Prentice for Peter Lougheed, Jason Kenney for Ralph Klein, the Danielle Smith of 2022 for the Danielle Smith of 2014.
Or, actually, considering the way Ms. Smith’s gambit to unite the right in Alberta unfolded in 2014, it’s more like the first time was a farce and the second time promises to be an even bigger farce.
Who can forget Ms. Smith’s 2012 campaign when, if you believed the Calgary Herald at the time and the journos from away who took their cues from its pages, her Wildrose Party was about to finally consign the Progressive Conservative Party, by then led by Alison Redford, to the dusty tomes of history.
Then came the notorious Lake of Fire, that most farcical of stumbles, and it was the Wildrose Party that began its swift march into history with Ms. Redford’s convincing victory.
Come 2014, with premier Redford driven out of Alberta politics by her own caucus, and Opposition leader Smith, beguiled by the whispers of Preston Manning, godfather of the Canadian right, thought she’d found a way to unite the right.
The plan to lead her entire Wildrose caucus across the floor of the Legislature into the arms of the governing Progressive Conservatives had already come partly askew on Dec. 17, 2014, when she managed to convince only nine of her MLAs to join her in premier Prentice’s caucus – and not without a good deal of opposition from his own government MLAs.
Five Wildrose MLAs refused to budge, and eventually Brian Jean showed up to breathe a few more months of life into the damaged party.
Still, right wingers in Alberta can remember what they were doing that day they heard the shocking news. You know they’re thinking about it when the expression of a deer in the headlights passes across their faces.
They will never forgive Ms. Smith for what happened next. Voters were furious. The optics were horrible for both the Wildrose and the PCs. Mr. Jean may have saved the Wildrose Party for a while, but on May 5, 2015, Albertans cashiered Mr. Prentice and elected an NDP majority. Rachel Notley became premier.
We Alberta New Democrats thank you, Ms. Smith!
Ms. Smith, a former Fraser Institute apparatchik, later rebranded herself as a right-wing radio host, after that as an even more right-wing blogger enthused about COVID cures and other questionable theories. Hydroxycholoquine, anyone?
So, how serious a candidate is Ms. Smith? If I ran this commentary tomorrow morning like I usually do when news breaks in the afternoon, you’d think it was an April Fool joke!
She has zero appeal to the left, where she’s viewed as far to the right and a dangerous crank. She has zero appeal to the right, which remembers Dec. 17, 2014, like the rest of us remember 911 or JFK’s last day in Dallas. It’s doubtful she has much appeal to the centre, which knows her ideology is both rigid and situational.
Speaking of situational, her official announcement only applies if UCP Leader and Premier Jason Kenney loses his April 9-though-May 11 party leadership review.
All she has are some of the followers of her paywalled blog and the Calgary Herald, which has always carried a torch for her.
She’s been dropping hints about this for weeks and the uptake among voters has barely registered a heartbeat.
In addition to her leadership aspirations, Ms. Smith is seeking the UCP nomination in Livingstone-Macleod. The riding in Alberta’s southwest corner is now represented by another UCPer, Roger Reid. In 2015, after the floor-crossing project turned out to be a debacle, she lost the PC nomination in the Highwood riding she had represented for the Wildrose Party.
Well, as I’ve said before, you can’t count Ms. Smith out completely. 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 money.
She might even unintentionally play the role of a Kamikaze Candidate 2.0 to Mr. Kenney’s benefit if, having lost, he runs again as some have speculated – although her ego is too big to do that intentionally.
But becoming leader of the UCP and premier of Alberta? Forget about it.