Danielle Smith addresses her rally in Airdrie Monday night (Photo: Twitter/Danielle Smith).

Former Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith, campaigning to replace Jason Kenney as leader of the United Conservative Party, apparently thinks we should “Uber-fy public services,” let teachers set up their own one-room multi-grade school houses in their homes, and declare everyone aboard charter planeloads of anti-vaxx Albertans to be “diplomats” to avoid travel restrictions. 

Ms. Smith with Progressive Conservative premier Jim Prentice on Dec. 17, 2014, the day she led eight of her Wildrose MLAs across the floor to join the PCs (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

So she said, anyway, at a rally Monday in the Calgary-area city of Airdrie, recorded by someone in the audience and posted as snippets to Twitter by The Breakdown, an Alberta political podcast. 

The clips are short, and their sound quality is poor. The print summaries published by The Breakdown are not strictly accurate in every case, but they are true to her message. 

Whatever the full context of her remarks was, you can hear what she said in that gloriously overconfident Danielle Smith voice that so many sensible Albertans have come to deeply distrust over the years. 

So what’s going on? 

Maybe Ms. Smith was just talking to see what she was going to say. 

Former U.S. president Donald Trump – has Ms. Smith adopted his tactics? (Photo: Michael Vadon, Creative Commons).

She’s been known to do that, blithely confident she’s the smartest person in the room and can babble her way out of any gaffe. 

But three times in one night? 

Readers will recall Ian Fleming’s famous adage. Said the creator of James Bond: “Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action!”

Perhaps, having been burned by her proximity to the Lake of Fire in 2012, a decade later Ms. Smith has decided to adopt the strategy of positioning herself on the extreme fringe of the Alberta conservative movement she seeks to lead. 

This might seem crazy, but maybe it’s crazy like a fox. 

The conventional wisdom at the time of the Lake of Fire incident that derailed the Wildrose campaign to the benefit of Alison Redford and her Progressive Conservatives was that Ms. Smith’s mistake was not immediately publicly condemning the social conservative candidate whose video consigning LBGTQ people eternity in the fires of Hell was revealed just before the 2012 general election. 

Former Wildrose Party House Leader Rob Anderson, now identified as Ms. Smith’s campaign chair (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Taking similarly wildly controversial positions on a number of issues now might seem counterintuitive, but a lot of fire has passed under the bridge in North American politics since then, especially since the election of Donald Trump as president of the United Sates in 2016. 

And this sure sounds like Donald Trump’s strategy, doesn’t it? 

To wit: If you’re the only one everybody’s talking about, you’re doing something right. It doesn’t matter what you’re saying, as long as it gets ’em talking! 

It worked for Mr. Trump in 2016, and who’s to say it won’t work for Ms. Smith in 2022 and 2023?

Meanwhile, it sounds as if Ms. Smith has taken Rob Anderson on board as her campaign chair. 

Readers will recall that Mr. Anderson was the MLA for Airdrie and Wildrose House Leader who was probably the first political casualty of Ms. Smith’s disastrous December 2014 decision to lead eight of her MLAs across the floor of the Legislature to join Jim Prentice’s Progressive Conservatives. 

UCP leadership candidate Leela Aheer (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

At the time of the mass floor crossing, Mr. Anderson was widely and confidently predicted in the media and government circles to be in line for a senior position in Mr. Prentice’s cabinet. If that were true, though, the offer was quickly snatched back. He didn’t run in the 2015 election. 

Mr. Anderson has also long been rumoured to have been involved in the negotiations for the floor-crossing – although that’s never been confirmed. 

Talking to Calgary Sun columnist Rick Bell on June 30, Ms. Smith looked back at 2014 and said, “I allowed myself to be surrounded by advisers and people who were out of touch.”

Calgary Herald political columnist Don Braid, who wrote a column yesterday suggesting Ms. Smith already has a lock on the UCP leadership race, identified Mr. Anderson last night in a tweet as Ms. Smith’s campaign chair. 

That too has been rumoured but never before confirmed.  

So does this mean she’s taking advice again from one of the same advisors she blamed for her worst political decision ever? 

Got a name? Buy the domain! 

Meanwhile, someone with a mean sense of humour has registered the domain name LeelaAheer.ca and linked it to a column by blogger Dave Cournoyer about troubles experienced in 2018 by UCP MLA Leela Aheer, who is now seeking the party’s leadership. 

Alberta political blogger Dave Cournoyer (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Just type LeelaAheer.ca into your favourite search engine and see what you get. 

This is a pretty mean trick to play on Ms. Aheer, who was kicked out of cabinet by Jason Kenney for being too critical of his Sky Palace patio party last June. 

It’s also an ironic trick to play on Mr. Cournoyer.

Alert readers will recall that in 2008, Mr. Cournoyer, then a university student, registered the name EdStelmach.ca and linked it to a Wikipedia story about Harry Strom, the last Social Credit premier of Alberta.

Readers were amused. Mr. Stelmach was not. 

The premier sicced a lawyer named Tyler Shandro on the author of the Daveberta.ca blog, which Mr. Cournoyer still publishes. Eventually the matter was settled reasonably amicably. 

“I don’t own the domain name, I swear,” Mr. Cournoyer tweeted last night

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35 Comments

  1. With our first-past-the-post system, and rural ridings going UCP by 50, 60 or even 70% margins, we shouldn’t laugh at the potential danger Ms. Smith poses to our province and our democratic traditions. The NDP has to craft a message that is both attractive to rural voters and able to withstand the attacks from the well-financed right.

  2. Danielle Smith should be referred to as the “Flim Flam Ma’am” for what she is trying to foist on Albertans. I regret to say it will probably get her elected.

  3. Well the last time the UCP chose the candidate who thought they were thr smartest person in the room, it didn’t go well.

    No doubt, Ms. Smith has had a lot of time to reflect on her past mistakes and come up with a convincing story to explain it and appeal to the Conservative base. Of course she still doesn’t want people to dwell on that too much, so perhaps that is one reason for all distracting crazy talk.

    Maybe Conservatives are more forgiving of past failures that previously thought, but they are also in an angry mood. Smith seems to also be trying to appeal to that.

    Her strength has always been communication, but one has to wonder while she has been getting a lot of headlines, coverage and media attention, whether some of the candidates have been out there quietly organizing.

    The UCP may have an angry contingent, but unlike the perennial opposition, increasingly bitter Federal Conservatives, they are in power so flirting with the fringe too much may be a bigger risk.

    1. Your point reminds me that Smith’s kind of shallowly-conceived depth-sounding might not be so much concerned with the outcome of the approaching general election.

      Yes, the present contest is for the hearts, however mindful, of UCP inquisitors (surely many party members and supporters, if JK’s review metric be any indication, are more curious than committed at the present moment), but the rhetoric would certainly have to be toned down (it can’t get any more dumbed-down that it already is) in time for the general contest. Given there’s not much wiggle room left to do that, it’s conspicuous that control of the party’s brain-rust looks more important than cultivating trust among the average voter.

      I guess it’s all good for True Believers, but objectively it looks more like getting ready to take a powder, a classically Redoubter strategy: the party’s position is currently too weak (too radical) to contend successfully in the general election, so, not to give up cherished beliefs (a supposed accolade in itself), better to retreat to a place where silly-SoCon-secessionist nostrums can be slowly rendered by recipe, simmered dissent skimmed off, and purity refined just in time for a cranky electorate to throw caution to the Prairie winds once again when it finds that government is perfect.

      By all available evidence, Albertans are still novices at playing plurality politics, so that possibility might not be much more far fetched as Ms Smith’s nutty platform.

  4. I really think one of Jason Kenney’s fundamental errors was a skewed impression of Albertans’ simplicity. During the short times he visited Alberta while he was a Calgary MP for two decades, he surrounded himself with uber-conservative people and wound up with the impression that he would seem like a real Albertan if he drove a pick-up truck and skipped the necktie. Is Danielle Smith going down the same path?

    Cut and pasted from Rick Bell’s column:

    Smith says she learned a lot about what Albertans want from six years on the radio.
    What has she learned from her ups and downs?
    “Never, never, never lose touch with what real people believe and think and are feeling,” says the leadership candidate.

    If Danielle Smith thinks she is getting a representative sample of Albertans’ opinions from the people who phone into her radio show, she is in serious need of an introductory course in sampling.

    1. First, Smith was never an MP.

      Second, radio talk shows are exquisitely parochial: they attract only parishioners of a certain partisan ilk (left wing radio shows do this as well), and preach, in effect, to the choir. Anybody who thinks these most-biased of samples represents the general electorate like Ms Smith appears to do is an idiot, unwitting or not.

  5. Once again we see a large portion of seniors being treated like morons, or they just trying to see what brand of stupidity she is bringing to the table like I did under Klein? Take a look at how I was attacked in the Medicine Hat News by these fools who can’t get enough of these right wing extremists. Any help any of you can give me in supporting my comments would be appreciated.

  6. Danielle Smith is a total nutbar 6. Obviously Jason Kenney babbling at Trudeau did not result in anything good coming to Alberta and Ms. Smith idea of yelling even louder is not going to yield any better results, probably will be worse.

  7. Your headline poses the wrong question. It’s not whether she is crazy like trump or anyone else. Instead, the question is, “Are Albertans crazy enough to vote for her and make her premier of Alberta?”

    After the stupidity I witnessed in the last provincial election, I fear that Albertans are indeed stupid enough to make her our next premier. That’s how messed up Albertans are.

  8. No thanks.

    Did not think much of her as Wildrose leader.

    I think even less of her now.

    Smart….so smart and so savvy that she got conned into merging half of her party with the Prentice Conservatives. Rookie move at best. So incredibly naive that she failed to censure Wildrose candidate Allan Hunsperger for a week or so.

    She may talk a good line but she has proven that she is not up to the job of leading a Party, let alone a Party that could become a Government.

    Thanks, but no thanks Danielle.

  9. I recall the time I met Danielle Smith. It wasn’t for a long time, but I remember that she had this talent for agreeing with everyone’s position, regardless of how opposed they may be. On the one hand, she’d declare public health care a “sacred trust”, but in the next breath she would say there’s room to “rationalize it”. The ability to change one’s colors in a chameleonlike fashion is a real talent in politics. But it’s also a good way to get yourself killed — politically speaking, of course. Which actually did happen: Smith crossed the floor to join the PCs because she didn’t like the immoderates in the Wildrose Party. Now that Smith has decided to run over the more extreme side of the UCP, the question is how long is she going to stay there before she decides she can’t stand it any longer?

    As for her weird assessment that public services should be “Uber’d” one wonders how far should gigging services go? I suppose some services, requested on an irregular basis, could be made into gigs. But should police, fire, and medical services be also gigged? I supposed Smith has some word salad in mind to rationalize why they should not be gigged. But once the gigging starts, it’s hard to stop.

    Trump though that the CDC could be gigged. Why spend billions on pandemic readiness when there’s no pandemic? Well, when that pandemic finally showed, the expertise to combat it was…gone. Yes. All gone to the private sector, which reaped enormous rewards from the CDC’s own massive brain drain. Of course, Smith swears this can never happen because the pandemic was a fake, right?

  10. A couple of comments from yours truly:

    -It never ceases to amaze me that anytime there’s a photo of a UCP public gatherings it’s a sea of white faces and white hair but if you look very closely you might see one visible ethnic minority in the crowd. Does that individual feel out-of-place or wonder why they are voting against their self-interests by aligning with the UPC?

    -Compliments to DJC for sneaking in the Goldfinger quote. I read the book in my teens but that quote has stuck with me through the years.

  11. So, I listened to Danielle Smith’s wax on and on about her brilliant notion of returning to the single, one-room school house. Btw, the audio quality of that audio clip is greatly enhanced using the amazing Ifi Audio Zen DAC Version 2 – DAC + Amplifier and the Beyerdynamic 990 Studio headphones. The processing capabilities of the DAC, as well as the enormous clarity of the headphones, made Smith’s word salad sound only listenable, it made it even more insane.

    Seriously? This is how education might work in Alabama, which is in a hard race with Mississippi for the bottom of everything. Mind you, when you’re talking to a room filled with the elderly and hard of hearing, the sort of people that one usually finds at any of these crazy CON gabfests, as soon as you bring up a nice “Well Back In My Great-Grandmother’s Day” sort of analogy, all the oldsters in the room will prick up their ears and say, “Eh? Oh, yeah. I remember that.” Of course, it should also be remembered that, and it’s still hard to believe, that Smith is the product of a once effective and functioning public education system that has provided enormous benefits to all.

  12. And a little bit further…

    In regard to Smith’s comment that she has learned a lot about Albertan’s by doing her talk-radio show, well is she trying for stand-up comedy now?

    Having listened a few times to the talk offering over the years from CHED, I have to say that if you hope to form policy by listening to day-drinkers, you have it made. I don’t believe I’ve heard a single sober thought from a caller ever. Back in the day of the Mike Rutherford Show, I would FOMAL at the brilliance that was coming over the air. Every caller seemed to be even more reactionary than the last, as though there was some kind of competition afoot to see who was crazier. Rutherford, after doing his show for many years, retired, and no doubt with a sigh of relief.

    Smith, however, comes from the US right-wing style of talk-radio/infotainment that was pioneered by the sordid likes of Rush Limbaugh and Michael Savage. Mostly, it rabid name-calling and conspiracy mongering, with a healthy dose of pulling facts out of their arses to excite the listeners. Smith has learned well and has followed suit.

  13. The UCP is only five years old and only three years into its maiden mandate: if conservative parties with methodically planned sabotages of sovereignty, decades of power, record-setting parliamentary majorities, and/or federation-length inveterateness can be summarily smashed, certainly the panty-waist UCP, so unsuccessful in any of those departments, will not be much missed—nor most observes much surprised—if it, too, goes down—even if only like a brief instance butterfly flatus instead of an earth quaking crash.

    As Ms Smith—and others of the moribund and radicalized neo-right—has shown, once you get a taste for cavalier positions, floor crossings, spectacular defeats, and audacious comebacks, it becomes easy to repeat without qualm or shame.

  14. Sorry, but Danielle Smith has as much credibility as a three dollar bill. I trust these pretend conservatives and Reformers as far as I can throw them.

  15. I first became cynical about conservatives’ ‘law and order’ base during the gun registry controversy when people who refused to register their guns still referred to themselves as ‘law abiding’, completely unaware of the irony. Over the years in this space I have occasionally referred to a law abiding conservative as someone who diligently obeys all the laws they agree with. In this vein we see David Staples refer to photo radar as a cash cow, and speed limits are artificially low just to raise revenue. Law and order conservatives don’t seem to have any problem with the laws the Freedom Convoy Occupation broke.

    Now Danielle Smith seems to be taking that mindset one step further. One of the primary planks in her campaign platform is that Alberta won’t obey the federal laws we don’t believe in. Should she become our next premier, a very unfortunate side effect could be the signal that we can all rationalize away laws that we don’t agree with, or find inconvenient. If you think you are a good driver while you are over the limit, have at ‘er.

    Brian Jean has said Ms. Smith’s policy will result in anarchy. He is correct.

  16. I have always been a fan of David Climenhaga and Graham Thomson for telling it like it is. Those that contribute to David’s blog , for the most part , are to be saluted also. David and Graham have done a wonderful job of describing the stupidity displayed by Danielle Smith. I wonder who she thinks she is fooling? Somehow after all her defeats she still thinks Albertans will be dumb enough to listen, and likely some of these stupid seniors will. She sure hasn’t fooled any seniors in my world. We are smart enough to see though her brand of stupidity. Too bad some seniors aren’t that smart.

    1. Alan K. Spiller: I was smart enough to see through the lies of Danielle Smith. She is a staunch supporter of Ralph Klein, and we all know how detrimental his policies were. His healthcare policies put many people’s lives in jeopardy.

  17. Pretty funny on a day where a ndp MLA has started his way to jail you’re talking about dirty tricks in elections. The ndp know all about that after the smear campaign against kenney the last election. The intolerance displayed was extraordinary but I think it just shows the true face. Ds will be best for all Albertans, for you and yours at the low price of a brave face.

    1. Bret Larson: There is no smear campaign against the UCP. The UCP have done it to themselves. Albertans are paying for it dearly. It’s very unlikely that the UCP got into power honestly, given the track record of the head honcho of the UCP.

    2. What “NDP MLA”? If you’re referring to Thomas Dang, he is an Independent MLA, having been ejected from the NDP caucus over his unofficial “white hat hacking” of the province’s vaccine records site. And he isn’t on the way to jail, as he is being charged under the provincial Health Information Act, not the Criminal Code. He is liable, if convicted, to a stiff fine.

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