Danielle Smith announces her Cabinet choices today. 

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith in her broadcasting days (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

So we’re about to see if Alberta’s still-unelected premier meant it when she told a newspaper columnist three days after she was sworn in that as long as her United Conservative Party can hold the rural ridings of the province she doesn’t really need to worry about what voters in Alberta’s two big cities think. 

It wouldn’t be the first time Ms. Smith set out to carve a narrow path to victory by appealing to a small group of motivated voters who hold broadly unpopular opinions.

It’s exactly how she won the UCP leadership vote on Oct. 6 with the support of anti-vaxxers and separatists whose views are scorned by the majority of Albertans.

She made it clear in her interview with the Calgary Sun’s Rick Bell a week ago that she would now pursue a strategy of pampering rural voters at the expense of the residents of Alberta’s big cities.

“I don’t intend to try to win every vote,” she told Mr. Bell. “I recognize if I’m stretching to reach certain seats I’m probably going to lose Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre.”

Former finance minister Travis Toews waiting to be interviewed, perhaps by Danielle Smith, in 2020 (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Speaking of stretching, that was a bit of one. The UCP’s Jason Nixon won that central Alberta riding with 82 per cent of the vote in 2019. 

Mr. Nixon may or may not be the candidate there in 2023, but Ms. Smith’s candidate could probably win the riding even if the UCP dropped a nuclear bomb* on Caroline

However, her point is clear. Given the way Alberta’s electoral districts are divvied up, she thinks she doesn’t need very many of Alberta’s urban voters to win, and she’ll do what she needs to do to win. 

Alberta was naturally abuzz with speculation yesterday about who Ms. Smith will put in her cabinet. 

The smart money says there will be more rural MLAs, and likely more MLAs holding hitherto marginalized and extremist views in cabinet. 

Calgary’s Rebecca Schulz, is there a place for her in Ms. Smith’s cabinet? (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

The story will be how many more. 

Will there be any former Progressive Conservatives, or will we finally have the Wildrose Party government we always refused to elect? 

Will there be anyone from Calgary in the cabinet? Well, she seemed to promise a spot to former leadership candidate Rebecca Schulz, MLA for Calgary-Shaw, after the vote results were announced. But that was more than two weeks ago. 

Finding a cabinet ministers from Edmonton is a problem, of course, as the only Edmonton seat not held by the NDP is occupied by Labour Minister Kaycee Madu. This gives some credence to the idea Ms. Smith might appoint someone without a seat. 

Will Travis Toews, the former finance minister who raced her to the final ballot, be back in cabinet? She’d be smart to leave him there, to demonstrate continuity and unity, but whether such considerations even enter her mind remains to be seen. 

We won’t have long to find out, anyway. 

Health Minister Jason Copping –  re-election not necessarily necessary (Photo: Alberta Legislature).  

Meantime, though, we’ll have to wait till Monday for them to be sworn in – which is weird, unless Ms. Smith has a plan to let lobbyists run wild and make unrecorded pitches to her incoming ministers for 48 hours. That would probably be in tune with the premier’s ideas about “freedom.”

If you’re a Calgary MLA who squeaked into office in 2019, Ms. Smith’s apparent strategy can’t be very reassuring. 

Devinder Toor, MLA for Calgary-Falconridge, edged out the NDP’s Parmeet Singh Boparai by 96 votes. Nicholas Milliken, MLA for Calgary-Currie, defeated New Democrat Brian Malkinson by 191. Health Minister Jason Copping beat the NDP’s Anne McGrath by 638. Ms. Smith’s message to those MLAs: I don’t really need you, boys!

Meanwhile, Ms. Smith told the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce yesterday that only Albertans who refuse COVID-19 vaccinations would be protected under the changes she plans to Alberta’s human rights laws. 

That will keep the lid on one can of worms – the one full of measles, mumps, rubella, polio, and many other vaccinations. It will open another one – legal suits for equal treatment under the law by other kinds of vaccine refuseniks, for example, those with health care jobs. 

Kaycee Madu, Edmonton’s only UCP MLA, does he get to stay? (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

In the same speech, Ms. Smith told business with vaccine mandates to dump them now – because freedom!

“This is a place that believes in freedom,” she advised the Chamber’s worthies, giving them “fair warning” that her government intends to make a “serious pivot” on such rules soon.

Remember, former associates say Ms. Smith often doesn’t know what she’s going to say until she’s already started to say it, so this talk of a pivot could be another blunder that will require clarification in a few hours, or it could be the real McCoy. 

But when the former Fraser Institute apparatchik says “freedom,” she doesn’t mean what most of us do when we utter that word.

She means the sort of freedom that prevails in Hong Kong, where free expression may be illegal, but business can do pretty well whatever it wants. 

In 2020, Hong Kong was No. 3 on the Fraser Institute’s “Human Freedom Index,” ahead of Denmark, Australian, Canada, and 156 others. Last year, in a clarification worthy of Ms. Smith’s first week in office, the neoliberal Wurlitzer organ was shamed into moving it down to No. 30, still ahead of South Korea and France.

*Nuclear bombs come under federal jurisdiction, at least until Ms. Smith’s Sovereignty Act passes. 

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22 Comments

  1. This is a horrific mess in the making, and there are people who can see it coming from a country mile. Danielle Smith, much like other past Alberta pretend conservative and Reform premiers, such as Ralph Klein, and the former head honcho of the UCP, has stabbed rural Albertans in the back, (and urban Albertans in the back too), yet there are fools who are dumb enough to let them get away with it. During the BSE crisis, Ralph Klein did nothing to help farmers and ranchers affected by this devastating situation. The aid money he was supposed to give them, didn’t go to them. Instead, the over $400 million in relief money went to meat processing facilities that were American corporations. Rural hospitals were closed down, endangering people’s lives. The former head honcho of the UCP thought that it was okay to let oil companies in Alberta to avoid having to pay property taxes. Hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue is no longer there, and municipalities have to pick up the slack, by increasing their municipal property tax rates, or make cuts to services. Danielle Smith still doesn’t want to respect the wishes of rural municipal leaders, and wants to ram the idea of a provincial police force down their throats, after they made it clear that this would be a very costly proposition, and they wanted to retain the R.C.M.P. Also, Danielle Smith wants to reopen the open pit coal mining issue in the Rocky Mountains, after rural property owners have said no to this, because of the destruction of the mountains, and environmental damages that could not be undone. On top of this, Danielle Smith has made comments about the Russian war with Ukraine, which didn’t seem to show sympathy to the plight of the Ukrainians. Rural Alberta has a significant Ukrainian Canadian population, so this doesn’t seem to show respect to them. After pressure, Danielle Smith made some sort of an apology, but the sincerity of it remains questionable to different people. Covid-19 cases in Alberta are spiking upwards, and Danielle Smith doesn’t care to properly address this situation. Instead, she is allowing restrictions to not occur, has behaved like it’s no big deal, is pointing fingers at AHS, and firing Dr. Deena Hinshaw. Danielle Smith clearly wants to have private for profit healthcare in Alberta, just as Ralph Klein did. This could have been avoided, if people listened to those of us who said that these pretend conservatives and Reformers weren’t good to begin with. Even Angie Klein, Ralph Klein’s daughter, knew that these pretend conservatives and Reformers were awful, and she supported the NDP. Peter Lougheed also knew that Reformers can’t be trusted, but who in Alberta will heed his common sense virtues? Instead, people insult others who show how bad things will be with Danielle Smith as premier of Alberta. Where is the sense in that?

  2. A nice piece of audacity this, to show us the depth and quality of your knowledge with an analysis before the action. No waffling from our pundit. And I suspect more truth than what we’ll hear from the UCP spin machine.

  3. Yes, Smith’s stated election strategy seems to be win as many rural ridings as possible and hope that is enough. So, if she is consistent – that is a big if, then a cabinet dominated by rural MLA’s would follow from that. Kenney oddly had a lot of rural MLA’s, but a much more urban cabinet.

    Of course, there was only one supposed Kenney loyalist in Edmonton who now seems to somehow have become a strong Smith supporter. Perhaps his loyalty is more to power than any particular person. I suspect he will stay in cabinet, despite his history of controversy. Of course, Smith could try for another better Edmonton one, but that would involve enticing an opposition MLA to resign, to say serve on some government board, and then holding a by election. Given Smith’s tenuous hold on power, I doubt that would be very appealing or work.

    It seems to follow if Smith is consistent with her past statements that the big change will then have to be a significant reduction of Calgary cabinet ministers and a corresponding increase in rural ones. Well, there was already easy one reduction – the Calgary Elbow MLA who resigned in anticipation of Smith winning. She has already said she does not plan to hold a by election to replace him. Some of the rest of Kenney’s Calgary Ministers seem likely to have a disappointing weekend. I suspect some who will be demoted to the back benches and are facing tight races in the upcoming election may decide not to run again. Perhaps they have privately already pretty much come to that conclusion.

    It was not quite clear why Kenney did not have more rural cabinet ministers, but I suspect a fear of bozo eruptions and too much extremism was likely part of it. If so, then Smith’s expected cabinet shift will be more than just in geography.

    The UCP seems to now be turning itself back into the Wildrose Party, the party that Albertans never really wanted as the government in the past.

  4. Shields up! Keep your sycophants close, and your groveling, bootlicking, toady, obsequious sycophants closer will likely be the guiding principle. Every authoritarian and autocrat recognizes that this is the only way they are capable of governing: be impervious to the truth and facts, erect barriers to honest and truthful counsel, value loyalty above competence, and only seek reinforcement of your ideas and worldview.

    I suggest that Danielle Smith put down her Ayn Rand tomes, consign them to the dumpster where they belong, and pick up a books by real thinkers. She might start by contemplating the advice of Nicolo Machiavelli in his chapter (22) on the desirable characteristics of servants. Although servants need to be loyal, they also need to be intelligent, capable, and willing to give sound advice. Their loyalty must be genuine and not merely a mask that serves to conceal a self-seeking agenda. Good luck on that count given the muted silence from every UCP caucus member who knows Danielle Smith is deep down the rabbit hole of q-adjacent batshit craziness but does not speak up. They are playing a long game by waiting until Danielle Smith self-destructs after the weight of embarrassment and subsequent clarification is too much even for the UCP membership to bear.

    1. That is not true my dude, there are plenty of people in that camp who think that about all vaccines, or more likely say that they aren’t “settled” keep moving those goalposts.

    2. In epidemiological terms, anti-vaxxerism is hardly the Freedumbites’ point, either (rather, it’s “Big Government”). But where I live, suspicion of vaccinations of all kinds is as enduring as suspicion of pharmaceuticals and Big Pharma, and is a share of “back-to-the-land,” “off-grid,” “alternative medicine,” hippidom.

      It is thus not “pointless” to include all vaccines since this is where the Freedumbite and Old Hippie subcultures meet, as strange as this bedfellowship might be.

      Mark my words: Freedumbite protest of non-Covid vaccines (against polio, smallpox, measles, influenza, &c) is almost guaranteed if only for the sake of consistency. In extremis, Freedumbites will avail almost any rationalization like this one, no matter how lame it appears from outside their mutual virtue-signalling zone. Then they get all shirty-peeved when it gets laughed out of court…

  5. Visit Wikipedia and search for ‘Kansas Experiment’. That’s what I worry about: a radical pro-business tax and royalty reform that will ruin the poor, the elderly and the sick while enriching foreign shareholders and her Petroleum Club buds.

    1. True. The Kansas Experiment (supply side economics/massive tax cuts for the rich or those who could take advantage of loopholes) was the result of a libertarian billionaire-funded lobbying effort that involved the usual cast of suspects: Koch brothers, Cato Institute, etc. The billionaires who want to protect and expand their power and wealth at any cost, including the prosperity and wellbeing of ordinary citizens.

      Danielle Smith is just another libertarian hack who has spent too much time reading Ayn Rand and believing this nonsense and the lies of billionaire class.

      Unfortunately, supply side economics is like the ice-IX of Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle. It takes hold everywhere it touches and leaves a path of destruction and ruin. Alberta, especially with Danielle Smith, is supremely susceptible to this nonsense.

  6. I fully expect Kaycee Madu to be elevated to Dep. Premier and Treasurer in the interest of diversity of course. What other goodies are coming?

    Ron Orr will be promoted to Atty. Gen. not because he’s a lawyer (He isn’t) but because he is a rural God-fearing pastor, whose blessings have granted the many untold providences via tweet. By His mighty hand, they will be done.

    Stephan becomes Atty. Gen. because the last lawyer left standing.

    Sandro will be tossed some kind of bone — maybe the newly created Minister for Rural Healthcare. I mean how can he screw up something that isn’t really there?

    Sonya Savage will probably get some like Culture and Status of Women just to make her look stupid.

    Miranda Rosin for Heath? Sure. Why not? Beverage distribution and healthcare delivery – – it’s the same thing. Same thing.

  7. I myself think Drew Barnes for energy minister regardless if he knows nothing about his “regional power grid “
    Heather Rempel will be Health Minister ,
    But our biggest curiosities are the indigenous portfolio and will where Jackie go ?either one way or another
    High anxiety!because we are played stupid AGAIN

  8. The vaccine refuseniks of rural Alberta won’t be happy at all when they find out that only Covid-19 refusal will be protected as a human right. Maybe they’ll protest with another fête at Milk River/Coutts, to which they bring their unvaccinated, home-schooled children for face-painting and crafts during the pre-planting season leading up to the 2023 general election. Fun will be had by all, and the abundance of free food will certainly help in these inflationary times. Danielle Smith could become the next Pierre Poilièvre of Alberta by bringing them free coffee and doughnuts. She’s not at all concerned about what the city people think, so to heck with ’em.

    1. I looked at a political map of Canada today and it occurred to me that much of the area coloured blue has a well-organized, sympathetically platformed secession movement. If that area leaves Canada, shipping goods from BC to the eastern provinces could easily get more expensive and difficult. BC’s trade with America’s west coast states could foreseeably increase, and its trade within Canada decrease. Best case scenario, Canadians are greatly hindered in our ability to move goods and people in bulk from east to west. Worst case scenario Canada ceases to exist and becomes a bunch of feuding statelets for America to absorb and/or play off against one another.

      I want politics to be boring again. I’d like the never ending theatre of vulgarity, idiocy and shameful behaviour to end. I’d like people who care which facts are true and what will happen tomorrow to be at the table. I’d further like those people to be working towards the interest of Canada as a community, as opposed to one or another faction within Canada.

  9. Well, it’s done now. The main points are: Toews stays put, Aheer stays out, and Nixon gets put out.

    Speculate as one might about why it is thus and how it will pan going forward, there is one gnawing consistency—and her name is Danielle Smith.

    Everything she has done so far has depended heavily on gaming info (as with her stats-abusing stint with the Fraser Institute, her right-wing talk-radio show, and her partisan propaganda of constantly-shifting vantage), gaming public systems (as with her stint on a school board, cavalier parliamentary opportunism in abandoning her Wildrose Loyal Opposition leadership, and leading half the WR caucus across the Assembly floor), and gaming democracy (as with her destruction of two parties of the right on her way —including the afore-mentioned offences against public offices—to destroying a third with decidedly undemocratic abuse of political norms, including her one-percenter approval rating and gleefully divisive plans for Alberta’s future in spite of it).

    The real news is not that her cabinet choices amount to not much change but, rather, that she herself remains totally unchanged. To consistency she adds persistency. Too bad her cause is so ignoble.

  10. Herein, some random thoughts on the New & Improved Cabinet of Premier-elect Danielle Smith. List borrowed from:
    https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/alberta-united-conservative-party-government-cabinet-1.6625263

    Kaycee Madu, Nathan Neudorf: “Deputy Premier” is at best a sinecure, at worst a booby prize. It won’t matter much, unless DS emulates JK’s tendency to hide in Texas to avoid criticism in the Leg.

    Travis Toews: not a disaster in Finance, so could be worse (I expect to use that phrase a lot). Much will depend on whether Smith really meant it about “compassion”—that’s expensive. What will dominate, social services or tax cuts? Oh, wait….

    Brand new for Brian Jean: help the bitumen guys find workers. I’m sure he knows all the major players in Ft. McMoney. Hopefully he and Rajan Sawhney will work well together.

    Sonya Savage: backed down from enabling Australian penny-stock companies tearing holes in the (formerly, then re-protected) foothills, so maybe this will work. Will she remember 1) the attempt to sell off parks failed (probably for lack of buyers) and 2) the attempt to mess up (literally!) the Eastern Slopes via coal mine blew up like a “land” type mine?

    Todd Loewen: welcome back (oh yay). Forestry plus parks, huh? As long as he keeps them separate, I guess.

    Jason Copping: could be worse, he wasn’t publicly attacking AHS, doctors and nurses. But will he have the guts to tell DS not to?

    Nate Glubish: brand-new minister of carbon capture and storage. Will have fight for funding, given the increased importance of “compassion.” Oh, wait….

    Demetrios Nicolaides: Athabasca University, this is your final warning.

    Jeremy Nixon: Jason’s kid brother, right? Minister of old folks’ homes. Will have to fight with Nate Glubish for funding. Oh, wait….

    Rajan Sawhney: trade plus immigration I can understand, given TFWs are so important to Oilberduh. But multiculturalism? Because TFWs are foreigners by definition, I guess.

    Adriana LaGrange: “Permission to continue dumbing down the curriculum, ma’am?” “Granted!”

  11. There are more dangerous goods moved on Alberta roads than in any other jurisdiction. Balancing the very strict requirements set forth by federal TDG regulations and the need to keep those and other goods moving requires skilled management and leadership. I guess minister McIvor paid the ultimate price for asking for federal assistance to deal with that tiny misunderstanding in Coutts.
    So she gave the job to Devin Dreeshen – the former agriculture minister who had to resign due to his booze-filled escapades (resulting in a wrongful dismissal lawsuit). All so she could increase rural seats in cabinet. Fasten your seatbelts folks, it’s going to be a bumpy ride in many portfolios.

  12. Well using a gerrymandering strategy works well once usually, if at all, and then falls apart. Alas, I will repeat what I have said before Alberta is heavily urban. To pretend you can maintain power based on a rural vote alone is fantasy.

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