It’s been more than 25 days since April Fool’s Day and we’re still learning almost daily about $#!+ Danielle Smith says … and does.
This is Alberta, where it often feels as if every day is April 1, and by some kind of strange cosmic convergence, it’s Ground Hog Day as well.
Speaking of cosmic convergence, Alberta’s premier really was born on April 1, 1971.
If that doesn’t send shivers up and down your spine, what will?
Well … how about this?
On the evening April 11, Ms. Smith, accompanied by Morinville-St. Albert MLA Dale Nally, visited the town of Gibbons (pop. 3,000) 37 kilometres north of Edmonton.
Now Gibbons is the sort of place big city media is reluctant to venture out to visit for anything smaller than a huge fire, and that was true even back in the day when news outfits employed more than a couple of reporters and actually had newsrooms for them to work in.
So apparently the only journalist on hand when Ms. Smith set foot in Gibbons was a fellow from FortSaskOnline, which serves the nearby community of Fort Saskatchewan.
Ms. Smith, wrote reporter Brandon Zdebiak, “compared politics in Canada with politics in the United States.”
His report continued: “‘I look at the Americans. I look at Ron DeSantis in Florida and Kristi Noem in South Dakota,’ said Smith. ‘They’ve been able to create little bastions of freedom, and we can create a little bastion of freedom in Alberta as well.”
Now this is tantalizing, and worrisome. It’s a pity Mr. Zdebiak wasn’t able to provide us with a few more details about what Alberta’s premier was trying to get at.
Florida Governor and Donald Trump rival DeSantis is known for his anti-book, anti-abortion, anti-immigrant, anti-gay, anti-vaccine, pro-gun policies. (In some pictures, Mr. DeSantis resembles Huey P. Long, Governor of Louisiana from 1928 to 1932 and thereafter U.S. Senator for the same state until his death at the hands of an assassin in 1935. Mr. DeSantis’s approach to politics seems similar, too, although he clearly lacks Gov. Long’s concern about the fate of the working class.)
South Dakota Governor Noem was born the same year as Ms. Smith and is seemingly cut from the same piece of Republican cloth. Pretty much the same thing can be said of her policy preferences as those of Mr. DeSantis. She adds to this unwholesome mix, though, a belief that the energy industry can do no wrong combined with an effort to muzzle free speech by anyone who says that ain’t so. This attitude would find a sympathetic ear in parts of rural Alberta.)
From this we can get a pretty good idea of what kind of bastion of “freedom” Ms. Smith would like to create in Alberta.
Mr. Zdebiak’s report, which began to surface on social media Wednesday, went on: “Many of the questions brought up by Gibbons’ residents were about the World Economic Forum, the World Health Organization, and 15 Minute Cities.”
Who wouldn’t have loved to be a fly on the wall at that meeting? (Does anyone out there have a recording?)
According to the report, the meeting was well attended – about 500 people, some of whom “travelled from as far as Calgary.” (I’ll bet!)
Deprived of any further information, all that can be noted is that Gibbons legally became a town on April 1, 1977.
Meanwhile, in a moment reminiscent of Ms. Smith’s leaked telephone conversation with anti-vaxx street preacher Artur Pawlowski, a photo of the premier with a couple of convoy insurrectionists facing criminal charges appeared on social media yesterday.
It was posted by one of the two men facing the charges stemming from the February 2022 convoy occupation of Ottawa. “Doing our small part to make sure Alberta is a beacon of Freedom to the rest of Canada,” said James Bauder, one of the leaders of the Ottawa occupation, on his Facebook page.
The time and place the photo of Premier Smith posing with Mr. Bauder and Ontario-based occupation participant Harold Jonker: Wednesday night at a UCP fund-raiser in Calgary.
The UCP candidate: Eric Bouchard, who has been associated with the extremist Take Back Alberta faction that now controls the UCP.
“You would think that those kind of associations would be something that she might want to avoid on the eve of an election,” Mount Royal University political scientist Lori Williams told CTV News wonderingly after that incident lit up on social media. “I would’ve expected her to be a bit more careful about associating with the people that represent a far-right fringe.”
That presupposes, of course, that Ms. Smith cares, or doesn’t think this sort of thing will hurt her.
It’s probably time to stop excusing her for just being sloppy and admit that she really believes this stuff.
“Once again, Danielle Smith is spending her time meeting with extremists facing serious criminal charges,” said NDP Justice Critic Irfan Sabir in a statement emailed yesterday to media. “This is not the behaviour of a premier.”
“This is a pattern of behaviour for Smith to meet with people who undermined the rule of law, harmed our economy, and caused tremendous hardship for ordinary people,” Mr. Sabir said.