Declaration of a provincial state of emergency just 23 days before the spring election introduces a new level of complexity to Alberta’s electoral math.

Alberta Opposition Leader Rachel Notley (Photo: Alberta NDP).

Alberta is now dealing with electoral calculus, as it were, not just mere arithmetic.

With dry conditions, hot winds and high temperatures fanning more than 100 wildfires that had forced close to 25,000 Albertans in about 20 communities out of their homes by yesterday afternoon, there’s no question the state of emergency is justified. 

Whether the personal presence of Premier Danielle Smith clad in sombre black yesterday was strictly necessary at two wildfire briefings of the sort normally conducted by forest-fire-fighting officials is a subject that could be debated, however. The state of emergency was declared between the two briefings.

The situation – with a stream of provincial emergency warnings blaring from radios and smoke visible from local fires in many parts of central Alberta – gives Ms. Smith an opportunity to change the channel on her serial blunders so far in the campaign. 

On the other hand, she could hardly continue to go to campaign events with the Opposition NDP announcing it will stop campaigning in seven ridings hit particularly hard by the fires: Drayton Valley-Devon, Lesser Slave Lake, Central Peace-Notley, Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland, Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville, West Yellowhead, and Grande Prairie-Wapiti.

At the noon briefing yesterday, Ms. Smith seemed to admit she’d asked Elections Alberta if the vote could be delayed. “I did make a request to Elections Alberta to give some feedback on what they would do in the event that there was an event, whether it was a fire or a flood,” she said. 

The answer appears to have been forget about it, or, as Ms. Smith actually put it, she was told it would be “very unusual to move election day.”

NDP Opposition Leader Rachel Notley, who was premier during the Fort McMurray Fire and successful mass evacuation of the northern city in 2016, said in a statement that “I also want to formally extend my offer to the premier and fellow members of the Emergency Cabinet Committee that I join their meetings as they work through this difficult situation.”

But when a reporter brought that up during Ms. Smith’s second wildfire briefing yesterday afternoon, it required the premier to squirm a bit, and not appear to be ungrateful, but the answer was pretty obviously no

Meanwhile, the ironies highlighted by the wave of wildfires battering Alberta in the midst of an election campaign in which the state of the environment plays a controversial role are inescapable, although not particularly funny.

An Alberta Wildfire map of fires burning in the province – out-of-control fires are marked in red (Image: Alberta Wildfire).

Ms. Smith called the situation “unprecedented” at both news conferences – prompting many observations that Western Canadians had better get used to precedents being set because global climate change is driving the conditions that are a creating this situation.

The premier and her United Conservative Party aren’t very anxious to go there, and given their history of climate change skepticism and outright denialism, you can’t really blame them. 

A much-commented-on social media video from Friday showed Ms. Smith unironically holding forth about the need to pay attention to what the experts had to say. “For those who live in areas with or near active wildfires, it’s crucial that you listen to local officials and obey evacuation orders,” she said. “The direction they provide is for your safety and for the safety of your family.”

As for fire bans and other restrictions, she added, “the bans and restrictions are not optional. They are in place for the safety of Alberta families and to help prevent more wildfires.”

Public Safety and Emergency Services Minister Mike Ellis expressed a similar thought at Newser No. 2 yesterday: “We’re listening to those incident commanders that are on the ground. We’re listening to the experts.” (Emphasis added.)

Of course, under the circumstances, Ms. Smith’s reaction the last time experts were being consulted – about the wildfire spread of COVID-19 infections – is impossible to forget. 

Well, I suppose we Albertans should count ourselves lucky that there are some experts, at least, that Ms. Smith and the UCP consider worth listening to!

After some initial dancing around about whether to accept the federal government’s offer of help – which hardly reinforces Ms. Smith’s and the UCP’s sovereignty schtick – she seemed to acknowledge with a lot of muddled verbiage during the second newser that Alberta will accept Ottawa’s aid. 

Asked why she’s attended a UCP campaign event in Calgary yesterday, the emergency notwithstanding, she explained that there are some commitments you just have to keep. 

Meanwhile, UCP supporters and their army of social media bots were quick to gin up a conspiracy theory that the fires were being deliberately set by “the far left” so, as one such tweet put it, “the main stream media will soon push ‘climate change’ harder.”

It would be as absurd to suggest that the other side was lighting fires to make life less embarrassing for the premier, although it’s a comment on the quality of the debate that there was none of that from Ms. Smith’s opponents. 

What’s with those never-ending emergency alerts? 

Eyebrows are being raised everywhere in Alberta at the never ending stream of emergency alerts, often for fires not remotely close to where the alerts are being heard. Also, it’s weird that the robotic voice of the announcements doesn’t know how to pronounce “emergency.” Hint: It’s not “aymer-JENN-see.”

This is a reminder that the Provincial Emergency Public Warning System worked just fine up until 2011, as long as CKUA Radio was responsible for running it. 

In 2010, the Provincial Emergency Management Agency inexplicably announced an Ottawa company called Black Coral Inc. would build a new and supposedly better system.

Too good a campaign? NDP candidate fights back against sign vandalism, ugly messages

Innisfail-Sylvan Lake NDP candidate Jason Heistad (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Jason Heistad, the NDP candidate in Innisfail-Sylvan Lake, is apparently really bugging supporters of Devin Dreeshen, the riding’s UCP MLA.

Mr. Heistad, on leave as an Innisfail town councillor and AUPE official, took on the effort to unseat Mr. Dreeshen in what’s considered a safe UCP seat. 

This should have been no big deal. But Mr. Heistad’s campaign has been suffering vandalism to its signs and some pretty nasty messages from anonymous trolls.

In response, Mr. Heistad published a video that’s very brave and pretty funny. It’s worth a look.

Mr. Dreeshen is best known for an image of him toasting Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential election victory while wearing a red MAGA cap, captured by a Getty Images photographer in New York where the Albertan had been volunteering for Mr. Trump’s campaign. He resigned as agriculture minister in 2021 after allegations of frequent drinking in the Legislature Building. 

Join the Conversation


  1. Considering the usual nonsense that erupts from Danielle Smith’s yap, I expected her to go on some rant about ANTIFA terrorists shooting flares into Alberta’s dangerously dry brush and igniting these wildfires. And the UPC’s fellow travellers on social-media have also made similar accusations about Alberta having an “arson problem”. And not be outdone, Keean Bexte made the pretty rich claim that the wildfires were started by female firefighters. According to Angry Caillou, it seems that the women, being naturally frightened of fire and inclined to panic, lost control of their own controlled-burn. There you have it — Diversity is the problem. Of course, the usual culprits, like over-zealous ATV riders and careless cigarette smokers are not to blame, because the UCP can’t offend their base.

    And one wonders about Smith actually entertaining the notion of postponing the election until there’s … rain? Or, maybe snow on the ground? I bet she wishes she would have repealed that fixed election law after all. But, given the instances in the past, where governments have decided to run their terms for an extra year and hope for forgiveness, voters were especially hostile and downright destructive to any political party that was cavalier enough to pull that dumb stunt.

    Smith may really be in over her head. And I need more popcorn.

    1. Just: When I worked for the B.C. Forest Service waaaaay back in the day, we had a few controlled burns get out of control too. It happens occasionally. They were always being run by men. DJC

    2. She might still be able to borrow Marjorie Taylor Greene’s explanation for California wildfires, that they were caused by ‘Space Lasers’ put into space by the Rothchild’s to clear land for some project.

    3. What an article filled with gas-lighting and narrow-minded mission… Pull your head above the smoke filled skies and take a look at the bigger picture. There’s corruption afoot and if you think otherwise, you haven’t been around long enough to see what hatred will drive people to do in big money and politics. The alternative is not as farfetched as you think.

      Just look at a map and decide for yourself… Divide and conquer being played in 2023.

  2. This is very serious, and Danielle Smith was at a fundraising event for the UCP. It shows where her true priorities are. It’s best that the UCP are voted out.

  3. It was disturbing to watch those press conferences, where the premier seemed to treat the wildfires as an inconvenience to her busy schedule. Fine dining at a campaign event apparently supercedes tens of thousands of displaced people and a sizeable part of the province turning to ash. Does anyone else find it odd that the premier took the time to contact Elections Alberta about the campaign, but can’t quite seem to find time to ask for help from the federal government just yet?

    “In recent years” was the key phrase to describe the situation, later defined as the past five years. The Fort McMurray and Slave Lake wildfires did not occur “in recent years”, but they did occur in May and they were large. There is no pattern here, “in recent years”. No sir.

    As for the hot, dry gale that whipped through Alberta last week, my neighbor’s UCP lawn sign is gone with the wind. I’m sure that’s no comfort to Mr. Heistad and other NDP candidates whose signs have been vandalized. However, that leaves zero UCP signs on my street, a non-swing constituency that had consistently voted conservative since its creation. Had. In the past.

  4. un·prec·e·dent·ed
    never done or known before.

    If you suggest that these fires are a result of climate change to a climate change denier, he/she will often counter with ‘we have always had fires’. I wonder if Danielle Smith considered the meaning of the word ‘unprecedented’ and realized she was essentially undermining the ‘we have always had fires’ argument.

  5. Danielle couldn’t bring herself to look Justin in the eye and ” gave ” her hand in the most awkward way imaginable and now has to ask for help from the Feds. Like everything the conservatives do ( from both sides of the Medicine line ) everything is performative posturing to a narrowing base and special interests.I am hoping the Gen Z vote can make a difference in this election because some of my fellow Albertan’s would vote for a sign post if it had a UCP sticker on it.

  6. So while the stupidity goes on in Alberta we haven’t forgotten that it was Reformer Jason Kenney who thought it smart to create the lie that foreign corporations were attacking our oil industry, and wasted $3.5 million of taxpayers money in doing so, now his Reform Party pal Pierre Poilievre has decided to try it at the federal level, proving just how stupid these guys are. I wonder what this stupidity is costing taxpayers? It’s no secret there is nothing conservative about any of them, wasting taxpayers money is no concern of theirs. Supporting criminals is what they do best.
    I think Poilievre is going to look really stupid if it’s found that some conservatives were involved also, but I think it’s all just another Reform Party lie. Created to fool the ignorant fools supporting them. None of our oil executives were dumb enough to buy into Kenney’s lies were they, and we don’t see any proof that this is true, or that it’s had any effect on any elections. It’s just another Reform Party attempt at blaming it on others, like they have always done.

  7. “Meanwhile, UCP supporters and their army of social media bots were quick to gin up a conspiracy theory that the fires were being deliberately set by “the far left” . . .”

    Where a local secret “leftist” plot is part of the larger International Communist Conspiracy with the goal of establishing a One World Communist Government, one assumes. It never gets old because maintaining the capitalist economic status quo is a serious business, Therefore, as a useful, convenient, and deliberate diversionary tactic it is one that just keeps on getting recycled for the System one thinkers that are the targeted softheaded dupes and suckers:

    The attendant false narratives, disinformation, political polarization, and extremism have larger political consequences by becoming breeding grounds for manipulating the public and also having the potential for political violence, demagoguery, and authoritarianism, because:

    “Wherever the nationalist right has gained ground, it has unfailingly found a “communist” enemy to berate where none exists, . . . The political theorist Jodi Dean has a point when she argues that anti-communism is a pervasive ideology of capitalism, as it serves to demarcate what is acceptable and what is off the table. Free healthcare and public ownership of broadband, for example, have been stigmatized as “communist”.”

  8. BC has lucked out the last couple years—in wildfire terms—although flooding is still an issue. In the few years prior to this soggy respite, regional wildfire smoke filled my yard a few summers in a row, including smoke from the Fort Mac fire several hundred kilometres away. My heart goes out to my Alberta compatriots—all of them, regardless partisanship.

    It’s difficult, given the election-cycle circumstances, to say this without sounding like I’m taking unfair advantage of the wildfire situation today, but I don’t intend to compare Danielle Smith unfavourably against Rachel Notley who was Premier during the Fort Mac evac and wildfire devastation: that wouldn’t be fair because we haven’t seen enough of Smith’s handling of the current situation to make that comparison. The point, however, I want to make is that, not only did Notley respond to the Fort Mac disaster with professionalism and leadership—which Smith might yet display—but she did so despite that region’s well-known partisan preference for conservative representation, leaving partisan rivalry aside to serve her province’s citizens, no matter which way they vote—the thing all responsible governments are supposed to do.

    I have to admit: the first thing that occurred to me when I heard about the wildfires sweeping across central Alberta was Notley’s indiscriminate leadership during Fort Mac, way back. The next thing was the nasty, hyper-partisan rhetoric of the UCP which, under its bouncing new leader (now just ‘bounced’) swore to undo everything the NDP government did purely out of partisan spite, and its current leader who ruminated out-loud that government workers hired during the NDP’s tenure should expect to get their walking appears if she ever got into power.

    I’m not comparing Smith against Notley in wildfire-fighting terms. I wish that whoever stands with soot-blackened hard hat and shovel at the end of this wildfire (which will probably still be burning by May 29) only the best, in terms of fighting, for all Albertans’ sake, regardless their partisan stripes, their faiths, their ethnicities, their genders.

    Be well, my Alberta friends. Help is coming.

  9. Yes, the wildfires will impact the election. They will certainly take the focus off some things and put it on others, at least for some period of time. For instance, the fires are not happening where the election battles are the closest, so there will be changes in itinerary and travel plans.

    It also allows the Premier to look like she is governing, but obviously takes some attention from her senior party officials away from their campaign. So it probably would have been a good idea to involve the opposition in dealing with this too, but now they will be less constrained.

    In any event, it was a quieter than expected campaign already, although with perhaps a lot going on below the surface. A big difference between this and the last time this sort of thing happened is the government has been in power for a full term, so there could be more scrutiny of the quality of its response and what it did, or did not do, to better deal with such emergencies.

    So it will be hard for Smith to blame the previous government or the Feds for any shortcomings. It will also be harder to deny climate change is real and affects us too.

  10. Well before the writ was dropped for this election, Jason Heistad, NDP candidate for Innisfail/Sylvan Lake went on record that he(Jason) and his campaign team would run a clean, respectful and inclusive campaign that represents the values that all Albertans hold. I am so proud to be part of Jason’s team.

  11. AUPE article February 2020 states that the ucp cut firefighter funding 9.1 percent eliminated 15 full-time fire spotting watchtower positions and disbanded a 68 person strong rappelling firefighter team. What could go wrong? Maybe we could ask tba what they feel is responsible for out of control fires and floods so we can know more precisely where the government stands on this situation. Is it just me or does the leader of tba look like amish Seth Rogen?

  12. Fire cleanses corruption. Such was well known by ancient peoples. Plague and pestilence was cured therefore, by deliberately setting fire to areas of pestilence. Where is Artur P. The Diviner of Truth to pronounce the obvious. Anyway, satire aside, I don’t feel sorry for Devin Dreeshen and the United Calamity Party who ignored the signs of the times and cut the fire fighting budget. How utterly arrogant and stupid can a bunch of people be. But more so, I feel sorry for the people of Alberta who are reaping the whirl wind, deserving and undeserving alike. The UCP are surely not prudent stewards, and I leave it, as the situation speaks for itself. Hopefully, Danielle the dim doesn’t suggest raking the forest floors.

  13. Yes, Alberta laid off their rappelling fire fighters and here in B.C. I’d like to thank them. There are reports some of them came to B.C. B.C. was looking to add 8 rappellers Guess the UCP didn’t understand how difficult it is to find people who are willing to do that work, how long it takes to train rapelling fire fighters and have them work as a cohesive team. Given the shortage of workers in this country, you’d think Alberta would want to hang on to them.
    Once the rappeller has landed on the ground from anywhere from 40 to 250 ft. in the air, they carry about 85 lbs of equipment on their backs. Running is also important, one mile in about 10 minutes, with that pack on your back. Rappellers usually weight under 175 lbs.
    Ms. Smith may think attending two press conferences a day gives her more “air time”, but if she doesn’t handle the fires in an effective manner, all people will remember is the province burned while she talked.

    It is doubtful the “converted” will switch to the NDP even if their homes and farms burn to the ground. They’ll blame some body or something for starting the fires. May or may not work, but Smith’s antics may not help her during the election.

  14. The dry, skeptical expression on the face of Alberta Wildfire information manager Christie Tucker (rightmost in the lead photo) says it all. This is the third Danielle Smith photo-op I’ve seen where a professional woman in the frame looks as though she’d rather be in any other company.

  15. On the subject of “listening to experts”, one of the parody accounts on the Twitter #AbLeg feed posted this: Like the best of these satirical posts, this one has a certain level of credibility and might even be belief if you don’t take a beat or two.

    Some of these fires are a bit too close to home for us: we’re not under Evacuation Order or Alert, but the nearest Evacuation Order zone — in the County of Grande Prairie No. 1 — is a mere 5.5 km from our house. And another bad fire in our region, the one on the Sturgeon Lake First Nation outside Valleyview, saw Highway 43 closed between Valleyview and Bezanson for most of the weekend, and a son-in-law coming back from Edmonton Saturday evening ended up detoured an hour & a half by this closure.

    And, on this first day of National Nurses’ Week, very few nurses in Alberta or northern interior BC are going to be celebrating. Up here in the Peace Country, two hospitals — one in Fox Creek and another in High Prairie — and a continuing care centre in High Prairie, have been evacuated, with a number of patients and residents sent to the Grande Prairie Regional Hospital. Another North Zone hospital — Edson Healthcare Centre — and one in Central Zone — Drayton Valley — have also been evacuated. (There may be more, but none I am aware of).

  16. So Smith is asking Ottawa for help. Isn’t she an Alberta separatist?

    1. Walter: This is unclear. Ms. Smith said nothing, then she said she would request federal help, but the evidence now suggests she hasn’t. She says she’s not a separatist, she indicates in many ways that she is a separatist. I think the reasonable position to take at the point is to assume no request has been made to Ottawa until there is actual evidence of what specifically has been requested, and to assume that Ms. Smith is a separatist until she establishes clearly that is not so. On the latter point, thinking “that can’t be true” and doing nothing would be like assuming those pains in your chest are just indigestion. And, by the way, stuffing “within a united Canada” between the words “sovereignty” and “act” is not prima facie evidence of loyalty to Canada. DJC

  17. I actually think Jason Heistad is going to win Innisfail-Sylvan Lake. Strong candidate!

    1. Simon: Jason is a great candidate. I think the Town of Innisfail, where he is a respected member of the Town Council, will vote Heistad. If Sylvan Lake does too, you could be right. Out in the countryside, as Jason’s video shows, people who post NDP signs get threatened, so it’s harder to gauge the level of support. DJC

  18. Will there be a televised debate this campaign? All party leaders or just Smith vs Notley? And how many Albertans (excluding DJC) can name five parties and their leaders? And will the foreign-owned media
    (PostMedia) be revealed for what they actually are (Republican proxies)? Sorry, I could go on…..

  19. re: the look on Danielle’s face, my sister said it was the ‘Melania’ face, so did anyone happen to see if there was a quote on the back of her jacket??

    Lake of fire 2.0 , or in this case Alberta on for– gee, another video, ” vaccinated people…. following H ”
    Press Progress and Calgary Herald…..more fuel??

    To DJC and all the gang, my heart goes out to you all, you have more than enough on your plates at this time. Please stay safe…..

  20. Ok now, our Dani, is apologizing for being recorded claiming that people who took vaccines were somehow like “good” Germans during the ’30s and wartime. Good grief! Who in their right mind would vote for her?

    1. Dilbit: I don’t think she’s comparing vaccinated Albertans to the elusive “good Germans” of World War II. She’s comparing them to the bad ones, at least the ones who voted for Hitler for whatever reasons. So what she is really doing is comparing public health policies to Nazism and genocide, which is pretty outrageous by any measure. DJC

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