Irfan Sabir, the NDP Opposition’s justice critic, wasn’t wrong when he complained on Saturday that Danielle Smith shouldn’t be able to rattle off a meaningless apology in the Legislature and then just sashay away from any consequences for breaking the law.
“Today Danielle Smith claimed that her apology to the Legislature closed the book on her unethical and illegal actions,” Mr. Sabir said Saturday in response to fairly predictable remarks Premier Smith made earlier that day on the radio program CORUS Entertainment provides for her.
Well, guess what? She almost certainly can!
Asked by the show’s obsequious host about the NDP’s calls for a criminal investigation by the RCMP of the premier’s ethics breach, which was identified by Ethics Commissioner Marguerite Trussler in her May 18 report on Ms. Smith’s meeting with extremist preacher Artur Pawlowski and her subsequent conversations with former justice minister Tyler Shandro, the premier glibly shot back:
“Well, look, it came up during the election, and people made their decision in the election. We got a majority government. I’ve taken responsibility, and we’re going to move on from that.”
There’s more, but it’s not really significant. Readers can listen to the show for themselves if they wish.
The point is that Mr. Sabir was correct when he said, “Danielle Smith broke the law and interfered in the justice system.” Moreover, he was backed up on that point by Ms. Trussler’s report.
But he was only theoretically right when he went on to say, “she’s not above the law.”
This is Alberta, and I’m afraid that doesn’t mean, in Mr. Sabir’s words, that the premier “can’t just apologise and walk away from the consequences for her actions.”
She just did, and it’s going to work.
The response of most Albertans, including a significant number who would have preferred to see the NDP elected on May 29, is going to be a bored shrug.
There are a couple of reasons for this: First, as the premier rightly implied, voters do not view this as a serious matter – or at least not enough of them to prevent Ms. Smith from winning a majority government.
The public had much the same reaction when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was accused in 2019 of doing much the same thing in the SNC/Lavalin case. It’s mildly ironic, but not much more, that the same Conservative supporters who are now shrugging off Ms. Smith’s ethical failings were screaming bloody murder then.
Performative foot stomping by Conservatives then had no effect, and performative foot stomping by the Alberta NDP now won’t either.
That’s not a good thing, but as anyone who has observed Alberta politics for long understands, Conservatives act as if they are entitled in this province for good reason – they are.
The concept of the rule of law in Alberta is subject to certain caveats – and that won’t change matter how loud and long Mr. Sabir shouts about this.
Mr. Sabir is a smart lawyer, and it seems likely he understands this perfectly well. The NDP under Rachel Notley has obviously decided that notwithstanding their lack of victory in May 29, this is a worthwhile strategy for the NDP to pursue with an ethically challenged government.
In other words, they are continuing with exactly the same strategy in Opposition that failed to win the election campaign for them.
OK, I get it. It’s outrageous to see people like Ms. Smith waltz back into office. But it should now be obvious that basing an Opposition strategy on pointing out her obvious faults isn’t going to do much good.
So maybe the NDP should take the premier’s advice on this one and move on from attacking her character – which everyone, including those Albertans who vote for her, knows is deeply flawed – and start offering an alternative platform to the terrible polices that the UCP is going to start implementing soon.
Just for starters, how about being brave and advancing some policies that would be popular with voters – like government auto insurance or setting up a provincial telecommunications Crown corporation to help put an end to price gouging by the UCP’s corporate pals?
Because pursuing the same strategy as in the last election campaign isn’t likely to produce a different result. And you all know what they say about that.