The Alberta commentariat was asked: What can we expect from the United Conservative Party in 2024?

The Alberta commentariat has answered: More of the same!

Here are a couple of examples:

“2023 a roller-coaster for Danielle Smith and Alberta politics, with no signs 2024 will be any different.”Don Braid, the unquestioned dean of Alberta political commentators. 

“To get an idea of what Alberta politics will look like in 2024, you don’t need a crystal ball. A rear-view mirror will do.”Graham Thomson, the other unquestioned dean of Alberta political commentators. 

Can’t say I disagree very much with this assessment myself, with a couple of caveats: 

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith’s hostility to vaccines and effective public health measures are an essential part of her personal brand (Photo: Legislative Assembly of Alberta/Flickr).

First, there will be more of the same, alright. A lot more!

Like any grifter who has enjoyed a modest success with a scam, the Danielle Smith Government is likely to double down on what appears to have worked for it in 2023 and do more of it in 2024. 

So, for starters, don’t expect the effort to grab your Canada Pension Plan savings to go away, even if Conservative leaders in other provinces like Ontario’s Doug Ford and New Brunswick’s Blaine Higgs don’t like it, never mind Albertans. (If you haven’t figured out by now that Albertans’ opinions don’t count for much with the UCP government unless they’re the same as Premier Smith’s opinions, you haven’t been paying enough attention.) Even if Pierre Poilievre becomes prime minister and decides he doesn’t like it either, it’s said here it will stay on the agenda. 

Second, a number of truly terrible ideas talked about largely behind closed doors, but occasionally in public – as in the separatist Free Alberta Strategy co-authored by Rob Anderson, Ms. Smith’s office manager and Svengali, and the UCP’s policy resolutions at its fall AGM – are going to stick around and likely turn into policy as well. 

This makes writing the traditional list of New Year’s predictions both easier and harder than usual for political prognosticators. 

Don Braid, the unquestioned dean of Alberta political commentators (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Easier, because you really only need to look at the list of bad ideas pushed now by the UCP.

Harder, because if you are or used to be a traditional newspaper columnist, as both Mr. Braid and Mr. Thomson are, you naturally feel some obligation to provide your readers with thoughtful analysis.

And how does one provide thoughtful analysis when the government’s obvious plan going forward is basically, Same s**t, different year

Accordingly, in lieu of the traditional analysis, I have merely provided a list of 10 general areas in which we are likely to see more of the same – and I do mean more – in 2024. 

I should caution that this is not a Top Ten list, with the traditional No. 1 policy positioned at the bottom as a punchline. Indeed, it is not intended to be a joke in any sense.

Graham Thomson, also the unquestioned dean of Alberta political commentators (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Many of these trends are interrelated, and which one is the flotsam at top the swamp of UCP policy at any given time will depend on what appears likely to get the best results or the government’s short-term goals at that moment. 

Still, we can expect all of these general policy trends to animate the Smith Government in 2024: 

  • Resistance to any form of policy or market change that tends to mitigate global climate change, at least until the energy industry actually moves beyond its efforts to squeeze every last drop of profit from the status quo
  • Refusal to acknowledge the effectiveness of vaccines, and not just vaccines against COVID-19. Hostility and conspiratorial beliefs about vaccines and effective public health measures is a core part of Premier Smith’s personal brand and a prime motivator of the UCP faction that delivered her victories in 2022 and 2023. So University of Calgary political scientist Lisa Young is unlikely to see her wish for a working health care system come true in 2024. 
  • Determination to drive forward the ideology of privatization, especially in health care. As history has shown in Canada and elsewhere, marketing privatization as a solution to a crumbling and underfunded health care system is lent credibility by the chaos caused by other policies, such as the refusal to encourage vaccine use. Likewise, the UCP emphasis on coercive drug treatment instead of harm-reduction programs can be seen as a deadly form of creeping health-care privatization. 
  • The Americanization of Alberta policy, and politics – no surprise, one supposes, for a group of politicians trained at the feet of an old Americanizer like Preston Manning. Whether it’s the fetishization of firearms, the slow-motion destruction of public health care and education, the obsession with targeting gay and trans rights, or doing the will of Big Tobacco and Big Oil, we’ve seen it all before south of the Medicine Line. What’s new with the Smith Government is its sometimes shocking lack of understanding that the Westminster Parliamentary system prevails in Canada, hence Ms. Smith’s apparently genuine surprise she does not enjoy the powers of a U.S. state governor. 
  • As per the Free Alberta Strategy, the advancement of “provincial rights” as if they were states’ rights in the American constitutional sense. Look for the war with Ottawa to last as long as the Trudeau Government in Ottawa, but maybe longer, now that the UCP has awoken a potentially violent separatist minority in Wild Rose Country. 
  • Bringing local issues in progressive-leaning cities under direct provincial control. As we have already seen, legislation will be changed in the name of consistency to prevent municipalities from encouraging installation of heat pumps instead of fossil-gas furnaces, and the UCP is willing to fight to prevent Ottawa from giving housing subsidies directly to cities. This is already a trend in U.S. Red States
  • Undermining First Nations Treaty rights with the goal, one way or another, of eliminating them completely. Given Canada’s constitution, this will not be an easy task for provincial governments like Alberta’s and Saskatchewan’s, so they will likely push here and there in 2024 but hope that a federal Conservative government can be elected to do their work for them. 
  • Likewise, undermining union rights through the creation of more U.S.-style anti-union legislation. We know from recent and past UCP policy resolutions that there is a strong lobby within the party for “right-to-work” laws to gut the ability of unions to defend their members. The courts and the constitution stand in their way, however. Ms. Smith would love to be able to use her outrageously unconstitutional Sovereignty Act to circumvent them. But does she dare?
  • Growing the role of corporations in drafting legislation to suit their own wishes. I give you RStar, the fossil fuel industry dream policy of having taxpayers pay oil drillers to clean up abandoned wells they have already agreed to clean up, for which Ms. Smith herself once worked as a corporate lobbyist. This is also a widespread trend in the United States
  • Inching toward an abortion ban. The UCP, of course, will insist this is nonsense, and be quick to point out Ms. Smith’s apparently liberal views on the topic. Be that as it may, how can it be otherwise with people like Adriana LaGrange as health minister, Dan Williams as minister of mental health and addictions, and David Parker as the leader of the Take Back Alberta faction that controls the UCP board. Their extreme social conservative views are well known. They are in prominent roles for a reason. 

Have a safe and enjoyable New Year’s Eve and a Happy New Year. 

Join the Conversation


  1. Hello DJC,
    thanks for you column. Unfortunately, your predictions will, almost certainly, become reality. I am still in shock at what we are seeing, and I still feel as if I’m in an alternative universe. I think that Jason Kenney is in part responsible for paving the way that enabled Danielle Smith to become premier. On the other hand, maybe Jason Kenney was afraid of the influence of TBA and tried to walk a less radical road. Perhaps, political watchers have a better idea of why Kenney made the decisions that he did.

  2. Now that it appears that Alberta’s independence movement has reared its ugly head, again, I suspect that a whole litany of other stupid ideas will pop up again. I suppose, given my time involved in the RPC, I encountered more than a few idiots who are wannabe Napoleons and Alexander the Greats. They saw in an independent and free(DUMB) Alberta the potential foundation of the greatest nation ever. This sort of chest swelling puffery could be dismissed as one of the hobbies of the demented, but these people tend to go to that other bridge, where their crazy is inspired by the lunacy found among right-wing talk radio in the US. These days, I have no doubt these loonies would eat up every conspiracy theory out there, Q-anon and all of them. Danielle Smith and her ilk have latched onto this nonsense full-on, in the hope that they will get away with their list of grifts they want to foist on the unsuspecting and moronic Albertans. Running to Smith because you want to own PMJT has got to be the dumbest act ever. (BTW, the stupidest people alive DO deserve all their misfortune.)

    Alberta’s dark comedy will continue, and it will only get worse.

  3. on the 4th point, you forgot bringing political parties at the municipal level…. from there, it’s a short leap to electing judges, chief of police, etc.

  4. ‘with the traditional No. 1 policy positioned at the bottom as a punchline’

    Wishing a happy new year after that depressing list of (probably correct) predictions has to be considered a bit of a punchline.

    That said, David, I do wish you, and the commentating community you have created, as happy a new year as possible.

  5. These prognostications are bang on and worthy of Carnac the Magnificent himself. Question of the day is will the UCP pass legislation to make it harder to elect progressive governments in Municipalities? For example, duplicating Ontario’s law of making ranked ballots illegal in Municipal elections? As a corollary, will the UCP game the system to make it virtually impossible to vote them out of power as they have no doubt by now decided they are the natural governing party.

  6. Happy New Year’s Eve and Happy New Year to you, David. Your news and commentary are ever more important at this time in Alberta. Long may continue!

  7. Basically, it will be an expansion of the horrific mess the UCP have already done in Alberta. More gutting of our core programs and services, so they can be privatized, more disregard for the health and well being of Albertans, more pricey shenanigans, that will cost us billions of dollars, more contempt for the less fortunate, letting the environment suffer even further, more costlier utilities and insurance, all under a dictatorship style government. Anyone with even a slightest bit of common sense would have rejected this. When you thought you couldn’t find someone worse than Ralph Klein, it happened. It’s here with Danielle Smith and the UCP.

  8. It’s funny DJC, when I read your headline my first instinctive thought was “same shit, different year” (regarding the upcoming year under UCP rule, not your article) and then lo & behold you used that exact phrase in your post. Great minds think alike, indeed!

    Happy New Year to you and yours!

  9. I think that we can expect further erosion of our post-secondary system. Possibly the fight with Athabasca University will be pulled back out of the bag in the coming year.
    Alberta is becoming increasingly dystopian.

    1. Agreed. I can see some kind of push, similar to what Florida is doing with public universities, of removing/defunding any university program that is not “relevant” to the economy (so the liberal arts and social sciences, expect maybe a very neo-liberal version of economics). Also, look forward to some kind of “Don’t Say Gay” legislation for schools. And bans on the (likely non-existent, but never mind facts) critical race theory.

      1. Expat: Just read the UCP policy proposals – there’s a link in the story – to see explicit calls for just what you describe. DJC

  10. Oh, I forgot – Happy New Year, David, and thanks for all of the work you’ve done over the preceding year.

    1. Regarding bringing local issues in progressive-leaning cities under direct provincial control: cities need to pass legislation analogous to the Sovereignty Act to protect municipal policymaking. Sure, it’s bulls**t, but let Danielle Smith dare to call it that and override it (or take it to court), making her hypocrisy over he own Act even clearer (and providing a very good political weapon to galvanize, say, Edmontonians against creeping provincial interference into their affairs).

  11. Reacting to “until the energy industry actually moves beyond its efforts to squeeze every last drop of profit from the status quo”. Many of the old fossil fuel companies are diversifying into renewables. For example, Enbridge has a stake in 23 wind farms with future total capacity of almost 5000 MW. Our government is actually far behind the energy industry and pulling them backwards through actions like the renewables ban. Also noteworthy that the federal government used to effectively regulate fuel economy standards for vehicles in the 70’s and 80’s but has completely abdicated that role in recent decades, which spurs demand for fossil fuels. To wit, the average ICE vehicle in the early 80’s actually got better fuel economy than in the 2020’s. But hey, who doesn’t need a 200 hp compact car or a 450 hp pickup?

  12. Do I know you sensei? I have an aching heart. It longs for peace and goodwill to manifest. Sadly the work that is needed is not done yet. The energy for the effort is sometimes found in song! It is a new year, but the struggle may continue!

  13. It’s hard to think 2024 will be anything but grim and grimmer. It could and probably will be worse than you have predicted, with these gassy fossils in charge.

  14. More of the same…unless TBA feels that DS is not moving fast enough or in the right direction. A palace coup would mean at least 6 months lost momentum and the possible calling of a snap election. The Lt Gov might have to step in.

    1. I don’t think we can count on the nearly-dead vestiges of parliamentary government to save us. The UCP can be routed in the election, or there can be massive civil unrest. I do not that either outcome is likely. Too many people would rather die in the back on ambulance awaiting admission than admit how far gone the situation really is.

  15. Well that was depressing. Back in the day we used to refer to Alberta as Texas North. Today that is scary as Trump. If Albertans want the type of government Smith is working towards, they deserve what they get. Of course the impact on children will be great and they didn’t get to vote on it. This rush to the right is not going to benefit anyone except those who will get rich off of the schemes.
    If Smith wants Alberta to leave Canada, she can move out of Canada and go to Texas if she want that life style.
    Read an interesting american article, topic: baby boomers are aging and will need assitance the their families are not ready for and there isn’t adequate care available if you’re not well to do. Quite depressing. If that is what older Albertans want, they could give it a practise run to see how they like living in a room without adequate care, food, etc.
    Smith is going to do what she wants and Trudeau will hopefully will be the one to do what Canada needs.
    Happy New Year! and Thank you for the work you do with this blog.

  16. Any one who actually believed all the nice non threatening things the UCP said about health care and the CPP before and during the recent provincial election will likely be sadly disappointed. Its not like there are huge budget pressures right now, but the UCP leans towards more privatization and disruption of health care.

    It also is looking for every fight it can get into with Ottawa to satisfy its more extreme supporters, so it will continue to try replace CPP with an Alberta Pension Plan, even though that is one of its most unpopular policies with everyone else.

    The upcoming year will be particularly bad for health care as their planned restructuring of AHS will be disruptive. Gee, its too bad no one warned us in the election the UCP would try do these things. Oh wait a minute, the NDP did but apparently enough voters fell for Smith’s glib reassuring messaging at the time. Perhaps some of them are starting to regret that now.

  17. More of the same? I wish it were so. Unfortunately, it will be worse than the same in Alberta. I’m certain about that.

  18. The UCP government our Alberta compatriots very nearly didn’t elect is extraordinarily impolitic because the party has been commandeered by a radicalized, far-right faction so exclusively partisan that its policies (if they can be called that) are too extreme to pay dividends— not politically, not psephologically, not federalistically, or, if it comes to that, not diplomatically, either, in the international sense. UCP leader Danielle Smith never much cared about that and, now, the Take Back Alberta puppet-masters care even less.

    Thus the TBAUCP is fixing for a fight—or perhaps more like a shootout at high noon, to put it more Americanly, as cited in DJC’s list for 2024: it recruits with Freedumbite/Jan6-like slogans, sings MTG/Blowbot paeans from the hymnary of debased evangelism, and only exceeds its tRumpublican heroes’ constitutional revisionism by reading it, eisegetically, into a completely different one: ours, the Canadian one.

    It’s logic, self-proclaimed, is as elaborate as any conspiracy theory but, stripped down, is to remove Alberta as far as possible from the Canadian federation; to that extent it only half-uses secession as a cudgel with which it hopes to gain special, confederacy-like distinctiveness logically impossible in any federation. Yet the rhetoric of misdirected democracy exists and is likely to get louder; and nothing is quite as loud as referenda campaigns— pensions or federalism it doesn’t matter—because, at least until the result is announced, both sides are stridently vocal, the losing side going to ground only afterwards.

    High noon it is, then. After all, TBAUCP is going to get quickly entangled in the jungle-gym of intersecting webs of Canadian sovereignty—not only the Constitution but also first-minister regionalism, treaties under the Indian Act, trade agreements, strategic alliances, UN resolutions, and international environmental-protection accords—federal jurisdiction all. Such cracker-head acceleration always risks over-skating the puck. Thus, to avoid looking like it doesn’t know what it’s doing, at least to its more extreme supporters, it has to counter the perception with a much less-transparent veil than its stock, thin-skinned victimhood has caterwauled so far. Read: hot lead.

    DJC’s lists four general TBAUCP objectives against which are several adversaries more or less vigorously opposed and all formidable to some degree, a handful of allies more or less unreliable, Big Bitumen being its most powerful yet fair-weather friend, and a small but vocal faction of co-sympathetic Freedumbites, anti-vaxxers, antiabortionists, anti-gender liberationists, and People’s Party voters residing thinly across the Canadian vastness. (Note that trumpublicans can’t vote in Alberta, either)

    This last ally is the only one —aside from TBA pickets guarding their wagon laager—which doesn’t measure the UCP government as incompetent of doing any worthwhile politics, much less the Clausewitzian “politcs by other means” it displays with such foolhardy bravado. TBAUCP forces Albertans to pay dearly for the liquid cash flow squeezed from diluted bitumen, but it’s very uncertain if the broody Albetarian behemoth is inclined or even capable of matching the materiel arrayed against the golden chicken of the tax-paying Alberta electorate and the chicken-playing party it elected to power.

    It’s remarkably unsurprising that TBAUCP is utterly tactless when it comes to the element of surprise. Imperious nakedness and likely dearth of sufficient resources to prosecute a full-fledged partsian war leaves only resort to deception—which of course has Sun Tzu bona fides, but won’t fly in courts of law, whence a significant amount of opposition sure to come. Yet it already has succeeded in the courts of psephology, albeit by diminishing margins—which are nonetheless encouraging trigger-happy troops fain to taking the opportunity—even though they probably couldn’t execute an effective feint if their lives depended on it.

    Remind of General Brock and Tecumseh’s bluff which frightened US General Hull to surrender Fort Detroit and environs to a much inferior number of British and indigenous troops in 1812. Expect TBAUCP to affect such deception in the coming year. I’ll liken it to displaying the medium of ballistics gelatine as if all TBAUCP has to decide is which, not how much ammo to use—that is, as if it has more than enough to spare in order to determine bullet velocity and penetration into a medium which resembles muscle tissue of the Canadian body politic.

    Hollow-point or full-metal jacket? The former saved for immediate damage required in election campaigns, the latter for lesser but deeper, more lingering damage; each with its distinctive threat value.

    Condensed from the list: 1) corporate (fossil fuel) favour: TBAUCP’s best ammo, metal-jacket for coercing the nominal ally, the federal CPC, to keep firing at federal corporate and carbon taxes, and for threatening the Diperal government; save hollow-point for the next Alberta NDP election campaign; 2) Privatization (health care): big objective, poorer ammo, both kinds against NDP’s defence of unionized healthcare workers, against Canada Health Act and the SCoC, and maybe hollow-point alone to coerce a CPC reluctant to offend a sacred cow; 3) Americanization: even bigger objective, even poorer ammo, both kinds for Diplibs, premiers, and SCoC, but hold fire to avoid wasting on provincial NDP and risking covering the CPC with friendly fire; 4) Undermining Rights (Aboriginal, unions, personal), practically zero ammo, avoid drawing fire, especially from the Diplibs which have all the ammo and lots of it.

    While TBAUCP feigns confidence, while it overtly drills its troops, sights its guns and hints and secret weapons it doesn’t have, while it rails at, mostly, the federal government, Supreme Court, Constitution, and federalism itself, and while it vilifies any dissent or criticism, it will try to conceal certain befuddlement at its slipping popularity —perhaps the more defiantly, the more confidently the Loyal Opposition will gather its acorns and grow its little oak even bigger. But it will not be able to indulge in a certain paranoia as much as it would like, that of always-present schism within is Frankenstein party, for to do so would blow its cover, reward its partisan opponents, and waste valuable but dear ammo in a two-front war it could only lose.

    What continues to amaze me is how defiant such an gormlessly impolitic party appears to be while binder-twining such an improbable political strategy. Surely serial political suicide must be the rarest of beasts but, if there has to be one more time, it’ll be in Alberta—and I’m pretty sure it won’t be good for Albertans.

    Thus my wishes for 2024 must be the sincerest because there might be three more New Years to go to see…

    …to see if…

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