By Cal Braid
Westwind Weekly News
By the second week of July, Danielle Smith had submitted over 4,500 nomination signatures and the $175,000 fee that would officially allow her to campaign for United Conservative Party leader and Premier of Alberta. She held a public meeting at the Broadway Theatre in Raymond on July 15 that was well-attended, and she spent 30 minutes explaining her platform before moving into an open question-and-answer period. Her ability to engage the audience was on point and her policy proposals seemed to energize the room.
“I think we’re here for a couple of reasons. One, is that we have seen in the last two years a lot of hardship because of the lockdowns,” she began, citing travel problems at the borders, school closures, and restrictive visiting rights to hospitals and long-term care facilities. “The division that was created over dividing society into the vaccinated and the unvaccinated, that’s one thing that we have to get over.”
“The second thing that I think we’re all concerned about is that after the lockdowns ended, we go out there and we’re getting blasted with high prices and inflation is out of control. The government gave us the impression that they could just keep on spending money, and it wouldn’t end up in inflation. We’re seeing this acutely when it comes to gasoline prices. Groceries…my goodness, I feel sorry for anyone who’s got teenagers in the family.” She also noted interest rates, and the fact that that she’s spoken to young people who fear that they’ll never be able to purchase their own home.
“The last one is Ottawa,” she said. “The fact that Ottawa has imposed economic sanctions against our province. We have to push back hard against Ottawa and assert our autonomy.” She detailed a dirty laundry list of blunders, intrusions, and violations made by the federal government in recent years.
“Who is going to stand up to Ottawa, who is going to be able to beat Rachel Notley, and who is going to restore our freedoms?” she asked.
“I think that person is me,” she stated, and applause broke out.
The heart of her campaign is a proposal for what she has coined as the ‘Alberta Sovereignty Act.’ It goes after what she characterizes as unwarranted interference by the feds, involving a “complicit Supreme Court and an ineffective Senate,” and insists that it’s up to the province to push back. The carbon tax, Bill C-69, the siphoning of western Canadian money into eastern Canadian programs, and the federal government meddling in provincial affairs were all points of contention for Smith.
As Premier, Smith would tell the federal government to, “Stay in your own lane. Let us take care of our own resources, our projects, our own jurisdiction.”
“What I’m proposing is being mischaracterized by my opponents. I want to set the record straight on what it would do. The Alberta Sovereignty Act would simply say that given that we have these powers under the constitution (like the) exclusive right to develop our resources and given that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects the rights and freedoms of all Albertans, we will not enforce any federal law that violates the constitution or the charter. The federal government does not have the right to unilaterally step in and violate our constitution. A constitutional reckoning is coming.”
“It’s pretty simple, although I’m being told by some of my competitors that it’s just way too aggressive. I think the problem is that we haven’t been nearly aggressive enough in the past. We’re going to tell Ottawa that we want to stop sending money to the rest of the country. Sixty-two per cent of us said to end equalization.”
In Smith’s view, “We send all our money to Ottawa. They dribble a little bit back to us with severe conditions and they keep the rest so that they can subsidize programs in Quebec and eastern Canada. When is enough going to be enough? It’s enough of them robbing us blind. We need an Alberta Sovereignty Act. We need to push back, and we need to push back hard,” she emphasized, to more applause.
“Sometimes it feels like those who are in positions of power, those who have connections, and those who have money are working in opposition to the grass roots. And I think we’ve felt that over the last number of years. (We see) politicians who are way out of touch with what we’re experiencing on the ground.”
Smith also addressed her political past, notably her 2014 defection from the Wildrose Party to the Conservative Party. “I know that I’ve done my part to erode trust in politicians because of the decision I made in 2014. I let you down and it was clearly a mistake. I lost my nomination. Jim Prentice lost the election and we ended up with Rachel Notley for four years. I think that I was ready for unity a lot faster than the rest of the public was, and I was punished for that. I learned a lot from that. What I learned is that you have to make sure you’re reflecting the grassroots. I hope that I’ve been able to make amends over the last few years being on the radio. I do intend to make amends and that’s why I’m running again.”
“I’m back to fight for you, and I will not let you down again, because this fight is too important. We have to push back against Ottawa. But as I mentioned, you can’t just say ‘follow me.’ You actually have to address the issues that are causing disunity in the first place.”