Danielle Smith is making waves in the United Conservative Party leadership race. Maybe not tidal waves but a lot of big ones, lots of them.
While Travis Toews gets the endorsements of many of the current MLAs except for of course those aren’t running: Rebecca Schulz, Rajan Sawhney, Brian Jean and Leela Aheer, Smith seems to be getting the most attention and according to a Calgary Sun columnist was told by party insiders she is leading by a wide margin “double the votes of whoever is in second).
Smith is a smooth orator and media savvy having been a talk show host and holds charisma. She also holds the dubious legacy as the one who as leader, walked out on her own Wildrose Party to get into cabinet with the Conservatives. Of course we know where that went.
She is anti-vax and definitely appeals to a certain segment of the UCP voting faithful.
Smith talks tough and she definitely has some far ideological right ideals.
For example, Toews complains that Smith is too radical with her Alberta Sovereignty Act which in essence would have the Alberta government override or circumvent federal laws if they deemed it to be a threat to the Wild Rose province.
Then last week, Smith said that Alberta Health Services was damaging the government on purpose.
“We have to challenge Alberta Health Services,” a stern Smith tells Ryan Jespersen from his Real Talk podcast. “They are incompetent or they went out of their way to sabotage the UCP government. I watched the very first press conference that the Premier gave back in in March or April and gave very direct instruction to Alberta Health Services to increase the ICU beds by 1,089 and I think everyone was going along thinking that they were working on finding that surge capacity. Then when the Delta variant came along last fall, we found out that not only had they not increased ICU beds they had decreased them. I
Ve spent a lot of time talking to frontline nurses and doctors, especially in rural areas, and they told me their facilities we’re empty. So, Alberta Health Services I think, let us all down by failing to find that surge capacity. We gave them lots of money, lots of time and I think that’s where we should focusing our efforts.”
Jespersen asked if she really seriously thought AHS was trying to sabotage the government and she doubled down.
“I don’t know how to interpret it any other way. All I do know is that Verna Yiu was let go a year before her contract extension was up.”
Pretty damning and accusatory statements. Or, speaking her mind… depends on how you look at it.
One different take was her one on on education. The twitter site @TheBreakdown had a recording of Smith talking in Airdrie July 11 about education and teachers becoming contractors for private homeschooling or micro schools or learning pods.. The recording wasn’t the best sound quality but the audio starts with her saying she’s had teachers come up to her and say they want to “set up a one room schoolhouse and I want to be able to attract kids across all grade levels.” Smith seems to like this idea as this one room schoolhouse idea was what built Alberta education in the first place as she remembers her grandmother coming from New Brunswick…
“If we can get funding following the students directly to the schools and allow more teachers to set up their own schools as competition, it’s going to have a transformative effect,” explains Smith on the tape.
Alberta kind has this now, they are called tutors, but Smith wants to get this more organized. Teacher vs teacher, bidding prices going up and one can’t even imagine trying to picture what scheduling would look like.
Whatever you think of the idea of competition in the education field, the trashing of the AHS and the idea of the province basically ignoring federal laws if it means it doesn’t fit in Alberta autonomy, it does demonstrate the business model in a lot of different traditional government facets. Smith would take the UCP in a different direction.
The UCP faithful will have to decide what it wants, but again, one way or another, there will be a faction of the party which will vehemently dislike what the October vote will be, thus subdividing the the Conservatives, Wilrosers, the UCP, the PCs the Social Credit, whatever you want to call the right wing ideology one more time