It wasn’t that long ago that Alberta’s politics were the most predictable and least interesting in the entire country. But now, after a decade of turmoil and tumult that’s seen six premiers — the same number who ran the province between 1935 and 2006 — and three different parties in power, Alberta will now be led by its most unpredictable premier yet. If the ideas that defined Danielle Smith’s leadership campaign for the United Conservative Party (UCP) are any indication, Albertans will be begging for some boredom from their politics very soon.

Smith has already announced plans to challenge the Canadian Constitution, disregard the courts that interpret it and wage a broader war on the health-care system that would even make Jason Kenney blush. “We let the experts make the decisions and they let us all down and they’ve created chaos in society, division in society and now they’ve created chaos in the health-care system,” Smith told Calgary Sun columnist Rick Bell. “You bet. That will be my target.”

She also intends to get rid of large swathes of senior leadership in the public service, a decision even Kenney wouldn’t have dared to contemplate. “The UCP came in and basically kept in place the people Rachel Notley hired,” Smith told Bell. “Now you’re asking people who were implementing a socialist agenda to implement a conservative agenda.”

Never mind that most of said people were kept in place by the NDP when they took over from 40 years of Conservative rule in 2015, or that their agenda while in office was anything but socialist. That Smith is so willing to politicize an inherently non-partisan public service speaks to her attitude towards democratic conventions and norms — and her willingness to break them.

If that sounds a little familiar, it should. This sort of hostility to the established order was at the heart of Donald Trump’s approach to governing, such as it was. And while Smith is far more moderate than Trump in some of her social values and views (and better informed on, well, everything), she shares his disdain for inconveniences like courts and the rule of law. Her proposed “Alberta Sovereignty Act” is a direct insult to both, given it proposes to ignore court rulings — and even the Constitution itself — where her government sees fit.

Indeed, that insult is the point. Just ask Barry Cooper, a political science professor and one of the idea’s architects, who wrote in an op-ed: “The Canadian Constitution has never worked in favour of Albertans, so it needs to be changed. Changing the Constitution, in fact, if not in terms of black letter law, is called politics. Law exists downstream from politics.”

This is a wilful misinterpretation of any number of things, from basic aspects of reality to the way our Constitution actually can be changed. That it apparently informs Smith’s signature policy is not terribly surprising, given she also thought Ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine were good treatments for COVID-19 and “moderate” cigarette smoking significantly reduces your risk of disease. Smith seems irresistibly drawn to the outlier opinion, even when the evidence is pretty clearly stacked against it.

Opinion: Danielle Smith is about to hit #Alberta with a category five shitstorm. @maxfawcett writes for @natobserver #abpoli #UCP

That’s especially true of her sovereignty gambit, one that Canadian constitutional scholar Eric Adams described on Twitter as “a blatantly unconstitutional quasi-separatist piece of legislation.” Outgoing premier Jason Kenney has been just as withering in his own commentary on it, especially when it comes to the impact it could have on investment and economic opportunity to the province. “They're interested in political stability, not political chaos. They're interested in a jurisdiction that respects the rule of law and the authority of the courts… Not one that thumbs its nose, banana republic-style, at those foundational principles.”

But that’s what Smith seems determined to do, and her thumb is at the ready. In an interview with the Globe and Mail, she said she plans “to double down” on the policies that won her the leadership. Don’t expect her to put water in her constitutional wine, whether that’s her Alberta Sovereignty Act or a second challenge of the federal government’s Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act (Alberta lost the first one). Yes, both efforts will almost certainly fall flat on their face. But like Trump, she can use those defeats to rail against the courts, elites, the media and any number of other enemies of her people.

You can be sure Pierre Poilievre will be watching this whole spectacle unfold. He has more in common with Smith than his former cabinet colleague Kenney, given his own libertarian inclinations and proclivity for attacking institutions and elites. Both pandered aggressively to the most conservative elements of their respective parties, and both were rewarded for it. Now, both need to find a way to win over the broader public.


Smith will have to pass that test first, and there’s no guarantee that her version of the UCP will survive next May’s provincial election in Alberta. Indeed, her surprisingly narrow victory as leader probably gives Rachel Notley’s NDP their best possible chance of winning. But if Smith does manage to win a general election in Alberta, her government will give Canadians a sneak preview over the next few years of what could be in store for the rest of the country if Poilievre prevails in his own contest. One thing is for certain: it won’t be boring.

Keep reading

"At least it won't be boring" - that's like wishing you were born in "interesting times"!

It's easy to trash things than trying to make things better. You just have to be narcissistic and angry. I've seen good organizations destroyed by egos who just want to win. First you weep then break whatever you can in rage. Nothing gets better from anger. There is never enough violence to make the angry heart feel better or the angry mind calm. There is never enough cynicism to heal the world.

Well said. Thank you.

I was born in Calgary and have lived in Toronto for the last few decades. I return regularly and have noticed significant inequality. I have high school friends who went into business, oil patch or otherwise, and have done very well. Some have made many millions of dollars. Other HS friends who took the blue-collar route have struggled to keep up all these years. Alberta now has a very comfortable upper class and a resentful lower class...who think that voting Conservative is the only way to go. That is not a good situation. As Fawcett points out Alberta has been ruled by Conservatives for 60 years. Peter Lougheed was as good as politicians get and the quality of their leaders has trended downwards every since. Many of their errors are papered over by increases in the price of oil so they can continue their mediocrity while looking like winners. Alberta's problems are largely home-grown and the Conservatives have been very successful at blaming their failures on one Trudeau or another. Smith and co. seem to think that the solution to their problems is do the wrong things harder. Yikes!

The trouble resides in the right wing ideology........but ideologues rarely do introspection....or consider that the ideas of Maggie Thatcher and Ronnie Regan may have run their course, and taken inequality and obscene wealth and stagnant wages as far as that divide can go. Danielle and Poilievre are classic examples of a belief that what hasn't worked that well in the past, but for sure can't rescue the future.

If we follow them, we'll be following them down. Among other omissions, their work on the climate file has been disasterous...and the natural world is showing us daily that conservative metrics don't begin to measure up when it comes to sustaining the very ecosphere that all economics rests upon.

We need new ideas, robust programs that take reality as their guide, and government action designed for prosperity not profit. Danielle and company represent the last stand of a moribund philosophy. It never worked very well. Except for the few. And even in Alberta, its very close to over.....

Whether Albertans have the brains or the heart to recognize that reality though....is what makes this moment so interesting. And scary.

Many Albertans have disengaged their brains from rational thinking. They been dogwhistled and ,lied to on so many issues. You are so correct on Reaganomics and Thatcherism . It is failed system of trickle down that in reality was a flood up.
A good example last week was the new PM in the UK. She destroyed the stock market, the British currency and did it so effectively in 48 hours that she had to reverse course. Our new premier is trying to emulate her. And think tanks like the Fraser Institute and CD Howe, as well as good old Preston urging her forward will lead to the proverbial S**t Storm as Max says

It's not about lack of introspection. The right wing ideology does exactly what right wing ideologues want it to: Both facilitate and provide an excuse for, taking everyone's money and giving it to rich people to make them richer. For them, that is not a bug, it's the whole point.

There are a few people in right wing politics who believe all that stuff all the way down in their guts, but for most of them the point is, they're either rich, or expect to be rich by the time they're finished serving their rich masters. So they either lie full stop, or persuade themselves kind of partway that in broad outline what they really need to be true is kind of more or less true, and a lot of more specific lies are OK in the service of that broader thing they try not to be too aware is also a lie. That's one reason many become so agitated when the ideology is challenged--they don't want to see what they've made themselves. I suppose that's lack of introspection in a way.

Good gawd. Elmer Fudd now has real bullets in that pop gun.

Won't the notwithstanding clause allow Alberta to pass its sovereignty act, and what then?

There could be another interesting historical moment here if the Lieutenant-Governor refuses such legislation as happened with Bible Bill Aberhart trying to seriously muzzle the press.

Bible Bill’s Alberta Socreds passed many bills in the late 30s which were eventually shit-canned by the SCoC on constitutional (then the BNA 1867) basis, but the one shit-canned by the Alberta Lieutenant Governor was delicious because one naturally wonders if Danielle Smith will provoke the same kind of “crisis” should the Lieutenant Governor refuse to give the “Alberta Sovereignty Act” Royal Assent on constitutional grounds (the LG may seek advice as she will, in this case probably a reference request to the courts, ultimately the SCoC—which of course is not a judicial decision that would make the LG inappropriately look to be taking a particular side but, rather, an judicial opinion whose advise she could heed or not as she might without appearing to have taken a partisan or political position other than preserving the capacity of governments to act in a timely manner).

Not sure it quite ameliorates Harper minority’s (potentially precedent-setting) bullying of Her Excellency Michele Jean to get a prorogation when a bill had already been tabled and ready to vote on: when the Liberals, Bloc, and NDP leaders announced they would jointly vote against it, thus topple Harper’s government, he bullied the Governor General into proroguing parliament in order to preclude this confidence vote. She should have instead followed longstanding protocol and allowed citizens’ representatives to decide the matter by parliamentary vote (and, if she was unconvinced of the alliance’s commitment to vote en bloc to pass bills—that is, to form government—, she could have then dissolved parliament and called a general election).

Harper nearly precipitated a constitutional crisis because certain Liberal MPs saw grounds for petitioning the Queen herself —which would have forced her to look like she was influencing political matters her office is only designed to do in the rarest (it has never happened, so far) of extremity. The opposition party’s commitment to form an alliance government was definitely not an extremity even though Harper incorrectly called it “unconstitutional” because, he said, one of the alliance was a “separatist party” and therefore somehow “illegitimate”—which, naturally, is completely untrue: Bloc MPs were duly elected by Quebec voters and as legitimate as any other.

But Harper did join a club which hitherto had been at least mostly Social Credit: not only Alberta’s Socreds got in a scrape with their governor, WAC Bennett’s BC Socreds did too with his in the early fifties (weirdly motivating Bennett to table bills designed to goad the Opposition into toppling his minority so’s to precipitate an election by which he was sure would win a majority—with a little help from a one-time resort to a preferred-ballot electoral system, just to make sure).

These of course followed a similar situation as BC’s, only in the late 20s: the federal King-Byng crisis—a real “crisis” since the impasse did precipitate new policy culminating in the (UK) Act of Westminster 1931 which effectively made Canadian completely independent from Britain and, naturally, adjusted governor protocols. Minority Liberal PM King’s request to prorogue and call an election he thought would produce a majority was refused by Lord Byng of Vimy, the Governor General.

I don’t think any of this allegedly “inappropriate governor activism” (similar to the partisan right’s criticism of alleged “judicial activism”) was necessarily out-of-line because in every case—except Harper’s perverse example—the issue was appropriately about maintaining a steady capacity to pass bills, the Sovereign’s primary guarantee and duty as nonpartisan head of state.

But in general, provoking Canadian constitutional crises has been the habit of the partisan right.

Whether they're illegitimate or not, objecting to the Bloc at that point is incoherent. Either they're illegitimate and so he should have passed a law outlawing separatist parties, or he was letting them get elected and sit as MPs in parliament up to that point, in which case in Canadian institutional terms they were NOT illegitimate. Can't have it both ways, they either are or they aren't, and he had tacitly admitted they were all the way up to when it was useful to him to claim they weren't.

I think the telling thing is how long it took her to "win," ending up with 53-54 percent when Kenney resigned with 51.
There IS a pattern here. Women are often allowed interim leadership while the real "playas" regroup to take their rightful place. Or are presented as spokespersons when the rogue con boys have gone just a little too far. Like with the hockey situation. Or Liz Truss. It's a twofer because it also pays lip service to the popular notion of equality for women.

Smiths political agenda is pure neoliberalism. Let's enrich the rich make the less wealthy poorer by using the dated and failed trickle down economic system. For 40 years now labour and society itself has been undervalued and Smith plans to exacerbate that problem. Just look at the USA and the UK. Tax breaks for rich and businesses. How successful was Kenney at that. Privatizing every public asset so someone, not you and me profits. And calling our country socialist is nonsense! Has anyone in Alberta ever looked up a definition of socialist or socialism? Or do Albertans perceive Medicare, employment insurance, taking care of the disabled and disadvantaged socialist? How about senior pensions, the largest federal expense prior to COVID19! Or income supplement for the less wealthy, addressing drug addiction? Is that perceived socialism.
Then of course there is public education! In many of our worlds countries you pay to educate your children. Education, publicly funded is essential in a democracy! But socialist never! Can you imagine Canada or Alberta without public ed? And an ideological UCP government setting the curriculum? And are we ready to turn our society even more to the control of private business?
Canada is without exception the freest country in the world or in the top three. Other than that vaccine issue, how threatened has your personal freedom been? Not one bit I suspect. So let's throw everything we value out the window and follow Smith down a no win path. Not this Albertan.

The way the neo-right uses the word “socialist” is stock-in-trade rhetoric so rote that it approaches the chauvinism of preaching to the choir. It’s meant to hold what beliefs are already accepted and possessed by partisan supporters, not so much to persuade or proselytize new recruits. Existing supporters are happy to virtue-signal abiding loyalty by proclaiming faith in even absurdity—a kind of puerile nose-thumbing at “infidels”—or, in a word, “socialists.”

It's a good point that "for 40 years labour and society itself have been undervalued." Could there be a clearer case of voting against your own interests?
Perversely, the right wing not only continues to exist, it has grown by fronting another utterly unscrupulous, power-hungry group, the religious right. The "prosperity gospel" indeed.

I agree that the Canadian neo-right—variously-named parties, hardly any being truly conservative—have parallels amongst each other and with the similar phenomenon in the USA.

The general radicalization of the partisan right is prominent throughout Western World, especially in the North American sector of ‘Greater Anglo-Saxony’ where the material wealth of history’s biggest bilateral trading partners sets it apart from, say, the relatively impoverished UK, and from many EU countries where the radicalization of the right, or far-right, avails the electoral opportunities of proportional representation in a way Anglosaxmaniacal “first-past-the-post” cannot. In any case, the wealth North Americans have been accustomed to for the first fifty of the last seventy years is probably the most significant factor fuelling social malaises because when that wealth has proved ill- or imprudently-gotten, cannot be sustained the way people—especially the more privileged—want it to stay, and the inheritances expected have already been spent, reaction results.

In turn, the neo-right movement, globalizing, neoliberal, and increasingly discredited these past twenty years has resorted to ginning extremist elements on the far-right in order to stave off throes increasingly evident. It is a rearguard defence that can only afford to make short, sharp stands as erstwhile moderates defect, geriatric attrition proceeds apace, and recruitment has narrowed its focus to fringe factions invited out of their parents’ basements and showered with in-house praise. Captain Chauvin would be proud of the fanatical loyalty this fresh muster displays at MAGA rallies and “F—K Trudeau Freedom Convoys.”

Ms Vicker’s wisdom is apropos: the common element of the North American neo-right is to incite anger among sectors of society which perceive a loss of wealth and/or privilege and encourage temper tantrums one would expect from a spoiled child who smashes cher toys after being sent to cher room. Neo-right leaders promise to reward them, to restore whatever it is they think they’ve been deprived of —wealth, privilege, “freedom”—, but have ulterior motives for throwing a wrench into the gears of democratic society. Vickers is correct, however, that the petulant True believers so-incited cannot benefit from the hissy fits they threaten.

General as this anti-government, petulant populism might be in sketch, as obvious as the Canadian neo-right’s adoption of tRumpublican tropes is, and as opportunistic as the situations are, the individual leaders do have distinctive idiosyncrasies. Unmistakable and unabashed narcissism is tRump’s only policy and any ad hoc means of sustaining it passes for his “politics.” He wants to be king. Danielle Smith is more overtly a calculated systems gamer and provocateur. She wants to be a president. Pierre Poilievre is probably stumbling so badly because he’d settle for conservative prime minister, but it’s so hard to square with his proselytizing libertarianism —he does it because that’s the lemons he’s been dealt. They all gin victimization and preach salvation in a way that Eric Hoffer would instantly recognize—and wrote about in his 1951 classic “The True Believer.”

Alberta might be the classic specimen: its population has been cultivated to show off its big-belt-buckle exceptionalism, its proudly contrarian climate-change denial, and unconcealed defensiveness, but when the high wages earned in the petroleum biz are pinched off, the good times look rather more like they were a distraction from the pillage of Lougheed’s Heritage Fund and the impoverishment of the public purse as the decline of the long, long ProgCon regime repeatedly cut royalties and taxes from the privateers distilling profits from the Bitumen Mines of Albetar.

Nobody likes to get laid off or have to move to find work where it’s at (like millions of Canadians have done all along), but when you’ve been paid so well, pampered and praised so highly as Albertans have, the sting of losing what you once had is probably somewhat worse than it has been in other now-defunct relics of Canadian resource extraction, from fisheries to coal mines and forests.

As if to rub salt in the wounds of 2014 when bitumen market price crashed and 70,000 jobs were lost in Alberta, the veteran ProgCon party imploded and, to the amazement of everyone, the supposedly socialist NDP became the first new party to govern in almost 45 years. And remember: including their Socreds, Alberta had been government hitherto by only two parties, both of the right, for nearly eight decades. The 2015 NDP win coincided with the market crash and wildfires licking at bitumen central, Fort Mac. It was a shock that Jason Kenney took advantage of but, not without some irony, the reaction was stronger than he could control when Covid was added to the fuel. Now Smith has become the more overt reiteration of theme or tantrum and wrenching the gears.

Finally, Imust tale exception that these charismatics have ginned the most conservative elements of their respective parties. The far right is no longer conservative —at least in the traditional sense. And conservatism is nothing if not traditional.

Fawcett: "Smith is far more moderate than Trump in some of her social values and views (and better informed on, well, everything)"

Fawcett gives serial disinformer Danielle Smith too much credit.
On climate change, Trump and Smith are on the same page.
"Wildrose leader opposes climate treaty; Global warming unproven, says Smith " (Calgary Herald, 07-Dec-09)
"Wildrose Alliance Leader Danielle Smith is urging Canada to shy away from signing onto another international climate change treaty, arguing the science isn't settled and Alberta's energy-centred economy is unlikely to get a fair shake.
"'The science isn't settled,' Smith said. 'If we're going to embark on this path, we've got to be darn sure that the science makes sense.'"
*
"Smith: Alberta needs a firewall, the sooner the better" (Calgary Herald, Dec 28, 2018)
Is it just me or are those on the fringes of the environmental movement beginning to sound like an end-of-times doomsday cult? By all means let’s work to reduce greenhouse gases, but let’s not act as if the planet will be unsurvivable in a decade if we don’t. And let’s not be deluded into thinking that shutting down Alberta’s energy industry is the answer to reducing global emissions.
*
"Smith: Let's celebrate that Canada is likely a 'net zero' polluter" (Calgary Herald, January 11, 2019)
"Canada’s 318 billion trees sequester 318,000 megatonnes of CO2. Why don’t we get any credit for that?'
"There is no other nation that is destroying its fossil fuel industry in order to meet unachievable emissions reduction targets.
"…Canada could very well be the first net zero, carbon-neutral country. In fact, we probably already are. Let’s confirm it, celebrate it, tell the world about it, and get on with building pipelines."
*
"Danielle Smith: Alberta's public-sector unions back doomsday anti-oil campaign" (Calgary Herald, May 17, 2019)
"The record shows that humanity has proven remarkably resilient and adaptable to climate change. There’s no reason to believe that will stop.
"…No, this Green New Deal is being backed by the biggest and most powerful public sector unions in our province.
"My only question for Premier Jason Kenney is where is that energy war room? We need it — now."
*
"Smith: With the debate over climate change, no wonder voters don't trust politicians" (Calgary Herald, Jan 10, 2020)
"What started out as global warming became climate change. Climate change then became a climate emergency. Instead of natural disasters, floods and fires are now 'climate disasters.'
"…A new online web portal called the Climate Discussion Nexus came out with a 'Crystal Ball Check' this week. It went back to 2001 and examined what politicians were telling us computer models said was going to happen unless we took urgent action."
*
Danielle Smith: "Facts go up in flames along with Australian bush." (Calgary Herald, Jan 10, 2020)
"Nearly every story I have read about the bush fires, the half billion dead animals, the 25 human lives lost — all real and genuine catastrophes — have blamed human-induced climate change as the cause. Now for the facts."
*
"Our focus should be on pollution, not carbon dioxide" (Calgary Herald, 15 May 2020)
"If shutting off our world economy for several months has no impact on carbon dioxide, but a massive impact on dangerous air pollution, then we are focusing on the wrong thing. … It's been disheartening to see people like Elizabeth May double down on demanding the world get to 100 per cent renewable energy, and declaring oil dead. … With the single-minded obsession with carbon dioxide, extreme environmentalists have lost the plot."
*
Danielle Smith: "Build Back Better really means an end to Alberta's fossil fuel future" (Calgary Herald, Aug 21, 2020)
*
Smith: Throne speech not all that bad for Alberta after all — really" (Calgary Herald, Oct 2, 2020)
"The Greens continue to push the notion that the entire economy, including all heating and transportation, needs to transition to a power grid fuelled entirely on wind and solar with battery backup. Damning books by environmentalists Bjorn Lomberg and Michael Shellenberger, and Michael Moore and Jeff Gibbs’s eviscerating film Planet of the Humans have blown that notion to smithereens. You cannot power a modern industrial economy on intermittent, low-density power sources, and it’s about time we stop pretending we can.
"…Perhaps someone will finally do a study to show definitively that Canada, with our vast landscape and tiny population, is actually a carbon sink for the world. Then maybe the big global emitters can start paying us for sequestering their emissions."

Smith promoted Ivermectin. Trump promoted hydroxychloroquine. But he later urged his supporters to get vaccinated.
"Trump’s comments touting COVID-19 vaccines spark anger among his loyal supporters" (Reuters, Dec 30, 2021)
"Using Trump’s vaccine endorsement to move the needle on COVID-19 vaccines" (Stanford Univ., 2022)

Smith lives in an alternative universe.

Good summary. Where is she on religion?