From the outset of Alberta’s provincial election campaign, the United Conservative Party’s strategy has been clear: hide the leader and hope for the best. That included not letting journalists ask Danielle Smith any followup questions and keeping her as far away as possible from their prying eyes and ears. For a little while, it looked like it might be working. But as the last few days have shown, there’s one fundamental problem with this strategy: Danielle Smith.

This is familiar territory for the UCP leader. Back in 2012, her Wildrose Party looked like it was coasting to victory over Alison Redford’s Progressive Conservatives until a year-old blog post from an Edmonton candidate named Allan Hunsperger surfaced during the last week of the campaign. In it, he said that gay people would “suffer the rest of eternity in the lake of fire, hell, a place of eternal suffering.” It quickly became known as the “Lake of Fire'' incident, and Smith’s refusal to condemn his statements or remove him as a candidate swung the election back in favour of the PCs. In the end, they took 61 seats to Wildrose’s 17, and Smith crossed the floor to join the PCs just two years later.

Not surprisingly, Smith’s UCP spent the months leading up to this coming election doing what it could to prevent a repeat of this incident. Back in November, they rejected the candidacy of Nadine Wellwood, who as the CBC reported “had advocated for debunked COVID-19 treatments like ivermectin and compared vaccine passports to policies enacted by Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime.”

They turfed Torry Tanner, their candidate in Lethbridge-West, a few months later for her pre-election comments that teachers were supposedly exposing students to pornography and helping them change their gender identity. And someone within the party surely encouraged Chelsae Petrovic, their candidate in Livingstone-Macleod (the same riding Wellwood was disqualified from running in), to offer up a pre-emptive blanket apology for years of offensive social media comments that have yet to come to light.

But while those potential lakes of fire have been avoided, the party hasn’t had as much success in steering clear of the biggest one of all. After spending years as a radio host and public commentator, especially during a Zoom-heavy period like the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s a rich vein of recent statements and comments from Smith for her opponents to mine.

Her campaign has tried to insulate her from her numerous interventions on behalf of greater privatization of health care that included her report published by the University of Calgary highlighting the benefits of people paying to see their family doctors. Smith has since strived to inoculate herself by making a big fuss out of signing an oversized novelty “public health guarantee.” She’s also spoken repeatedly of having “made mistakes” in the past and wanting Albertans to judge her on what she’s done, not what she’s said.

Well, no wonder. On Monday, someone mining that vein of past statements struck paydirt when they resurfaced a video from November 2021 in which Smith compared the behaviour of the vast majority of Albertans who voluntarily got vaccinated to the followers of Nazi Germany in that they “fell for the charms of a tyrant.” She also linked politicians who implemented vaccine mandates (like former UCP leader and Alberta premier Jason Kenney) to the Nazis themselves. “Their actions are exactly the actions that our brave men and women in uniform were fighting against [in the Second World War].”

Those comments, which included her newfound disdain for the poppy and what it now apparently represents, came during a Nov. 10, 2021 talk with a Calgary wealth management firm on “Essential Human Needs — Energy, Free Speech, Functioning Health Care & Honest Politicians.” The comments managed to elicit criticism from B’nai Brith Canada, the Calgary Jewish Federation, and the Royal Canadian Legion. And while she tried to reassure Albertans she has “always been and remain a friend to the Jewish community, Israel and our veterans,” it’s hard to see how a friend would throw around comparisons to Hitler and Nazi Germany this casually.

Alberta’s doctors will have a bone to pick with that video, too, given she tried to suggest shutting down the use of ivermectin as a treatment for COVID-19 was some sort of failure on their part. “The problem — and I would never do this again — with putting doctors in charge is they seem to be hard-wired against criticism. They seem to have a medical profession that is almost like a military command structure, where the person at the top cannot be argued with, cannot be contradicted — otherwise it’s some crime that’s worthy of punishment. And if that’s the way the medical profession operates, then I don’t think we can have them in charge again in a future pandemic.”

In the 2012 provincial election, it was the outrageous comments from a Wildrose candidate (and Danielle Smith's refusal to condemn them) that cost her the election. This time, she might want to look in the mirror. @maxfawcett writes for @NatObserver

This is where her most recent apology falls the flattest. In it, she suggests that “COVID was a divisive and painful period for many, including myself, but is thankfully now over. I would hope we can all move on to talk about issues that currently matter to Albertans and their families.”

I’m sure she would. But I suspect there are many Albertans out there, including some who have voted conservative in the past, who are worried about how a Smith government might respond to a future crisis, whether it’s a pandemic or something else. Her obvious inclination towards crackpot theories and the voices espousing them should worry anybody who prefers evidence-based policymaking to the prescriptions of Dr. YouTube.

We’ll find out in a few weeks whether Smith’s latest dive into the political lake of fire ends up costing her the election or not. If nothing else, we know there will be more apologies to come. The question is whether enough Albertans are still willing to accept them or not.

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Fawcett: "We’ll find out in a few weeks whether Smith’s latest dive into the political lake of fire ends up costing her the election or not. If nothing else, we know there will be more apologies to come. The question is whether enough Albertans are still willing to accept them or not."

Sensible Albertans who pay attention to politics and care about Alberta's future will, of course, reject Danielle Smith's politics, bad judgment, profound ignorance, personal instability, wackadoodle comments, and perfunctory apologies.
So the real question is: Are there enough sensible Albertans who pay attention to politics and care about Alberta's future?

My guess is not. What D. Smith says or does will make no real difference to the results on May 29.
Rural Albertans will vote UCP en masse. Urban voters in Calgary's wealthy ridings will vote for their pocketbooks and O&G. Tribal Albertans will vote UCP just because. That leaves a few seats in Calgary and most of metro Edmonton's seats to the NDP.

Sooner or later, Premier D. Smith will fall to an internal coup, and Rachel Notley will join the board of Suncor. Giving progressive Albertans a glimmer of hope that the NDP will abandon its neoliberal dalliance with Big Oil and return to its roots.

"Sooner or later, Premier D. Smith will fall to an internal coup, and Rachel Notley will join the board of Suncor."

Ha ha!

You know, I can honestly see Notley on the Suncor board. Given her paranoid, condescending and sarcastic treatment of cities in BC opposed to TMX, including Burnaby where the terminus is, that's not hard to imagine at all. BC's John Horgan led the $$$ opportunistic way with the Teck Coal board after being opposed to TMX in the beginning.

Smith's fate will depend on the margin of her victory. If it's significant (and yes, it will be pre-rigged to give rural votes three times the value of urban votes through manipulating riding boundaries vs population stats) then all the cards fall on the side of backing a winner, no matter what the level of policy-by-conspiracy craziness is.

Personally, it's all very interesting to this ex-Albertan but also sad because the Alberta economy is careening toward a brick wall made of cheap renewables that are ramping up in scale and quality by orders of magnitude. The consumer is always right, and s/he would be crazy to not go with products that are cheaper and far, far better quality (let alone good for the planet) and offer great potential for investors ... even in Texas North.

I hear ya but that dalliance got their foot in the door enough to create the critical mass her father would have swooned over in the first bona fide and progressive official opposition in this province in four decades. And THAT has enabled this entirely credible second campaign.
And if she does choose to get on one of the oil and gas boards (which I don't think Suncor would ask her to do anyway since they also seem to be abandoning the charade) it might be to approach change from within there too. Maybe that's what John Horgan is doing; it IS another strategy.

Let's hope Albertans are awake and therefor aware of Smith's record. Let's also hope they take a review of the doings of the Kenney government before he was removed for following public health some extent.
Because the lake of fire isn't just Smith....we've had candidates signs destroyed....and one covered with homophobic death threats in black this woman has a following.

Fearing that following...or believing you can control it from within the big Conservative likely still a temptation for life long conservatives. I hope they reflect on how even Jason Kenney couldn't do that in the end....the blockade at our borders illustrated the growing helplessness of traditional conservatives confronted with the Take Back Alberta crowd....and in the end, none of the cuts to public spending or gifts to private schools, war rooms and oil and gas were enough to mollify them.

We need evidence based governance....for all of us. Not crackpot theories and fantasies of sticking it to Ottawa. The Notley groups will work hard to provide that.

So, if her complaint is that the public health bureaucracy is run like the military, so she wouldn't put the public health experts in charge of the next pandemic - she also would not put the military in charge of the next military action, because they're run like the military?

And, wasn't it the military that lied to us for over a decade with the "Afghan War Lies" about how well it was all going, and suffered no firings or demotions? Not even an inquiry? The military are just untouchable.

Yes, well, it was a lie anyway. I mean, sure, in the broad sense that practically every institution we have including the one she's at the top of is hierarchical and so is the military, then OK, but that's not what she meant. What she was trying to insinuate is that of course all the little doctors in the trenches agreed with her, and the only reason her BS ideas weren't being enthusiastically embraced was the tyranny of the top doctors stifling debate. And that is totally flat out untrue; the top doctors rejected her BS ideas because so did the doctors doing research into them and nearly all the doctors in the trenches.

We should remember that medical researchers didn't just reject Ivermectin out of hand. They thought "Well, maybe there's something to it", did the research, and THEN rejected it. (They probably did reject Trump's bleach thing out of hand, because duh)

Re: Smith's bad judgement - her entire career resume is studded with examples of bad judgment. On a recent trip to Calgary I was reminded about how she virtually single-handedly destroyed the Calgary School Board. It had to be shut down and reconstituted by the province. Then there's the "lake of fire", then there's the idiotic floor crossing, then there's the Covid madness, then there's the unethical talks with the wackadoodle preacher. Some people are just not suited for positions of responsibility.

If / when Smith wins the election, I'd give her 12-18 months to get her conspiracy and wing nut ducks lined up, then let 'em have it.

We could see Alberta build its own border control force, checking ID and data bases for gayness, religious affiliations (Muslims rejected) and Antifa / NDP memberships, asking pointed questions about how deep and liberal your Christianity is and your views on gun control and atheism. If you are a borderline person (e.g. middle of the road, agnostic Liberal) they could issue passes at the highway gates to continue on only with an attached GPS device (severe penalties for removal) to ensure you are only passing through and not stopping longer than it takes to pee, grab a burger and get gas. Good luck to them superseding the CBA at federal airports.

Each entrant would be issued a package with a bible, a crucifix, a PhotoShopped image of Danielle and Jesus together, a 10-page list of Don'ts, and an aluminum foil hat to block all but radical conservative cosmic rays.

In reality, it could be worse. There is a good chance Alberta will see a dramatically deepening disruption of its economy with ever more affordable wind, solar, EVs (possibly with advances in autonomous driving) and batteries wiping the floor with Big Oil and Big Bank, really ramping up during Smith's 4-year tenure, and that could be mostly on consumer demand alone. They will find a way to blame Trudeau, no doubt.

Neither Alberta or Canada have a plan for any of this, other than to complain and throw more money at the political / corporate carbon donor base and try to walk on both paths. It's time to choose one path over the other, or citizens, consumers and voters could very well abandon them before 2030. Who needs fossil fuels when you could go off-grid affordably at home and work and find membership in electric Ubers and using electric trams and shoe leather more affordable than owning a car?

Yeah, it's appalling; Gary Mason has an article in the Globe today too about "Take Back Alberta" where he's aghast that such nutbars have got such traction here and is somewhat puzzled how this has happened, but he traces it back to the Tea Party, not even mentioning our version of the religious right/alt-right/extreme right which is Manning's Reform Party. I'm surprised how incurious so many people seem to be about WHY politics has become SO "divisive," I guess they think it's just social media fanning the flames.
But that's not the heart of the matter; the common denominator with the Tea Party and the Reform Party is religion whose leaders want more political power both to truly reflect AND to sanction their altogether tenuous god idea, objectively the very definition of an "out there" worldview and/or an alternate reality. So many are angrily defensive about not being taken seriously enough, and about having to mask or soft-pedal it when not among their cohort; it's essentially just a giant club after all, but nothing like the Lion's Club.
The standoff was inevitable between our evolved, democratic rule of law, human propelled, and the doctrinal "divine" law of their alternate authority.
It's ultimately binary but also insidious as hell because a lot of believers are probably loosely attached to the doctrine but generally agnostic (not wanting to be antagonistic i.e.) but with Muslims for example, even if it's only 5% that are "extremists" (a.k.a. true believers or purists) that's still a large number of potential terrorists when there are billions. Unfortunately, Islam is also arguably THE worst religion in a bad field.
The whole "lake of fire" incident is an example of how much we suck and blow on religion as we try to appear uber-tolerant of intolerance. All mostly fine as long as religion remains in the private realm but in all good conscience apparently can not, or WILL not, and so obviously HAS not.
So the main reason politics is as binary as it is because we have ignored history's lesson of separating church and state, allowing religion to skew reality instead which it turns out is like the truth; it's just not THAT relative.