Danielle Smith Is Pulling An Erin O’Toole – Walking Back Promises And Liberalizing Policy

Written By Wyatt Claypool, Posted on October 14, 2022

Well, it did not take long for many of the things I and others had been saying about Danielle Smith to materialize after she was elected the leader of the United Conservative Party (UCP) and sworn in as Premier of Alberta, but to a certain extent, people cannot be blamed for thinking she had more than a couple of principles. 

Danielle Smith marketed herself heavily as the most conservative option in the 2022 UCP leadership race, and many of her competitors fed into this fallacy by pretending she was too ‘radical’ or ‘right-wing’ for Alberta. This was a frankly deeply flawed line of argument against Smith that people like Ken Boessenkool are still using today, mainly based on her proposed Sovereignty Act legislation. 

(As a tip to people running in an internal party election; saying an opponent is “too racial” translates in the minds of most members that you just think they are “too cool” to be elected)

(Photo from Cochrane Today)

In reality, like former Conservative Party leader Erin O’Toole, Danielle Smith is also a much more liberal-conservative than she lets on but has been effective at marketing herself as being  ‘blue’ to get herself into positions of authority. Arguably Erin O’Toole’s record up to the 2020 leadership was less liberal than Danielle Smith’s record.

Just so nobody accuses me of throwing around empty accusations, here are some examples of Smith’s more liberal positions and actions:

  • In 2012, after Danielle Smith failed to win the provincial election she blamed the loss on the platform. approved by Wildrose Party members, and said the party wasn’t strong enough on climate change.  

  • In 2012, Danielle Smith said Hillary Clinton “would have made a fantastic president” in spite of Clinton’s big-government record in the Senate, which was also reflected in her 2008 presidential platform. 

  • In 2012, after the Wildrose Party took criticism for controversial and nasty comments a socially conservative candidate made she initially refused to condemn him, but after losing the provincial election, Smith said at a gay pride event that “we need to meet and have a conversation about where the right to free speech and freedom of religion begins and where it bumps up against equality rights.” (implying limits to free speech and religious freedoms in favour of “equality rights”).

  • In 2014, Danielle Smith said it was “highly embarrassing” when a World Economic Forum event taking place in Alberta was postponed (and later canceled) after then-Premier Alison Redford resigned,

  • In 2014, Danielle Smith pushed the Wildrose Party caucus into supporting legislation to allow Albertans to change the biological sex on their birth certificates.

  • In 2014, Danielle Smith and several other Wildrose Party MLAs crossed the floor to join Premier Jim Prentice’s PC Party which proceeded to raise taxes and refused to reduce spending.

  • In 2019, Danielle Smith wrote an article for the Calgary Herald where she compared Rachel Notley to Peter Lougheed, at one point stating, “Notley is, without question, the inheritor of the Lougheed tradition,” and that “I think most Albertans have been shocked to see how pragmatic [Rachel Notley] has governed…”

  • In 2022, Danielle Smith endorsed the idea of net-zero emissions goals, despite saying in 2021 that net-zero plans are “unrealistic.” 

  • In 2022, Danielle Smith said she was ok with biological men competing in women’s sports in some instances.

During the 2022 UCP leadership race, Smith was primarily able to muscle her way through to victory based on her positions on lockdowns and Alberta provincial sovereignty.

Honestly, her stance against lockdowns and different forms of public health mandates is kind of trite at this point. Pretty much every other leadership candidate agreed with Danielle Smith that lockdowns and mandates were ineffective and lasted too long, and the further we get away from the time when lockdowns and mask mandates were occurring the fewer people will vote based on the issue.

Yes, Smith is 100 percent correct to state “We are not going to create a segregated society on the basis of a medical choice,” but while that sort of rhetoric will get the applause of much of her base now, in several months, picking fights with the legacy media over lockdowns won’t help to win a provincial election.

Luckily for Smith, in the short run, she can still get some attention out of this issue based on the fact the legacy media is full of unhinged pro-lockdown nuts. The flip side of the attention is Smith, like O’Toole, seemed to desperately seek the legacy media’s approval which actually led her to “clarify” her statement about the discrimination against unvaccinated people (which came off as insecure in the face of the legacy media’s attacks).

(Update: Danielle Smith later directly apologized to the media for comments she made about Ukraine, after previously refusing to apologize.)

So that would leave Smith’s only real big platform plank being the Alberta Sovereignty Act. 

And how is her Sovereignty Act promise going? Not very good.

Smith’s leadership campaign chair and now Executive Director of the Premier’s Office, Rob Anderson, said in an interview regarding how the Alberta Sovereignty Act that it will, “have a whole head of very sharp teeth” but that it won’t enable Alberta to disregard Supreme Court rulings.

To clarify Anderson’s statements, an advisor to Premier Danielle Smith, Johan Mozeson, stated that the Sovereignty Act would:

As the premier-designate has said, the sovereignty act will be drafted in accordance with sound constitutional principles. The premier-designate looks forward to working with caucus to draft legislation that protects and asserts Alberta’s constitutional rights in accordance with the rule of law. 

This is a major backtrack seeing as Smith had said even during the late stage of the leadership race, in response to the federal Liberal government’s compelled “assault-style” rifle buyback program, that:

If I am successful in the leadership vote on Oct 6 and the Sovereignty Act becomes law later in the Fall, I will propose to our UCP Caucus that we deploy the Act carefully along the lines proposed by the [Minister of Justice], to not only refuse provincial enforcement of this confiscation program, but, under the authority of the Alberta Sovereignty Act, prohibit any enforcement by the RCMP or our provincially regulated municipal politce service, of this misguided and unconstitutional federal policy.

Shortly after being sworn in as premier, Danielle Smith reiterated her now weaker position, which perfectly mirrors what former Premier Jason Kenney’s government was doing to push back on federal government overreach, and acted as if everyone just misunderstood her during the leadership. 

(Smith’s being questioned about the Sovereignty Act is at the start of the press conference)

I’m sorry, but Danielle Smith and her team cannot pretend that they were being perfectly consistent about the purpose of the Sovereignty Act and say that people just misunderstood them. Not only was the Smith campaign’s messaging quite clear that they would ignore federal law and court decisions and refuse enforcement, but even if we pretended that’s not what they meant, perception is reality, and they should have been well aware that Danielle Smith’s own supporters believed the Sovereignty Act would do. 

Either Smith and her team are liars, or they allowed people to misunderstand their confusing statements and only bothered to clarify what they meant after she was elected premier. Again, at least this reminds me a lot of Erin O’Toole’s team backtracking on his promise to scrap the carbon tax, before rolling out his own and claiming people didn’t understand his carbon credit scheme technically did scrap the “tax” part of the carbon tax.

Oh, and by the way, Smith is sending an Alberta delegation to the 27th United Nations Climate Change Conference and already talking about passing a provincial consumer carbon tax.

Smith Is Going Back To Her Old Ways

Without being able to talk about lockdowns and a very watered-down Soveriengty plan, Premier Danielle Smith has no substantial promises to fulfill other than on some small-scale stuff like firing Dr. Deena Hinshaw.

As a quick aside, even when it comes to firing Dr. Hinshaw, Smith inexplicably proposed replacing her with not just one better Chief Medical Office, but instead of an entire team of overpaid medical bureaucrats, which I assume Smith’s base would not be in favour of.

Smith has gone back to her old deflection strategy from when she was the Wildrose Party leader and is using her admittedly deep knowledge of different areas of public policy in order to talk around issues without taking a firm Conservative stance. Her persona as a radio show host may have given many Albertans the impression that she takes decisive stances on issues, despite being a chronic policy wonk with a tendency to waffle.

(Photo from CTV News)

I feel like being this longwinded was necessary because like with Erin O’Toole it seemed so few people believed the few of us that were calling out the fact he was obviously in the process of making a liberal turn until it was too late. I see the exact same sort of record and present behaviour with Danielle Smith that I saw with Erin O’Toole and it would be best if UCP members realized what is going on now rather than right before the Alberta provincial election in May 2023.

As an independent media reporter/commentator I wish more independent outlets would actually cover Smith’s record, and not repeat what most of them did with O’Toole in 2020, which was to buy into his narrative that he was “true blue” compared to Peter MacKay, and then become dumbfounded when he reversed on his promises.

Additional Updates:

  • Danielle Smith, despite declaring her opposition to Alberta taxpayers funding the Edmonton Oilers’ new arena back when she was the Wildrose leader, is now in favour of Alberta taxpayers funding the Calgary Flames’ new arena.

  • Danielle Smith’s actions indicate she is likely to pursue the orphan well royalty tax-credit scheme “R-Star,” which was a program rejected by former Energy Minister Sonya Savage (who was replaced by R-Star proponent Peter Guthrie) for effectively being a transfer of wealth from Alberta taxpayers to oil and gas companies neglecting to clean up their own orphaned wells.

  • At the 2022 UCP AGM, representatives from the pro-Smith PAC ‘Take Back Alberta’ (noted as “David Parker’s group” below by George Clark) helped push AGM attendees to vote down proposed bans on Critical Race Theory and Gender Theory in schools.

Wyatt Claypool

Wyatt is a student at Mount Royal University, where he is the president of its Campus Conservative club. In his writing, he focuses on covering provincial and federal politics, firearms regulation, and the energy sector. Wyatt has also previously written for The Post Millennial.

One response to “Danielle Smith Is Pulling An Erin O’Toole – Walking Back Promises And Liberalizing Policy”

  1. Greg Sheppard says:

    Always a concern to be sure. But you have been somewhat unfair in your assessment relative to aspects of her character.