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Danielle Smith won. Danielle Smith Derangement Syndrome lost.
One of Canada’s greatest political comebacks is complete. Danielle Smith won Alberta’s general election last night, just under eight months after winning over the UCP and becoming premier.
Yes, the UCP did lose seats to the NDP. But it’s been rather amusing to see pundits contorting themselves to paint Smith’s majority win as a loss. (It’s just as embarrassing when people try to paint losses as wins).
As I’ve written about previously, I have a long history with Smith, which involves co-founding a philanthropic project and also serving as her radio guest host (which I’m told does not, in fact, make me acting premier).
Throughout the campaign, the media obsessed over whose wedding she attended, which of Albertans’ concerns she’d hear out, and even what a tattoo she has really means. (I’m not joking).
But through it all, voters saw the real Danielle Smith, who put in the time and effort to rebuild her reputation and listen to Albertans after her political exile eight years ago.
I noted last night in a broadcast that many of the people who hated Smith the most in 2015 are now her biggest champions.
Not only is she amiable and compassionate, but also tremendously smart. She was successful as a broadcaster and a business advocate because she was unafraid to delve into the details and try to find solutions to complicated policy problems, from healthcare to energy and beyond.
When it mattered during the Covid era, Smith was a culture warrior. She stood up for religious freedom despite not being religious herself and fought against vaccine passports and mandates when her party, then led by Jason Kenney, embraced them.
I speak from experience when I say that entering politics from talk radio is a gift to your opponents. The NDP and media (a distinction often not worth making in Alberta) attempted to pluck out whatever unflattering bits of Smith’s past work they could, but it didn’t stick.
I wish Smith had been firmer in standing by some of her past statements throughout the campaign, but I realize politics is often about choosing battles. (In general, conservative politicians need to choose more of them).
However, while the NDP was scouring through old Facebook Lives, Smith was pitching Alberta voters on a message of hope.
In an Uber from the UCP victory party last night, my driver, an immigrant to Canada, told me he voted UCP for the first time ever that day. When I asked why, he credited his 21 year old daughter with showing him “the facts.”
He said his daughter saw economic opportunity through the UCP – so he felt he was voting for his daughter’s future by casting a ballot for Danielle Smith.
(The NDP won his riding, Calgary-Acadia, by just seven votes, though there will be a recount).
I thought of this conversation again this morning when I saw a tweet from someone vowing to “never step foot in (Alberta) again until they boot out the UCP & all other fringe far-right groups too.”
This strikes me as a gift to Albertans, but that’s beside the point.
People like the aforementioned tweeter are so committed to their narrative that Smith is a fringe radical that they have no issue extrapolating that anyone who voted for her – including my kind, hopeful Uber driver – is too. This isn’t all that surprising given the kind of campaign the NDP ran.
A couple of weeks ago, NDP leader Rachel Notley held a press conference to appeal to conservative voters, who she presumed hated Smith so much they’d prefer to vote NDP. (Notley’s purported desire to reach conservative voters didn’t stop her from repeatedly banning conservative journalists from her press conferences).
The move was as transparent as it was arrogant: the NDP tried to paint Danielle Smith as being outside the realm of acceptability.
Now, the joke’s on the NDP and those who so eagerly carried water for them in the media. It’s Notley who was evidently out of the realm of what Albertans found acceptable.
If Notley was as eager as she claims she is to purge Alberta politics of radicals, perhaps she should have stepped down as leader last night.
In electing the UCP, voters rejected the smears and proved the NDP and its media allies failed in their attempts to make Smith into an absurd caricature.
And, as Smith said upon winning her party’s leadership last fall, “I’m back.”
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