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Some Eyes on Danielle Smith

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Edward Campbell

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A few years ago I started a thread called All Eyes on Ignatieff.
Now, here is a leader who appeals to me!

Danielle-standing-337x1024.jpg


She does so because of the speech she gave in Montreal – as reported upon in this article, reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act from the Globe and Mail:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/opinions/opinion/wildrose-plea-to-quebec-get-off-your-dependence/article2006012/
Wildrose plea to Quebec: Get off your dependence

NEIL REYNOLDS
From Monday's Globe and Mail

Published Monday, May. 02, 2011

A couple of weeks ago, Danielle Smith, leader of Albert’s conservative Wildrose Alliance, delivered an eloquent, impassioned speech in Montreal – completely in English (“I would speak to you in French if I could”) – in praise of the entrepreneurial, enterprising Quebec that used to exist. Among other things, she chided Quebec for its voluntary descent into economic dependence – on the very federal government it has long purported to repudiate.

“Before this [descent] began, Quebec was a perfectly viable, self-sustaining province and, by the standards of the time, a fairly productive and prosperous one,” Ms. Smith said. “Today, it is one of the most publicly indebted jurisdictions in the world, and the least productive of Canada’s larger provinces.” (She observed in passing that the same policy assumptions that reduced Quebec to dependency have been even harder on the Atlantic provinces – a region now “a ghost of its earlier self, one where those who stay cling to subsidized legacy industries, the luckiest people work for the government, and the resolute move to Ontario or Alberta.”)

This was not Canada’s intended destiny, Ms. Smith said. “All the way back to the very beginnings of Canada … we were a radically free-enterprise and small-government nation – more so even than the Americans. ‘Better British liberty,’ our ancestors proudly declared, ‘than American equality.’

“Good heavens, where did that spirit of liberty disappear to? What we now tout as traditional Canadian values and virtues – unearned entitlements, paying people not to work, paying provinces not to succeed (and not to secede) – all these were unthinkable to the stalwart people who founded and built Canada. Today’s celebration of the easy ride … [is] the complete antithesis of [Canadian values and virtues].”

Ms. Smith recalled Quebec’s heroic achievements. “When your forebears bridged the St. Lawrence River from Quebec City to Lévis a hundred years ago, it was the longest cantilever bridge ever built. Nobody had done it before. We were great visionaries, we Canadians, and great doers. … We took risks – in fact, 75 men died building that bridge … but we kept going, and we succeeded.

“Creating a prosperous civilization out of a vast, raw wilderness was no job for sissies and naysayers. It was a challenge of heroic scale, and we proved equal to it. Should we fail now as a federation, we can’t blame history. Morally, materially and constitutionally, our predecessors built remarkably well. …

“No, if Canada dies, the failure will lie in politics. It will be because politicians killed it. If Canada fractures into its component pieces or simply dwindles into global irrelevance, the fault will lie entirely with our political class. Not just with petty-minded politicians, but also our timid and conformist political intellectuals.”

Ms. Smith traced Quebec’s descent into dependence to “the ministries of Pearson, Lesage and Trudeau” in the 1960s – from which arose the “doomsday question” that has since dominated Canadian politics: “What will it take to appease Quebec?” Partly, she said, it has taken “the megabillion-dollar cost of much of this endless sloshing of funds.”

She also addressed what she calls the Canadian hypocrisy that surrounds Alberta’s oil and gas industries – which, she noted, now provides governments with taxes and royalties (“from concept to consumer”) of more than $50-billion a year – and sustains more than 800,000 jobs. The notion that governments subsidize these industries, she said, is absurd. These industries subsidize governments.

The biggest single cost borne by Alberta, she said, is the difference between what Ottawa takes out of the province in taxes and what it sends back as federal spending: $20-billion a year. For this contribution to equalization payments, she said, “we get nothing, not even gratitude.”

Ms. Smith leads a small political party in Alberta (holding only four seats) but one that could herald big change. When she spoke in Montreal, she addressed a small political organization (the Quebec Freedom Network) – but one that could perhaps herald big change, too – as the apparent decline of the extortionist Bloc Québécois (according to the polls) could itself imply. When Ms. Smith finished speaking, her audience of 450 gave her a prolonged standing ovation.

It isn't just the “better our British liberty than American equality” that appeals to me – although it does. Her speech (the full text of which is here) harked back to this where I said:

It is fair to note that the international 'top dog' is always fair game for criticism and, often, 'action' by lesser powers. In the mid 19th century America enjoyed ”twisting the (British) lion's tail” whenever and wherever it could, including giving (limited) support to the Fenians who tried to invade Canada. It must not be surprising, therefore to find that, 150 years later, America suffers the same fate.

But, I believe that the reflexive anti-Americanism that we see around the world today is more than just political penis envy. I think it is a struggle between Anglo-American liberalism and the illiberal (not conservative) tendencies of e.g. France, Germany, Italy and Spain. (The world's truly conservative societies such as China, Japan and Singapore have different, deeper policy differences with America but, oddly enough, they are less anti-American than are most Europeans, Latin Americans and people in the Islamic Crescent which stretches from North Africa through the Middle East and West Asia all the way to Indonesia.)

In my opinion illiberal ≈ statist. There is a fundamental philosophical split between liberals, like the Americans, and statists, like the French; the split is not over e.g. democracy or even the rule of law but, rather, the roles and rights of individuals and to property. The liberal sees the main duty of the state as being to protect the sovereign individual from all collectives, including e.g. organized religion and the state itself. The statist (the illiberal) sees the main duty of the state as being to protect the individual from himself/herself and from her/his own base, selfish instincts. This division is irreconcilable and dooms the two 'sides' to perpetual enmity. Even when, as now and during the Roosevelt administration, the USA has a statist, illiberal government in Washington the country, itself, remains resolutely liberal. Even when France has a modestly liberal government, as it does now, the country remains statist. It is deeper than passing, partisan political philosophy; it is part of the 'national DNA.'

Brian Lee Crowley (in Fearful Symmetry: The fall and rise of Canada's founding values) sees Canada as split between instinctively liberal English (and new immigrant) Canada and instinctively illiberal Québec. It is tempting to fall back onto bits of Max Weber and the idea of the Protestant work ethic, but I'm not sure all the blame for illiberalism can be laid at the feet of the Roman Catholic Church. What I am sure of is that the liberal/statist split is wide, deep and cultural. The split between liberals and statists is deeper than that between liberals and (mainly Asian) conservatives. And that split is, I believe, the 'root cause' of the reflexive anti-Americanism that allows, even forces, many Western governments to adopt anti-American policies even when doing so may be harmful to their own strategic best interests. Very often, as we see in Canada and the USA, governments are far less liberal than the people who elect them. Governments are often (usually?) somewhat disconnected from the people. Governments are the creatures of political activists – a tiny minority subset of the the minority (or slim majority) of active voters. In Canada and the UK and USA most political activists are, or appear to be more illiberal, i.e. statist, and, consequently BQ, Liberal and NDP supporters, than is the case for most of the population.

So what?

There is an increasingly loud call, in the USA, for a reformation of the 'West' – a reconciliation with Europe and Latin America and some sort of a rapprochement with the Arabs all to 'face off against a resurgent Asia. That, in my view is a fundamentally misguided strategy. I believe that Europe, Latin America, the Middle East and West Asia are culturally mismatched with America and the Anglosphere; so are the rising Asian giants, China and India, but both are, I think less hostile towards us than our many of our traditional allies.

In my view the better strategy is to accept a deeply divided world with competing liberal, illiberal and conservative 'blocs,' none of which need to be our enemies, per se, This means, in my opinion that we need to take a long, hard, cold and calculating look at our vita interests and make our mid and long term strategic decisions in pursuit of our own vital interests. That means that 'old friends' may not be seen as being very friendly and strangers, with strange socio-economic and political values might seem friendlier.

What are our vital interests? I continue to use the overly simple formula: Peace and Prosperity. Peace is, as I have said before, more than just an absence of war and prosperity is more than just “a chicken in every pot.” The two tend to go together and to reinforce one another. Being at “peace” does not mean that we disarm or even that we eschew tough, bloody combat operations overseas. We should do neither. We must be prepared to do our full and fair share, including some combat operations, to preserve the broader, global peace. (And yes, I am reminded of the old slogan that “Fighting for Peace is like F_cking for Virginity” but the correlation is not perfect.) We need to remember Lord Palmerston's admonition that we (he was talking about 19th century Britain) do not have permanent friends or permanent enemies but we do have permanent interests, to with: Peace & Prosperity. We, in the American led Anglosphere in general but especially in Canada, need to focus on our interests, not look for new enemies.


I do not want another prairie populist movement à la either Dief the Chief or Parson Manning, but I do like what Danielle Smith had to say and I hope we hear more and more of this sort of good common sense on the national stage.
 

Rifleman62

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I read this earlier today. Excellent speech. Telling Quebec how it is.

How does she appeal to you???
 

GAP

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Rifleman62 said:
I read this earlier today. Excellent speech. Telling Quebec how it is.

How does she appeal to you???

Harper's replacement....
 

Dennis Ruhl

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She is scheduled to give the conservatives in Alberta the boot in a couple years.  Ed Stelmach the hayseed farmer picked a fight with big oil by raising oil royalties to ridiculous levels which the government had to reverse.  Danielle Smith has all the oil money she needs and Stelmach has none.

She is absolutely elequent in speaking and thinks on her feet in interviews and is easy on the eye.  The only problem is after 10 years of Harper, the Albertan, as Prime Minister would the country tolerate Danielle Smith, the Albertan, in the same job?
 

Infanteer

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Makes traditionally boring Alberta politics interesting.  I do like the speech.
 

Edward Campbell

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Rifleman62 said:
I read this earlier today. Excellent speech. Telling Quebec how it is.

How does she appeal to you???


As I said: "She does so because of the speech she gave in Montreal ..." We need some fresh faces and some equally fresh, clear and resonant ideas in our national politics.

 

Northalbertan

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She has absolutely got my vote in the next provincial election.  I like the Wild Rose policies, and she is a great public speaker. 

I don't think she will manage to boot the conservatives out of government here but she is going to take some seats away, especially in southern Alberta.  The next Alberta provincial election will be an interesting one.
 

ModlrMike

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GAP said:
Harper's replacement....

I don't think so for two primary reasons:

1. She's from Alberta, and the east will likely not vote for second Albertan at the helm just yet; and
2. Her policies might be a little too far to the right to be palatable to the new Ontario faction in the Conservative party.

However, if Mr Harper can adequately christen the ground for her, then perhaps.
 

Edward Campbell

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ModlrMike said:
I don't think so for two primary reasons:

1. She's from Alberta, and the east will likely not vote for second Albertan at the helm just yet; and
2. Her policies might be a little too far to the right to be palatable to the new Ontario faction in the Conservative party.

However, if Mr Harper can adequately christen the ground for her, then perhaps.


I'm inclined to agree. The next Conservative leader may, likely will, come from Ontario. Ms. Smith wants to be Premier of Alberta.

Provincial premiers have a pretty poor record of becoming national prime ministers. If my memory serves only Sir John A Macdonald and Sir Charles Tupper ever managed the feat and i 'm not sure Macdonald really counts since he was premier of Canada, the colony, before Confederation. But, she might want to take history on after the guy (or gal) after Harper.

 

Edward Campbell

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Ms Smith abandoned the Alberta PCs (in 2009) to join Wildrose and make it a fiscally conservative alternative, but, now, according to this story, which is reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions of the Copyright Act from the Globe and Mail, Wildrose is abandoning her:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/deep-fissures-threaten-to-rip-alberta-wildrose-apart/article21784826/
gam-masthead.png

Deep fissures threaten to rip Alberta Wildrose apart

GARY MASON
The Globe and Mail

Published Tuesday, Nov. 25 2014

When we last left Alberta Opposition leader Danielle Smith, she was trying to convince people her Wildrose party is not against gays and lesbians and steered by a bigoted majority. Now she has an even bigger selling job: convincing people her right-wing group is still relevant and not doomed to political exile.

The party was rocked this week by two defections to the ruling Progressive Conservatives. It was clear by Ms. Smith’s reaction she did not see this coming. One of the two was Kerry Towle, who had been one of her most trusted lieutenants and able MLAs. The other was Ian Donovan, the party’s agriculture critic, who when asked why he was crossing the floor said it was because he has been impressed by Tory Premier Jim Prentice’s leadership.

Ms. Towle linked her leave-taking to the recent conflab over the protection of gay and lesbian rights in the party’s constitution. At last year’s convention, a non-binding resolution was passed that expanded the minority rights language. Ms. Smith was so convinced it would be permanently adopted at this year’s gathering that she boasted about it in a speech the day before the vote was to take place.

With Ms. Smith out of the room, the members decided to keep the existing, more limited minority rights wording, which was seen as a clear victory for the social conservative faction of the party. It would now seem that as Mr. Prentice continues carefully rebuilding the more centrist PCs, he is leaving the door open for those Wildrose MLAs uncomfortable with the more extreme elements in their party.

And there are certainly whispers more defections could be on the way.

In the past three weeks, Wildrose has lost three members. Before this week’s departures, MLA Joe Anglin left to sit as an Independent. On his way out, he said deep fissures were developing in Wildrose that were threatening to rip the party apart.

With their four by-election wins last month, the provincial Tories now have 63 of the 87 seats in the legislature. There are 14 Wildrose, five Liberals, four NDP and one Independent. It would seem the one-party state that Alberta has been for 43 years will endure, barring some unforeseen calamity befalling the government. And given the entirely unpredictable nature of Alberta politics in the past couple of years, you cannot disregard that possibility.

The most immediate question now is the fate of Ms. Smith and her party.

After losing the four by-elections, Ms. Smith offered to put her leadership up for review. She was persuaded by her caucus and party hierarchy to rescind that proposal. Given the events of this week, you would have to think that discussion is back on the table. One would also imagine Ms. Smith is considering her options anyway, motivated not simply by events but the grim political landscape stretching out before her.

It is difficult to see the path forward for Wildrose at the moment. It found its legs as a party thanks to Ed Stelmach’s rocky reign as premier. It had its best chance at power during Alison Redford’s scandal-plagued tenure. While admittedly it is early days, it does not appear Mr. Prentice is destined to give Wildrose the same openings his predecessors did.

If anything, he seems to be building up and expanding the Conservative coalition, luring back fiscal conservatives who drifted off to Wildrose while at the same time doing enough to keep more progressive-minded backers happy. Where does Ms. Smith go, policy wise, to refresh the Wildrose brand and convince voters it is a better option than the Tories? There do not seem to be enough votes to win government based on the platform it has now.

Could a charismatic new leader make a difference? Possibly. But I don’t think a charm deficiency is what is ailing Wildrose. Danielle Smith has loads of personality. The problem is the party looks defeated. Even Wildrose’s staunchest supporters can see the formidable obstacles to returning to the promising heights it once knew.

Small-c conservative movements have taken life in Alberta before. They all faded from existence. We could be witnessing the same thing happening again.


The problems that beset the Alberta PCs (Ed Stelmach and, primarily, Alison Redford) are gone ... Jim Prentice looks to have the party on the right track: socially moderate and fiscally responsible.

Maybe the time is now right for Danielle Smith to abandon the Wildrose Alliance and return to the PCs.
 

Edward Campbell

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Fascinating story, if true: "Wildrose Party may join Progressive Conservatives, ex-member says."

Perhaps Danielle Smith is, now, satisfied that she has helped cleanse the Alberta PCs and conservatives of her ilk should come back to ensure continued progressive conservative government - it, "progressive conservative," is not, I think, an oxymoron in Smith's mind. 
 

Edward Campbell

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So, she did it: shitcanned Wildrose (for all intents and purposes) and reunited the Alberta PC Party. She will be, in my estimation, the equivalent to Peter MacKay in the CPC ~ not entirely welcome with much of the base but too powerful to ignore.

Plus, going all the way back to the first post in this thread: I think Ms Smith has a lot to offer Alberta and Canada.

Edited to add: Jim Prentice and Danielle Smith speak out in this Canadian Press video which is linked from the Globe and Mail.
 

GAP

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I think the election of  Jim Prentice as leader is the big factor here....the Alberta PC's were becoming mauldin and corrupt with poor leadership....
 

Kat Stevens

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We could dig up and prop in a seat the corpse of Ralph Klein and it would do a better job than the clown who followed him.
 

Edward Campbell

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Kat Stevens said:
We could dig up and prop in a seat the corpse of Ralph Klein and it would do a better job than the clown who followed him.


Agreed, and, as an interested outsider, it appeared to me that Ms Smith's goal was to "cleanse the temple," so to speak. She chose to do that by energizing the conservative base; when that didn't work out the way she intended ~ part of the base was too socially conservative by a long shot ~ she decided, this month, that she had done enough from outside and that she could best continue her quest from within the Alberta PC Party. My guess is that she is right. Jim Prentice is, I think, a progressive conservative ... and in the interior of BC, the prairies and much of suburban and rural Ontario one can say those two words, together, without provoking laughter. I suspect Mr Prentice and Ms Smith have a lot in common. This is a political "win-win" for both of them.
 

ModlrMike

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The wisdom of this move will be tested at the ballot box.
 

Cloud Cover

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E.R. Campbell said:
Jim Prentice is, I think, a progressive conservative ... and in the interior of BC, the prairies and much of suburban and rural Ontario one can say those two words, together, without provoking laughter.

But Prentice is Premier of Alberta and not running for federal leader. You are right though, he would be quite acceptable to rural southern and mid western Ontario, including, I suspect, most of London area.     
 
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