Uniting the right in Alberta more important than ever: Danielle Smith
WATCH: Former Wildrose leader Danielle Smith says she doens’t think the party would have won if she hadn’t crossed the floor to join Jim Prentice and the Progressive Conservatives
CALGARY —There were signs of Alberta’s sea change as far back as 2012, when Danielle Smith and her Wildrose party seemed poised to sweep the Progressive Conservatives from office.
Despite the polls showing majority public support for Smith and the conservative party, voters elected the old faithful PCs and then-leader Alison Redford. Since then, Redford resigned under a cloud of controversy, the PCs elected Jim Prentice as their new leader and then Smith, who was leader of the opposition, abandoned her party to join Prentice.
She says it was her attempt to unite the right in the province. It didn’t seem to work. Her move was so unpopular, she wasn’t able to secure a riding nomination to run in last week’s election.
Did Smith destabilize the conservative movement in Alberta?
“No,” she said in an interview on The West Block with Tom Clark. “I think that [premier-designate] Rachel Notley’s rise to become a majority government would have happened regardless of whether I’d stayed Wildrose leader.”
Prentice’s return to lead the Progressive Conservatives, she said, blocked her party’s ability to attract votes from the right.
“Jim, on paper, was textbook what you want for a political leader,” she said. His return to Alberta caused the Wildrose to “stall” at about 30 per cent, unable to make a further breakthrough in the major cities, she said.
“If you can’t win in Calgary or Edmonton, you can’t win,” Smith said. “So part of what I was attempting to do [by crossing the floor] was to save the conservative movement by realizing that now is the time to bring the two parties together.”
Did it the wrong way, did it the wrong time and it didn’t work out.
But she has no regrets about leaving.
The politics of Alberta have fundamentally changed, Smith said, and there is no room for two conservative parties.
“What I think people may be missing is what has happened on the progressive side of the political spectrum in this province for the last number of years,” she said, pointing to the election of Mayor Naheed Nenshi in Calgary and of Mayor Don Iveson in Edmonton. “Because they have been able to revitalize that movement in our two big cities, it was only a matter of time before that spilled over to the provincial level.”
Granted, Smith said, she wasn’t expecting the change to happen in this election, and she certainly wasn’t expecting the change to bring an NDP majority. Still, the change was inevitable, she said.
“That’s why I thought it was important for the two parties to come together, and I think it’s even more important now,” Smith said.
The PCs and Wildrose will have to realize neither can win a majority on their own now that the progressive vote is united behind the NDP.
© 2015 Shaw Media