Danielle Smith: This campaign is going to get dirty — in fact it already has

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and NDP leader Rachel Notley.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and NDP leader Rachel Notley. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

When voters go to the polls on April 16, it will probably be with a sigh of relief over the end of one of the ugliest campaigns in Alberta history.

Every campaign seems to be dirtier than the last and this one has already begun with Premier Rachel Notley launching her campaign with accusations of bigotry, cheating, lying, extremism and intolerance.

Hard to imagine it could go down from here.

READ MORE: Alberta’s 2019 election underway as Premier Notley drops the writ

It was almost laughable when she got to her closing line that she truly believes “the politics of love and hope and optimism always trump the politics of anger, division and fear.” Look who’s talking.

No doubt Notley couldn’t resist poking at the UCP’s recent problems.

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I’ve been following the “kamikaze candidate” allegations since January and I doubt this is going to be the determining factor in this campaign.

Watch: The campaign begins

Click to play video 'Gord Steinke speaks to Global News Radio’s Danielle Smith about Day 1 of Alberta election campaign' Gord Steinke speaks to Global News Radio’s Danielle Smith about Day 1 of Alberta election campaign
Gord Steinke speaks to Global News Radio’s Danielle Smith about Day 1 of Alberta election campaign – Mar 19, 2019

It may be unseemly to see such collaboration between candidates to defeat another, but when you have ranked ballots it happens all the time. In fact, Kenney recalled the same thing happened to him in the PC leadership race when all the non-merger candidates coordinated their campaigns to try to defeat him.

The only real scandal is the donations.

READ MORE: Kenney, Callaway campaigns worked together to undermine Brian Jean’s UCP leadership run, leaked emails show

But, as reported in Maclean’s, Jeff Callaway’s co-campaign manager explained that he received money from a corporate entity to his private bank account, he lined up face donors to use the money to make donations under their own names so Callaway could get the money he needed to pay the nomination fee to enter the race. That’s against the law.

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Those who broke the law should be held accountable for it. But it appears Kenney had nothing to do with it.

Kenney also had a candidate, Caylan Ford, resign over racially charged comments. It’s hard to see how Kenney had anything to do with that either.

Watch: Caylan Ford

Kenney — a former federal Minister for Citizenship and Immigration — has a well-established reputation for outreach to cultural communities, and promoting immigration and ethnic diversity. Losing a star candidate isn’t the way any leader wants to start a campaign, but her comments are not a reflection on him.

Pollsters report that the number one issue voters care about is the economy.

It should not escape notice that when Notley spoke about her priorities she spoke about health care, education, minimum wage and climate change first, then pipelines, diversification and jobs.

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Meanwhile, Kenney’s sole focus was on the economy, pipelines, jobs and debt.

I think Kenney has the stronger message. But Notley has more discipline — she clearly has control over her caucus and party, where Kenney does not.

This is going to be UCP’s biggest problem during the campaign. I still think they will win, but if they lose it will be almost solely the result of self-inflicted wounds.

Danielle Smith is host of The Danielle Smith Show on Global News Radio 770 Calgary. She can be reached at