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Tweetergate? Meatergate? For heaven's sake, stop her before she Tweets again!

Alberta Opposition Leader Memo to Self: Whatever was I thinking?

Whoever does Wildrose Party Leader Danielle "Marie Antoinette" Smith's Tweeting for her -- and one can't really shake the sinking feeling that it might be Smith herself -- needs to memorize a new adage for the online era: Tweet in haste, repent at leisure.

Well, maybe leisure isn’t exactly the way to describe Smith's at times panicky, at times cranky, always voluble responses to Tweetergate, or maybe that should be Meatergate, her scandalizing if not quite scandalous suggestion via Twitter on Sunday that the potentially E. coli-riddled meat XL Foods is dumping by the truckload in a Brooks landfill ought to be given instead to the hungry.

"We all know thorough cooking kills E. coli," Smith Twittered innocently in that first blush of success that comes with the thought of a terrific riposte that really ought to set Premier Alison Redford's Tories back on their heels. "What a waste!"

To put that another way: The peasants are rioting because they have no rib eye? Let them eat tainted chuck steak!

Didn't take long for the seething responses to start rolling in: "UR KIDDING, FEED TO THE HUNRGY WHY NOT FEED IT TO UR PARTY INSTEAD," said one countercheck quarrelsome to what Smith must have thought was just a modest quip. From there, while the rest of us chuckled, it was all downhill from Smith's perspective.

And really, who can blame her opponents, having been handed an opportunity like this one, right down there with federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz's famous "death by a thousand cold cuts" crack in 2008, the last time a case of unwholesome case of tainted meat broke wide open in front of Canadians?

Like Ritz, Smith is a member of a far-right fringe party with a reputation for a serious lack of empathy. Of course, in the case of Ritz's Conservative Party of Canada, the lunatic fringe is in power, which is troubling to say the least. At least Smith's Wildrosers are still merely baying at the gates.

Maybe the trouble was that what Smith seemed to be suggesting sounded suspiciously like what XL Foods, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and all our various stripes of conservative politician wanted to do when the U.S. Customs Service discovered a problem with the steaks from Brooks: Hand them off to the dumb Canadians!

Through the day Sunday, Smith Twittered away, explaining that some of the beef being dumped had tested negative for E. coli, that cooking works really well to get rid of the stuff and that NDP Leader Brian Mason was surely being insensitive for calling her out for her insensitive Tweet.

She finally gave up yesterday, retreated to the familiar and sympathetic ground of talk radio, and issued a half-hearted apology -- trying to spin the heated reaction to her glib suggestion as proof folks here in Alberta don’t trust "officials," whomever they may be.

Well, good try, I guess. But it sure sounded like it was "Danielle Smith, c'mon down," the Angry Birds of Twitterland were Tweeting.

The thing is, we live in a global village now, and at the centre of the village is a virtual Place de la Révolution. Even if your name isn't Marie Antoinette, that's not a place you want to be making a trip!

So here's some free advice for Smith, worth what she paid for it: Just shut up before the virtual tumbrels start to roll for you!

Then again, here's your BlackBerry. Let those Tweets fly. Go ahead and make my day!

+ + +

In other Alberta news, meanwhile, Prime Minister Stephen Harper finally got around yesterday to setting a date for the Calgary Centre by-election, so the campaigning will now begin in earnest -- except for the NDP, which strangely did not plan to pick a candidate until Oct. 27. On Sunday, the party changed the date of their nomination meeting to today.

This seems likely to all but cede the bulk of the opposition vote on Nov. 26, when the by-elections are to take place in three Canadian ridings, to either Liberal candidate Harvey Locke or Green Party candidate Chris Turner.

Well, so be it. The candidate nominated by the Conservatives, former journalist and market-fundamentalist hawk Joan Crockatt, still comes to the contest with a significant edge, thanks to the inexplicable voting habits of Calgary electors.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, Alberta Diary.

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