rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

Has former Wildrose leader Danielle Smith become a (not so) secret admirer of NDP Premier Rachel Notley?

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca for as little as $5 per month!

Former Wildrose leader Danielle Smith in 2014

Danielle Smith nearly became the first woman to be elected premier of Alberta.

As leader of the Wildrose Party, which despite her efforts was never quite successful at portraying itself as a party of the centre right, she came close, tantalizingly close.

Alas for Smith, the Wildrose Party's opportunity to form government foundered in a Lake of Fire in 2012, and Alison Redford, who had already been chosen as the Progressive Conservative Party's leader and appointed premier, became the politician whom history will record as the first woman to be elected to the province's top political job by voters.

After that came Smith's 2014 effort to reunite her party with the PCs, by then led by Jim Prentice -- a partial tactical success but a catastrophic strategic failure -- and the election of Rachel Notley as Alberta's first NDP Premier five and a half months later.

Smith was rejected by PC party members as their candidate in her own Highwood riding in March 2015, ending her political career, and today works as a broadcaster hosting a popular right-wing talk radio show in Calgary.

Now, the question must be asked: Has Smith become a secret admirer of Premier Notley -- or perhaps a not-so-secret admirer?

At least, one wonders, does she think Notley is a preferable premier to Jason Kenney, the leader of the Opposition United Conservative Party, which is the product of the merger of the two conservative parties Smith represented during her three years as an Alberta MLA?

This might not be quite as astonishing as it would seem had we gone by political labels alone. As many have noted, Premier Notley's government, despite the surprise of its election in 2015, has turned out to be quite fiscally conservative, surprisingly open to "free market" neoliberal economics, administratively capable, vigorously supportive of the petroleum industry, and at times aggressive in its relationships with other Canadian governments.

At the same time, unlike the UCP and Kenney himself, the NDP and Notley are untainted by the extreme social conservatism of the very sort that led Smith to try to reunite her party with the Progressive Conservative mothership in December 2014.

In other words, notwithstanding the noisy rhetoric emitting from the UCP, there's not actually all that much light between Notley, the former labour lawyer, and Smith, the former Fraser Institute apparatchik.

While Smith is a doctrinaire utopian market fundamentalist, she is socially quite liberal, as Notley is and as Kenney emphatically is not.

Notley, as has been frequently observed by supporters and detractors alike, is the best progressive conservative premier Alberta has had since Peter Lougheed -- or perhaps even the best including Lougheed, who founded Alberta’s 44-year Tory dynasty in 1971 and died in 2012.

Which may explain Smith's remarkable essay in the Calgary Herald on Friday, in which she came quite close to endorsing Notley, and apparently had to struggle to find anything nice to say about Kenney.

Smith framed the difference between Premier Notley and Opposition Leader Kenney as essentially the same as the difference between Lougheed and Ralph Klein. If you think Lougheed was Alberta's best premier, she wrote, "I bet you are voting for Notley." If it's Klein you place atop our pantheon of premiers, "my guess is you are voting for Kenney."

As Smith is surely aware, history remembers Lougheed as a competent, prudent and visionary manager, and Klein as someone who sacrificed the province's infrastructure and savings in the name of tax giveaways, irresponsible Ralph Bucks payments, and phoney balanced books.

Smith devoted the largest part of her 700-word op-ed to describing Lougheed's successes -- and the Lougheed-like qualities of Notley's management.

"Notley is, without question, the inheritor of the Lougheed tradition," wrote Smith. "That's not to say he was a full on socialist, but Notley isn't either. I think most Albertans have been shocked to see how pragmatic (sic) she has governed, particularly as it concerns natural resources."

Almost as an afterthought, Smith devoted a short paragraph to half-heartedly criticizing Lougheed, and another to describing Klein's good points, one of which she noted was that he had a nice smile, which is true.

While she reached no strong conclusion about the better course for Alberta, this is certainly not the ringing endorsement of the UCP one would have expected from Alberta's former conservative Opposition leader at this moment in history. Nor is it the stinging critique of the NDP she might have written during her previous career as a political columnist.

Smith remains a respected figure on the socially progressive right in Alberta, despite the abuse she has suffered from social conservatives in the years since 2014.

You'd almost think she's done the math and realizes what a disaster Kenney would be if he won power, but as a former guiding star of the Alberta right can't quite make herself unequivocally state the obvious.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's bog, AlbertaPolitics.ca

Image: Daveberta/Flickr

Help make rabble sustainable. Please consider supporting our work with a monthly donation. Support rabble.ca today for as little as $1 per month!

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.