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.

Darwin Awards, the political edition: So long to Danielle Smith, turncoat former Alberta Opposition leader

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca in its summer fundraiser today for as little as $1 per month!

Jim Prentice & Danielle Smith

Surely if there were a political edition of the Darwin Awards, former Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith would be a nominee tonight.

Barely a year ago, as leader of the Opposition Wildrose Party, Smith was seen as all but a certainty to be the next premier of Alberta, as Alison Redford’s catastrophic tenure in the province’s top political job neared its calamitous end.

Then came the replacement of Redford as leader of the moth-eaten Progressive Conservative dynasty by Jim Prentice, a seemingly competent politician if not exactly a bonfire of charisma. This was a tough break, but hardly insurmountable, no matter what the Highwood MLA and her rapidly diminishing circle of supporters claimed afterward.

Then came the bizarre and craven deal to surrender the supposedly more principled Wildrose caucus to the Tories, purportedly because Prentice was the resurrection of true conservatism in PC ranks, but more likely because orders had come down from the Manning Centre, for all intents and purposes the political wing of the oilpatch.

For her troubles, Smith and many of the other 11 members of the 17-MLA Wildrose caucus that accepted the unwholesome Tory embrace were promised cabinet posts and influence in the Prentice Government -- a deal that lasted barely 48 hours after the MLAs who had stuck it out through the Redford nightmare inside the PC caucus rebelled.

Many of Smith's former supporters in the Wildrose Party were furious at her betrayal -- and justly so -- and large numbers of PC supporters were not all that enthusiastic about the idea of someone who had been slamming them for three years in the Legislature being welcomed to sit in the party's front benches. Unlike Redford, who tried recently to make the claim, Smith truly had become the most polarizing figure in Alberta politics.

Airdrie MLA Rob Anderson, Smith's House Leader and finance critic, faced the same backlash and had the good sense to get out with a few tattered remnants of dignity. He can "pursue new opportunities" for a couple of years with the not unreasonable hope of making a political comeback.

Not Smith. Scorned by her former party, distrusted by members of her new one, the former Fraser Institute apparatchik ran for the PC nomination in her old riding anyway against Carrie Fischer, a popular town councillor from Okotoks, apparently confident she could win with the support of Premier Prentice despite her recent history.

Yesterday, party members in Highwood handed Smith her walking papers. Her elected political career is done like dinner.

Prentice has hardly emerged from this debacle crowned with glory either.

You can decide if yesterday's vote result means Tory party voters distrust Prentice almost as much as they had come to dislike Smith, or if he ruthlessly cut her loose when his promises to her turned out to be inconvenient.

If you're wondering about the calming promises made in the budget that was tabled on Thursday by Prentice's finance minister, Robin Campbell, Smith's fate yesterday is something to think about.

Holding the Highwoods nomination vote on the same day as Smith's former party was scheduled to choose a new leader was supposed to be a brilliant stroke of political gamesmanship. Instead, it may have breathed new life into the effort by the successful candidate, former Fort McMurray Athabasca MP Brian Jean, to resurrect the nearly moribund Wildrose Party.

We'll see about that. Jean, not long ago the underemployed Crossword King of Parliament Hill, still has many obstacles to success to overcome. Just the same, yesterday didn't exactly turn out to be the worst possible day for the new Wildrose leader.

As for his party's former leader, about the only question remaining is whether she will beat it out of town as Redford did, or stick around and wait for some half-hearted consolation prize from Prentice. Too bad 2011 front-runner Gary Mar's former position in Hong Kong has already been filled!

And as for the real premier of Alberta, well, Preston Manning probably now has some more work to do to ensure that the universe unfolds as it should.

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

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.