Danielle Smith

Danielle Smith to Wildrose Party members: I didn’t leave you! It was you that left me!

Ever since the former Opposition leader shocked Alberta and significant parts of the rest of the country on Dec. 17 by leading a parade of Wildrose Party MLAs over to the Progressive Conservative benches, we’ve been hearing her working up her key talking points.

Saturday, they were apparently as ready as they’re ever going to be and Smith published them in writing — on Facebook, social media being the place to announce everything and anything nowadays.

Smith’s rambling screed to the disillusioned Wildrose faithful can be summed up in five points:

1)    She’s surprised, disappointed and truly sorry … that you were too dumb to see she was doing the right thing

2)    The party was never going to succeed … and it’s your fault because you’re not “socially mainstream” enough

3)    She should have warned you what was coming but she didn’t … so get over it

4)    She’s going to run again as a PC in Highwood … so please get over it

5)    Jim Prentice has become a Wildroser … not the other way around

These points deserve to be looked at one at a time.

Point 1: Smith wrote: “It has been just over a month since I and a majority of my Wildrose colleagues made the decision to start a process to unify conservatives under the leadership of Premier Jim Prentice. It has not gone as expected. It has not been an easy path. It has angered a lot of people. For that I am truly sorry.”

This is the classic unapologetic political apology: I’m sorry — but not about what you’re mad at me about. I’m only sorry that you’re such numbskulls you’re mad about it.

At base, all this apology means is: “I am not sorry!”

Point 2: She’s probably right that the Wildrose Party was never going to succeed, but not because Wildrose members were too socially conservative as she implied when she wrote, “After nearly six years of attempting to create a fiscally conservative and socially mainstream party, Wildrose members rejected that path.”

For sure, rejecting her strategy on inclusiveness at a party convention didn’t help, but party membership votes do not rule their legislative caucuses. Wildrose members and soft-core supporters aren’t (or weren’t) all socially conservative. Many were simply small-c conservatives who felt they could never trust the PCs again after the Alison Redford episode. They are hardly reassured by their MLAs’ mass defection!

As for true social conservatives, they have been made quite welcome in the PC Party of Prentice, thank you very much. Ian Donovan, c’mon down! Hence Bill 10. Hence Education Minister Gordon Dirks’ determination to deep-six support for young mothers in high school programs.

No, the Wildrose Party’s existential problem was that the oil industry had decided with Prentice in the saddle, they were not only no longer required, but because they could win they posed a threat to the universe unfolding as it should.

Conservative godfather Preston Manning delivered the bad news.

So socially conservative Wildrose members don’t deserve the rap for this one.

Point 3: “I am sorry that I did not take more time to allow Albertans to consider and debate the idea of reunification before Wildrose MLAs joined the PC Caucus.”

This claim is not credible. This deal was done in secret. Wildrose members and supporters were not considered or consulted. Nor would they ever have been.

But seeing as they’re so mad, a little contrition is probably in order. Manning apologized, and now Smith has too. The message to members? Get over it!

Point 4: Before announcing she intends to run again as a PC, Smith enumerates all the reasons she’s doing a great job. Those of you who want the details can read her message for yourselves.

It’ll be interesting to see if she can fool the voters of the PC Highwood Constituency Association. If not, Prentice will likely step in to ensure she’s chosen anyway.

Point 5: “We fought hard against two administrations that were leading Alberta in the wrong direction, and we won. We now have a Premier who is committed to the same common-sense ideas that we have been fighting so hard for.” (Emphasis added.)

On this one, notwithstanding everything else, I think Smith has nailed it.

It wasn’t really the Wildrose caucus that did the heavy lifting, of course, but the bagmen who ponied up the cash.

But, she’s right, whatever progressive instincts the PC Party had are now deader than the proverbial mackerel. Prentice is Alberta’s first Wildrose premier. His policies have about as much to do with the PC brand as Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s do with the Conservative Party tradition that ran from John A. Macdonald to Joe Clark.

That is, almost nothing at all.

Other than that, Smith sounds like that legendary sultan who complained: “I have 500 wives and no sons! What’s wrong with those women?”

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

David J. Climenhaga

David J. Climenhaga

David Climenhaga is a journalist and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. He left journalism after the strike...