Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith (Photo by Dave Cournoyer, used with permission)

Why aren’t the supposedly progressive Conservatives under Alison Redford fear-mongering more about Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith?

Yeah, I know, that’s the Wildrose narrative. “Those Tories are just fear-mongering about us. Boo-hoo!” Poor little things! It’s actually one of their Official Talking Points, no doubt framed up by the King of Fear himself, campaign manager Tom Flanagan.

But as former Liberal MLA Maurice Tougas pointed out in an excellent blog post last week about the Conservative election strategy, if such haphazard bungling deserves to be called a strategy, the Tories are actually doing very little fear mongering — especially when there’s so much fear to monger about.

I have a conspiracy theory of my own about this. It’s pretty simple, actually. As I’ve been saying in this blog for months, the Wildrose and the Tories are just two sides of the same coin. Redford in particular, notwithstanding constant fear mongering by the Wildrose Party back to its extremist base, is almost as far to the right as Smith.

Whenever the Wildrose Party’s online legion of whiners complains that Redford is really a left-winger — or, as the party’s semi-official tabloid newspapers’ hysterical new columnist puts it, “Alberta’s first NDP premier” — I laugh out loud.

Alison “No Fee Cap” Redford is only red in the “Red State” sense of that colour, which is why I’m not getting my knickers in too much of a twist at the prospect of a Wildrose government. I mean, really people, will it be that much different from the massive PC majorities of the past, like the ones under Ralph Klein and Ed Stelmach, both of whom tried to privatize health care?

But, je digresse. It’s said here that the reason the PCs aren’t going hard on Smith when there is so much rich material to hit her with on such topics as health care, abortion, human rights and political ethics is because in their dark little Tory hearts they’re still harbouring many of the same plans, or at least very similar ones.

Smith has said so much that’s so radical, that if the Conservatives weren’t covering up similar plans they could have reduced her and her party to rubble weeks ago. As for the other opposition parties, it’s pretty obvious why they have been so cautious with such a strategy: they legitimately fear driving their supporters to the Tories if they go too hard on what Smith really believes.

Now, back in the day, when Smith was a columnist for the Calgary Herald, she wrote many columns in which she said exactly what she thinks — and from which we can get a pretty clear idea of what she would do in office were she not constrained by the limitations of democratic politics.

Since there are enough examples in history of extremist politicians who put their thoughts on paper and later acted on them, we would be foolish not to pay attention to Smith’s past jottings.

For some of the quotes that follow, I am indebted to Tougas and to Warren Kinsella, the self-described raconteur and bon vivant best known as a prominent federal Liberal insider.

So Smith, who now tells us she is a staunch believer in publicly funded health care — a carefully couched term designed not to exclude private clinics, for-profit services and multiple tiers of superior care for those with the cash — wrote in her column back on April 23, 2005: “The sooner Canadians realize that privatization is a must, the sooner we can move to the more crucial debate over how to refinance the system.”

Or, as she asked on a June 1, 2003, Global TV program about medical queue jumping and medical tourism south of the Medicine Line: “We already do have this two-tier system, so why not allow people to pay for private services?”

Or, as she stated baldly about two-tier health care in the Herald on the same day: “Bring it on!”

That was then and this is now, as the Wildrose Party’s supporters will tell you, but are we really foolish enough to believe she’s changed her mind? As Smith herself said in the Herald on Aug. 3, 2003: “Democracy is pure theatre.”

Usually, there’s a sneaky kind of honesty to the Wildrose plans that run against public sentiments, just as there often is when the Tories do the same thing — as in the scrupulous use of the phrase “publicly funded” above.

So when Smith says, as she did early this month, “I support the Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” we ought not be reassured. She says that about the Charter because she knows the Charter is popular with the public and because she sees it as not much more than a low hurdle to the things she wants to do.

As she wrote in the Herald on Jan. 14, 2006: “A Charter-proof abortion law could be drafted to forbid third-trimester pregnancies, as numerous European liberal democracies have already done. A Charter-proof marriage law could be drafted that would grant equivalent rights to gays to acknowledge their partnerships without changing the definition of marriage, as in Great Britain.”

“Politicians are wily enough to find a way to violate Charter rights with or without it,” this wily politician observed of the Charter’s Notwithstanding Clause at the conclusion of that 2006 column.

There was always plenty there for the PCs to fear-monger about if they’d been so inclined. They’re not, it’s said here, because even in the most desperate of corners, they want to keep their options open to implement exactly the same kinds of schemes.

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

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...