By George Brown
One candidate looking to lead the Wildrose Alliance party wants to pick up where the Klein Revolution left off.
And she’s got the support of Ralph’s father to do it.
Danielle Smith, a former director of provincial affairs for Alberta with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), is competing for the party leadership against Mark Dyrholm. The vote among party members is Oct. 17 in Edmonton.
One of those new Wildrose Alliance party members is Phil Klein, former premier Ralph Klein’s father. He’s out selling memberships on behalf of Smith’s campaign.
And there are other long-time Tories who are now supporting the farther right party, she said. “They haven’t left the PC party, the PC party has left them.”
Smith was in Ponoka Sept. 26 and met about a dozen residents curious about the party.
Prior to joining CFIB, Smith was an editorial writer and columnist at the Calgary Herald for six years. She also served as host of Global Sunday, a national current affairs television talk show.
Her work in policy research began with an internship at the Fraser Institute, she was a trustee for the Calgary Board of Education and she worked in advocacy as director of the Alberta Property Rights Initiative and the Canadian Property Rights Research Institute.
As a policymaker, Smith said she has met many cabinet ministers, MLAs and bureaucrats and has seen up close they way the system works.
“What I was struck by is there are many people in positions that I think don’t have the competence to manage their portfolios.”
When it comes time to defend their budgets or explain their actions, these politicians defer to their deputy ministers. “The politicians aren’t really in charge. The administration is really in charge and it’s the reason we’ve gotten ourselves into the mess we’re in.”
PCs fail on energy and health care
“I think the changes to the new royalty framework have been devastating to our international reputation as a safe, fair and predictable place to do business,” Smith told the small group.
Health care issues becoming “more and more acute everyday.” She said there are now rumours the government will close 9,000 long-term care beds and 300 acute care beds. “This isn’t the way to solve our health care issues.”
Smith said a Wildrose Alliance government would institute democratic reforms such as fixed election dates and recall.
“How tricky is that? “They (government) can call an election at any point over the next three years.”
Two years ago the Wildrose Alliance was a fledgling party trying to recruit quality candidates when Premier Ed Stelmach called an election. They were a party only two weeks when Premier Stelmach sprung an election.
A Wildrose Alliance government would encourage more citizen initiatives to government and allow the right of MLA recall, Smith said.
“Albertans need to be able to have the opportunity to put forward issues that matter to them and to be able to vote on them in a general referendum.
Under Tories budget deficits will grow
“If we continue with oil and gas prices being as low as they are we stand to have an $8 billion or $9 billion or $10 billion deficit,” Smith said. “We’ll blow through our entire savings within a couple of short years and we’ll be right back to the point we were in the 1980’s under Don Getty.”
She expects there would be across-the-board cuts to government services, increased taxes, more debt and a liquidated Heritage Savings Trust Fund. “I wouldn’t put it past these guys that that would be the avenue they would look into.”
“We’ve had two booms that have been entirely frittered away. Albertans are really frustrated by that.”
The Stelmach government has no appetite to control spending, she said. At least Klein had a plan and public support to control the deficit and to eliminate the debt.
“Then he pressed the auto pilot button and in doing so, he handed it over to the administration.”
Smith said the current deficit could have been avoided — and a small surplus realized — had the government limited spending increases to inflation plus population growth. Instead the spending increase has been at a rate double that guideline. Alberta now spends more per capita than any jurisdiction in Canada with the exception of Newfoundland and Labrador.
“I think Albertans have gotten to the point where they really have higher expectations than what the government has been able to deliver,” she said. “The government has not been able to deliver value for the taxpayers’ dollar.”
A Wildrose Alliance government led by Smith “would take up where the Klein Revolution left off and re-engineer the way government operates.”
Where the Progressive Conservatives have taken control of the province out of the hands of Albertans and communities and given it to bureaucrats, a Wildrose government would allow Albertans to decide where their money is spent. Education dollars would follow the student, health care spending would follow the patient, municipalities would have more grants that aren’t tied to specific projects.
Smith’s government would consult with Albertans before making policy and enacting legislation.
This government is unwilling to be humble and admit when a mistake has been made and take corrective action, she added.
Now that the Wildrose Alliance has a member in the legislature, the party cannot be ignored by the government. “They can’t just turn a blind eye.
“If they don’t watch and pay attention to what Albertans want, they’ll get booted out,” Smith said.
“”Maybe they’ll be able to correct course, maybe they won’t.
“I think having the Wild Rose Alliance there will help all Albertans regardless.”