The Danielle Smith era is off to a roaring start.
Whether or not it is measured in months or years will soon be seen as she’s been quick to implement policies with a provincial election likely mere months away.
Of course, implementing policies and running an effective government isn’t always the same, and so far the new UCP leadership has shown the two are nowhere near one another.
The early days marked what should have been a surprise to no one, in that the gong show was only beginning.
A team-building afternoon of paintball with the UCP caucus began the trickle of insanity, which picked up speed when she hesitantly backtracked on comments of the unvaccinated were facing the worse discrimination of any group in her lifetime.
The bus hit full speed when she reluctantly – notice a theme – apologized for “ill-informed” comments she made earlier in 2022 about the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
When most leaders come to power, there is often a honeymoon phase, but Smith quickly ramped that up to a separation, talking to divorce lawyers and seeing who gets the kids and when phase.
Her main policy in becoming the UCP leader was enacting an Alberta Sovereignty Act.
The Act would be an attempt to ignore federal legislation that Alberta municipalities would likely want themselves from the province, and comes at a time when the federal government may just be convinced it’s time to let Alberta move out of the family basement and strike out on its own.
Despite flogging it to the masses, Smith backtracked slightly on sovereignty, saying the government would respect Supreme Court decisions, but stopped short of saying exactly what a potential constitutionally-questionable Act should and would entail.
A future battle with the federal government seems all but likely as the top tier of government in the country is unlikely to let an attack on its jurisdiction go unheard.
At the polls, Smith has hardly been a runaway winner. She got 53.77 per cent of the UCP leadership vote on the sixth ballot – not exactly a unanimous mandate – and followed it with 54.5 per cent in the Brooks-Medicine Hat riding.
Several ministries that were long in tune such as environment and parks were broken up, with parks now operating with forestry and tourism, which raised red flags and eyebrows.
Mandate letters have also led to her stressing that ministries must keep inflation and affordability in mind, but the order to launch a provincial police force has led to exasperation since all non-provincial research shows it to be a financial boondoggle.
This week the latest target has been dismantling health leadership and the refusal of any possibility of a mask mandate returning to schools despite skyrocketing numbers of COVID-19 and the flu impacting attendance.
Smith said “significant reforms” to public health and Alberta Health Services are soon to be expected, with Dr. Deena Hinshaw mercifully sacked and likely celebrating, but only after the newly instituted “doctor’s advisory committee” has weighed in. That committee also includes receiving advice from a former Trump administration adviser who pushed for herd immunity in ending the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now that the provincial election race is all but in full swing, newly found “Danielle Dollars” are likely to make their way across the province in an effort to secure votes via money for infrastructure improvements and projects.
Early polling – which should always be held suspect – shows even in some traditional conservative strongholds people are leaning towards the NDP.
A lot can change in the coming months, but what’s been shown so far is the Jason Kenney era in Alberta is over and the rollercoaster ride of Danielle Smith is just beginning and potentially just a short lived sideshow in Alberta politics.