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Alberta: UCP leadership race – right and righter

John Bell

July 16, 2022
The race to replace Jason Kenney as leader of the UCP is shaping up to drag the beleaguered province even further to the right. The leading contenders are criticizing Kenney for being too moderate – yikes!
Leading the pack is Danielle Smith, former leader of the rural-based, far right Wildrose Party. As leader she defended openly racist and homophobic statements by her members. Realizing she would never achieve her ambitions in Wildrose, she resigned and crossed the floor to the Tories in 2012.
She describes herself as a libertarian. She says she is pro-choice and supports same-sex marriage. But she shows no compunction about surrounding herself with social conservatives.
The Toronto Star described her campaign as “anti-vaxx, anti-science and anti-reality”. Her slogan is “Alberta First”, and she promises to pass laws to give the province complete autonomy from federal regulations – this is a big hit with the anti-vaxx, evangelical, far-right convoy crowd. 
Where the Kenney UCP made great strides undermining public education and healthcare, attacking teachers, doctors and nurses, Smith promises to dismantle public services. During a recent campaign stop in Airdrie she unveiled her vision of education, allowing teacher/entrepreneurs to open “micro-schools” in their own homes: “If we can get funding following the students directly to the schools and allow more teachers to set up their own schools as competition, its going to have a transformative effect.” Indeed.
Brian Jean – another Wildrose retread – parrots Smith’s independence talking points. His slogan is “Autonomy for Alberta”. But conservative strategists suggest Smith will be in a better position to fend off Rachel Notley’s NDP.
Other contenders like former Kenney aide Howard Anglin and former finance minister Travis Toews have been forced onto the defensive, constantly reacting to Smith’s pronouncements. They describe her separatist rhetoric as economic suicide. But they are having a hard time of presenting a vision other than more of the same.
Smith’s right-wing rhetoric may not be practical – the oil and gas industry still depends on federal handouts – but it is mobilizing the forces that launched the convoy movement. Witness the special guest at her recent rally: conspiracy theorist celebrity Theo Fleury.
However the race shakes down, the emboldening and organizing of the Alberta far-right continues.
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