GUNTER: Danielle Smith sets the tone in her first speech as UCP leader

If there is only one center-right party in next spring’s provincial election, there is almost no chance of a comeback from the NDP, which will likely only win if the right-wing vote is split.

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Stand united and strike Ottawa.

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This is my advice to United Conservatives: stick together and hit Ottawa (often).

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I pass this advice on to their new leader and the next Premier of Alberta, Danielle Smith. But it is mainly aimed at the losing candidates of Thursday’s UCP leadership race.

If there is only one center-right party in next spring’s provincial election, there is almost no chance of a comeback from the NDP, which will likely only win if the right-wing vote is split.

So if there is a temptation among the losing candidates and their supporters to form a new party unhappy with Thursday’s results, please lay down until that sentiment passes.

And keep an open mind about Danielle Smith. There will be enough hysterical overreaction to his victory from “progressives” here and in central Canada – politicians, journalists and academics.

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Listen to what she says, not just what people say about her.

And above all, see what she does.

One of his first agendas will be his much maligned Alberta Sovereignty Act. Wait and see what’s in it when it’s finally introduced, possibly in November.

Over the past 10 days, the current provincial government has assembled a very effective coalition of the three prairie provinces to resist the massive gun confiscation by the federal Liberals. Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba have all told Ottawa they will not pay for the RCMP to enforce the federal gun ban (euphemistically called a “buyout” by Ottawa).

As governments that pay for RCMP detachments and patrols in small communities, the three provinces, led by Alberta, have told Ottawa that no part of the policing budget they provide and that None of the other RCMP resources (such as officers) can be assigned to the Mounted Police. firearms of law-abiding citizens.

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It is a firm and independent position and, more importantly, it is constitutional. Alberta and others don’t have to spend their tax dollars enforcing a federal amendment that provincial governments say violates the Charter, as well as unnecessary in the fight against gun violence .

If Smith’s Sovereignty Act contains similar measures to push back Ottawa wherever the province has the right to push back, then the bill will be worth it.

If it goes too far and “empowers” ​​Alberta to act unconstitutionally by disavowing legitimate federal laws (whether we like them or not), then Alberta’s fight against Ottawa’s excess will be lost. in unwinnable legal and public relations battles.

Don’t get distracted by the impossible, but don’t hesitate to stand up to the feds wherever and whenever possible.

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Smith is smart. In her acceptance speech, she set the right tone about what she repeatedly called “the Notley-Singh-Trudeau alliance” that would shut down Alberta’s energy sector and rock all provinces at Ottawa’s pace, particularly on the response to the pandemic.

And because Smith is smart, I imagine she will learn from the furor over her campaign promises for a sovereignty law and carefully craft the final legislation to push the envelope as far as possible, but not ridiculously far.

The best lines of his speech spoke of Alberta taking its rightful place as a “senior partner in a strong and united Canada” and its promise to “no longer ask (Ottawa) for permission to be prosperous.” .

If Jason Kenney had given a single speech as impassioned as Smith’s hammering the Trudeau Liberals, he could still be leader and prime minister of the UCP.

Smith must also work on party unity. His victory was not overwhelming; she took six ballots to get elected. She must therefore put some of her rivals in her cabinet.

I would make Travis Toews finance minister again and I would appoint Rebecca Schulz as health minister. (Smith seemed to be signaling that Schulz might head for healthcare by ignoring Schulz’s campaign pledge to cut mid-level healthcare managers in favor of more nurses, healthcare technicians, therapists and doctors.)

But if the UCP can avoid splitting, it can win with Smith as the leader.

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