Does Danielle Smith have a mandate for the Alberta Sovereignty Act?

The UCP leadership race has made it almost impossible for us politicos to take a break this summer and I’m feeling it.

I’m tired, cranky, and trying to enjoy the few days left until school begins.

It should be a happy time in any household.

However, my patience is wearing thin with the constant barrage of disinformation from a supposed “front-runner”, Danielle Smith.

Recently, the queen of the freedom worrier realm took the creative spin of a short-lived Rebel employee and built it up to a tizzy amongst her biggest fans: “Climate Cops”.

Back in the good old days of, like, a month ago, we called them “Fish and Wildlife Officers” or “Wildlife Protection Officers”. We also referred to people who ensured our water, soil, and air wasn’t going to kill us as “scientists”, but all of that is now “bad” because some little twerp figured out how to scare people and Danielle Smith decided she really wanted a piece of that.

Today isn’t about those moments that made my eyes roll, though, no, this is about a serious question and that is whether or not Smith has a mandate to implement the Alberta Sovereignty Act (ASA). When she was pressed on the matter during the recent, and final, UCP leadership debate, Smith said that she believes the UCP does have that mandate.

Leaving aside the fact that the UCP has a majority government and can decide they have a mandate to really do anything they want, what, precisely, counts as a “mandate”?

When Jim Prentice called an early election in 2015, he said he that he was doing so because he wanted a “mandate from Albertans” on the provincial budget.

From conversations I’ve had with people who were working with Prentice at the time, I don’t believe that’s why he was desperate to go to the polls one year early.

Alberta’s most lucrative export, oil, had entered a price downturn in 2014.

Prentice spent time talking with oil and gas executives, economists, and anyone who could give him insight into the downturn. At that time, he was told that it was not a “V” shape — as in, prices go down, prices go back up; a regular recession for a commodity that is subject to world supply and pricing — but a “U”. The problem with this “U” shaped oil price recession was that those who know “couldn’t see the end of it”.

Knowing that Alberta was very likely to be in the midst of a recession in 2016 (when the next provincial election was supposed to take place), I’m of the mind that Prentice decided it would be best to be in the midst of a four-year term already rather than up for re-election.

We all know how that turned out.

In 2015, the NDP was reading the room. People were very upset about Prentice’s budget that included tax increases on personal income but nothing for corporations. The NDP promised to even that out and, once elected, they did, because they were given a mandate by enough people in Alberta to have a majority government.

The UCP, in 2019, were also looking for the mandate from Albertans.

Most people recall the only thing that the UCP promised that mattered: jobs, economy, pipelines.

Barely a year out from a global pandemic, the NDP’s calls for people to consider healthcare, education, and what kind of leader Jason Kenney would be just didn’t resonate.

It’s hard to say for sure now who wasn’t reading the room — the NDP, third parties, or Albertans — but they all lost.

Jobs didn’t come back in oil and gas, the UCP couldn’t get a pipeline built, but the economy came back, as it was expected to do, after oil prices climbed back up again.

Despite what Albertans most likely remember about the 2019 provincial election campaigns, Kenney has been making announcements about his party’s promises since.

“This spring session, we passed 25 bills and 6 motions to keep our promises to Albertans. With 101 laws in total, we have fully or mainly fulfilled 83 per cent of our elections commitments — despite the 16 months of the pandemic. And we’re just getting started,” Kenney said in June of 2021.

“In the last election, we made 375 commitments to Albertans,” Kenney wrote in March 2022.

“We are doing what we said we would do. We pledged that our very first law would be Bill 1: The Carbon Tax Repeal Act. We scrapped the NDP Carbon Tax in June 2019. Promise made, promise kept.”

375 commitments, he said.

Doubtful anyone could name more than five — but it doesn’t matter if anyone could — they were given a majority government.

This is what I think of when I hear Danielle Smith say that she believes she already has a mandate to table, and pass, the Alberta Sovereignty Act.

Kenney and the UCP promised to stand up for Albertans.

Kenney and the UCP promised to fight Ottawa.

Kenney and the UCP won.

I’m not one to gift an argument to someone if they don’t deserve it but, frankly, Danielle Smith is probably right. Albertans gave the UCP a majority government to implement 375 things no one can name and if she were to win the leadership, the only thing that could stop her from taking carte blanche is the current UCP caucus.

Albertans gave this government a mandate; if Smith is leader, I have to agree she is the heir to that mandate.

Our last line of defence is the UCP caucus.

This post contains opinion.

Deirdre Mitchell-MacLean is a political commentator and podcast host of Women of ABpoli residing in southern Alberta.

Categories: General