Prairie Post (West Edition)

Smith stresses connection to rural Albertans


Danielle Smith says she first got into politics after working with rural landowners and wound up challengin­g the political establishm­ent in the early 2010s.

Now, she’s back in politics as leader of the province to challenge the feds, the medical establishm­ent and even her own party.

The new United Conservati­ve leader is one of five candidates in the Brooks-Medicine Hat byelection, called by Smith who needs a seat before bringing in major promised changes in the Alberta health system and pass a proposed Sovereignt­y Act to recast the province’s role in Confederat­ion.

She told the News this week in widerangin­g interview that she’s prepared to represent the riding’s specific interests, but her work as premier also does that on another dimension.

“I’m planning to be aware of all the issue here, so I can elevate them, but there is a bigger issue to talk about: What’s the vision we have for the province, and I’ve been pretty clear about my vision,” she said.

“We need to stand up to Ottawa and put our issues first in all things. We have to continue our focus on jobs and economy, and we’ve done a good job over three years from a pretty chaotic situation.

“We need to be serious about addressing health reform. The government (under Jason Kenney) took a hands-off approach, trusting that the experts knew what they were doing, and they clearly don’t.”

Smith, 51, lives in High River with her husband, and justifies running in the local riding as the fastest route to obtaining a seat and in line with her ruralfocus­ed leadership campaign planks.

That campaign brought her back to the pinnacle of Alberta politics after years as a talk-show host and columnist. Once thought a pariah due to the 2014 floor crossing, Smith is now leader of the UCP largely thanks to factions of those Wildrose supporters who felt most betrayed.

In the few weeks as premier, she has promised a sweeping overhaul of Alberta Health Services management and to add vaccine choice to the Alberta Human Rights code.

Observers are skeptical about the ramificati­ons of such moves as well as sovereignt­y act, but Smith vows she won’t back down.

Smith, a Calgary native, attended the University of Calgary in the early 1990s, studying in a political science department that would become influentia­l in conservati­ve circles. Afterwards she worked in Vancouver for the right-leaning Fraser Institute.

“When I came back to Calgary, I began working in landowner advocacy with Western Stockgrowe­rs Associatio­n,” said Smith. “That really cemented my love for rural Alberta.

“When I got into politics in 2011 I new I wanted to run in a rural riding and when I got back into politics I knew I wanted to run in a rural riding again.”

In 2009 Smith became leader of the Wildrose Party and grew it in to a competitor to challenge the governing PCs. It became the official opposition in 2012 election and Smith became the MLA for Highwood, south of Calgary, in 2012.

“I look at local issues, being the most important,” she told the News. “When I look back to my first term in office, I feel my greatest accomplish­ment was making major changes, along with the government… to the disaster recovery process.”

She also cites berming in the town and one-on-one work with constituen­ts.

“There are always issues that intersect with what we need to do at the provincial level,” she said.

Voting takes place Nov. 8.

 ?? Photo by Kendall King ?? Premier Danielle Smith celebrated the opening of her Medicine Hat CAMPAIGN OFfiCE WITH A CROWD OF constituen­ts Oct. 26.
Photo by Kendall King Premier Danielle Smith celebrated the opening of her Medicine Hat CAMPAIGN OFfiCE WITH A CROWD OF constituen­ts Oct. 26.

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