Alberta Politics

Jackie Armstrong-Homeniuk’s essay fiasco and getting used to Premier Danielle Smith.

The problem with taking a break from writing about Alberta politics of a few days is that it becomes almost impossible to decide what to write about.

This week is no exception.

So here I go.

Let’s start with the essay contest.

Oh boy.

Someone named S. Silver won the third place prize in the “Her Vision Inspires” essay contest that was championed by Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville UCP MLA Jackie Armstrong-Homeniuk, now the Associate Minister for the Status of Women.

S. Silver’s award winning essay.

In her award-winning essay, which was given a $200 prize, Silver argued:

“…it is sadly popular to think Albertan children are unnecessary as we can import foreigners to replace us, this is a sickly mentality that amounts to a drive for cultural suicide…”

“to try to promote that women break into careers that men traditionally dominate is not only misguided, but it is harmful.”

“that the best approach would be to reward families for their reproductive service both with financial rewards to offset the financial burden they are taking on and with medals to symbolize their valuable achievement of having 2+ children.”

Whoa. Yeah.

Pretty gross stuff.

After facing a pretty strong public backlash for choosing a racist and sexist essay for the award, Armstrong-Homeniuk issued a written statement saying she disagrees with it and that it shouldn’t have been chosen.

She led the committee that chose it but we don’t know why it was chosen or who else was on the committee with her.

It’s a secret.

UCP MLAs Michaela Frey and Angela Pitt told intrepid CBC reporter Michelle Bellefontaine they had nothing to do with it, as did cabinet ministers Adriana LaGrange and Tanya Fir.

We also don’t know how many essays were submitted to the contest or who “S. Silver” even is.

It’s now been removed but we don’t know how the essay was able to be published on the Legislative Assembly of Alberta website without raising some giant red flags.

Speaker Nathan Cooper said he didn’t know anything about it.

The whole thing is a big exercise in passing the buck.

Moving on, for now.

Nate Glubish and Danielle Smith (source: Twitter)

“Premier Danielle Smith. Get used to it.”

Those seven words from longtime political writer Graham Thomson seem to sum up how a lot of people are thinking the UCP leadership will end.

It feels like the most unlikeliest of outcomes, but in Alberta politics, the unexpected is sometimes the most likely.

It’s almost as if the past ten years never happened, said one conservative friend of mine, in reference to Danielle Smith’s near-win in 2012, her spectacular fall in 2014, and the massive political realignments – Rachel Notley’s NDP winning in 2015 and the formation of the UCP in 2017 – that have shaped Alberta politics since.

But she’s back and people think she’s going to win.

She’s drawing big crowds to her events, she’s getting media attention and she just stole another MLA endorsement away from Travis Toews.

It’s possible that other candidates are selling more memberships or that the preferential ballots could tally in a way that helps other candidates but the biggest indicator that Smith is in the lead is that all the other candidates are attacking her.

Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche MLA Brian Jean, the UCP prince-in-exile, took aim at Smith’s idea to open the Port of Churchill in northern Manitoba to oil exports. It’s a perennially bad idea that never happens but never dies.

Airdrie-East MLA Angela Pitt announced on social media that she was quitting her volunteer role as Rajan Sawhney’s campaign chair, saying she needs to realign with her constituents. That feels like code for she’s worried Smith is going to win the leadership and her supporters – notably campaign chair and former MLA Rob Anderson – might be interested in challenging Pitt for the nomination in the riding.

Sherwood Park-Fort Saskatchewan Conservative MP Garnett Genuis, who is backing Toews, took a swipe at Smith on Twitter after the party’s Medicine Hat leadership debate.

“Non-lawyer cites Wikipedia to explain novel constitutional theory. Danielle Smith is the freeman-on-the-land of this #UCPdebate. And the other candidates’ responses to her clearly show that they understand what dire consequences her success would spell for our movement,” Genuis tweeted on July 27, 2022.

Not naming but clearly targeting Smith in an online video, Rebecca Schulz described the front-runner as “unhinged and unreasonable” and “lighting her hair on fire.”

Schulz’s video announced that Calgary-Midnapore MP Stephanie Kusie has joined Rona Ambrose as campaign co-chair.

Trying to out-co-chair her opponents is an odd strategy, and is a role that is usually left to the backrooms, but it’s pretty clear that Schulz is trying desperately to position herself as the ABD – Anybody but Danielle – candidate in the UCP race – especially for conservatives not enthralled by Toews beige and boring campaign.

Toews’ establishment-favourite campaign appears to be losing steam.

Having to fight back criticisms about Dr. Deena Hinshaw’s six-figure bonus undermined his claim of being fiscally responsible. And he lost the support of another UCP MLA this week when Strathcona-Sherwood Park MLA Nate Glubish, the Minister of Service Alberta, abandoned Toews and switched his endorsement to Smith.

In almost any other mainstream conservative leadership race, even in Alberta, Smith’s promotion of conspiracy theories and snake oil COVID cures, promises to impose unconstitutional laws, and more would probably disqualify her on the ballots of a lot of conservatives.

But this unruly UCP appears to be a very different beast than the old Progressive Conservative Party it absorbed six years ago. And Smith has used her decades of experience in politics and media to fine tune a message that appeals to a motivated chunk of today’s UCP base.

This most unexpected of outcomes is a surprise when you consider the rules of the leadership race were almost designed to quell an insurgent campaign.

The high entry fee ($175,000), signature requirements (1,000) and early membership cut off date (August 12) were designed for an establishment candidate.

Of course this is all about who sells the most memberships, and some candidates might be out there quietly selling a ton of memberships, but the early cutoff date means the days of the “two-minute Tories” who propelled Ralph Klein, Ed Stelmach and Alison Redford into the Premier’s Office are long gone.

Ideological conservatives hated it, but anybody being able to walk into the voting station on voting day and buy a membership ensured the PC Party constantly reinvented itself as a big tent party – arguably the biggest success of its 43 years of uninterrupted power.

But Smith isn’t campaigning to lead a big tent and a lot of people think she’s going to pull it off.

6 replies on “Jackie Armstrong-Homeniuk’s essay fiasco and getting used to Premier Danielle Smith.”

I don’t think it is a foregone conclusion that Smith will win. She may be ahead (although I think it that may be close enough to be debatable), but I suspect many in the UCP have as negative a reaction to her as other Albertans do. So unless she can win 50% or more on the first ballot, it will likely depend on who everyone’s second choices are. Somehow, I don’t think Smith would appeal to many Sahwney, Schulz or even Toews supporters.

The most extreme candidate does not always win, even in a party with a lot of people that type of message appeals to, just ask Maxime Bernier about that.

As for the essay debacle, it may go to show what happens when there is no adult supervision any more. At this point, I suspect Kenney is just going through the motions, which may partly be why this happened. However, it does not leave a good impression of the UCP and I am sure even Smith, who has other extreme positions, understands this is not good PR.

So, maybe Kenney was right and he was the only one keeping the kooks at bay.

Danielle Smith is following Donald Trump’s play book. Say outrageous things and you get attention. There is no such thing as bad publicity. She will win.
S. Silver’s essay was an opinion and in a democratic society(which Alberta is for the time being) she has every right to say what she did without criticism from the politically correct NDP. I’m getting tired of their pushing diversity and inclusion but exclusively their version.

Just because someone has a right to their opinion, doesn’t mean we have to celebrate it, or that our government has to give it an award. Freedom of expression means only that you can’t be prosecuted for your opinions, not that all opinions get equal exposure and celebration.

The Star and a number of other sources have printed one of the other, non-winning essays, by one Ms Emilia Earhart — read it for yourself and judge whether the one by S Silver is better. The fifth one has also been posted on Twitter, and also seems to be superior to Silver’s.

Actually if she wins this leadership, she will automatically become Premier. She doesn’t need a seat in the Legislature to be invited by the Lieutenant-Governor to form a new Government.

I, for one, however, would not be shocked if she asked the L-G for an early dissolution & a snap election in order to solidify a mandate — but that is not constitutionally mandatory — the so-called “fixed election date” legislation notwithstanding.

jerrymacgp: Danielle Smith has a habit of sticking her appendage in her mouth, one too many times. She has only one foot left to walk on, then stumbles and falls. It also could end up like a Ted Morton situation, where Albertans who weren’t supporters of the Alberta PCs, bought memberships to that particular party, so they could make sure he never became premier of Alberta. I can’t see Danielle Smith ascending to the role of premier. School trustee role was finished. Attempt at becoming premier of Alberta never transpired – at least twice. Career as a talk show host ended badly. I don’t know what Danielle Smith will do, if her latest attempt at becoming premier of Alberta doesn’t succeed. The UCP might find her some cushy, and meaningless role in their party, which will pay her good money. We’ve seen the UCP give these positions to others. Unless there is some devious scheming going on, to get them re-elected, I can’t see the UCP lasting beyond 2023.

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