[Editor’s note: Steve Burgess is an accredited spin doctor with a PhD in Centrifugal Rhetoric from the University of SASE, situated on the lovely campus of PO Box 7650, Cayman Islands. In this space he dispenses PR advice to politicians, the rich and famous, the troubled and well-heeled, the wealthy and gullible.]
Dear Dr. Steve,
Alberta Premier Danielle Smith has been taking a lot of heat for Bill 1, her legislation that would give her government the power to override federal law if it “intrudes into an area of provincial legislative jurisdiction,” “violates the rights and freedoms of one or more Albertans under the Canadian Charter of Rights,” or simply “causes… harm to Albertans.” It also gives her and her cabinet the power to bypass the Alberta legislature unilaterally.
Will this hold up?
Premier Smith has not been on the job long, but already she is having a major impact. Just look at who is following her lead. Last weekend Donald Trump called for the suspension of the Constitution of the United States, claiming he was cheated and that this fraud “allows for the termination of all rules, regulations and articles, even those found in the Constitution.”
Trump has obviously been taking notes from Smith. As they say in the Calgary suburbs: Yes, queen!
With Bill 1, Smith has thrown down the oil-soaked glove to Ottawa. Speaking with host Mercedes Stephenson on Global News' show The West Block recently, Smith said “I think we've tried to be a constructive partner in Confederation, and it hasn't worked. So we have to try something different.”
Ominous. A bit like “Hacksaw” Hank Jones telling the judge, “Your Honour, I have tried to avoid attacking people with power tools, but it hasn't worked. So now I have to try something different. Am I free to go?”
Still, Smith says Bill 1 is open to discussion and change. For instance, those dictatorial powers it gave her? Oopsie! Honest mistake, like finding a dead rodent in your taco salad. These things happen. Monday she announced that changes would be made. Perhaps Albertans will also be offered a coupon for a free piece of legislation and a medium-sized beverage.
This mistake/apology cycle is becoming a regular theme for the Alberta premier. Bill 1 is not exactly strike one. Smith has swung and missed before. In a November TV address she said she is “far from perfect” and can “make mistakes.” It's almost a slogan: “Danielle Smith: I Screw Up, I Say Sorry, I Move On to the Next Screwup.”
One of those mistakes was saying cancer is “completely within your control,” another was saying "hydroxychloroquine cures 100 per cent of coronavirus patients within six days of treatment." Still another was when Smith said unvaccinated people are “the most discriminated against group” in her lifetime.
Now at least she understands that she was wrong. Clearly, the most discriminated against group are provincial premiers who propose unconstitutional legislation. They are treated so unfairly. “This seems like a pure political power grab by Alberta’s new premier,” wrote Colby Cosh. His was among the more polite takes.
Smith has people in her corner though, like the always-reliable Rex Murphy. Murphy's National Post opinion piece was the Smith playbook in column form — those sneering Eastern liberals, both capital L and small, hate salt-of-the-earth Albertans and their honest, constitution-bucking ways. “The explicit smugness and condescension,” Murphy wrote, “is a special moment in the decline of Canadian political leadership.”
Murphy referred to Bill 1 as “Smith’s groundbreaking legislative initiative.” Groundbreaking! Innovative! Like your Uncle Randy's recipe for Count Chocula Meatloaf, or your sister-in-law's blueberry-and-eel-teeth aspic muffins. Unlike anything else you've ever seen. Or asked for.
Murphy's column carried the headline, “When Trudeau, Singh and the Toronto media are all against Danielle Smith, you know she must be doing something right.”
Rex has come up with a great all-purpose take here. Try it! Hey Ye, are the libs triggered by your Hitler fanboy routine? Keep it up, Rapper Formerly Known as Kanye! Say there Vladimir Putin, does Trudeau think you're one naughty little war criminal? Love it! You do you, Vladdy. So, buddy, you drank 12 beers and now you're driving up the wrong side of the freeway? Ha ha, listen to those idiots honk! Smug bastards.
Smith is not the only premier playing footsie with separatism and/or authoritarianism. There is Ontario's Doug Ford, who likes to spend Christmas dressed as Notwithstanding Claus. And of course we don't talk about Quebec (which drives Rex Murphy nuts).
But Smith is working an old game, leveraging an age-old political animosity. Like cobra and mongoose, tarantula and wasp, Canucks fans and Mark Messier, an ancient hatred exists between conservative Albertans and federal Trudeaus. Smith is counting on that tradition to lift her to victory next May. Bill 1 is just an opening salvo. Sprinkle some melted hydroxychloroquine on your popcorn and watch the show.
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