[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,
A recording has emerged of a January call between Alberta Premier Danielle Smith and pastor Artur Pawlowski weeks before his Feb. 2 criminal trial on pandemic-related charges. Smith is heard promising she would again discuss his case with justice officials.
Will this hurt Smith in the upcoming provincial election?
Personalized service. Isn’t it a rare thing these days? So many automated systems, impersonal responses, hold messages saying “All our representatives are busy helping other customers, your wait time may coincide with the Sun’s expansion into a planet-devouring red giant.”
But there was none of that aggravation for Artur Pawlowski. For him it’s “Premier Smith on line one.” That is the kind of service you like to see, especially when you are facing criminal charges. And Pawlowski has faced plenty. He’s been in court more often than Saul Goodman.
Pawlowski, who once said that floods in Alberta were God’s punishment for allowing gay rights, has a habit of telling people to disobey police. During the Coutts’ border blockade by anti-vax activists, Pawlowski gave a speech saying, “For freedom to be preserved, people must be willing to sacrifice their lives. This is our time.”
It does not appear anyone took him up on the offer, and Pawlowski himself remains alive. All those martyrdom promises made in the heat of passion, and then in the morning it’s a different story. But Pawlowski is not the only one who seems to have been making empty promises.
In their January phone conference Smith is heard telling Pawlowski that she has made numerous enquiries about his case. Now, Smith and her executive director Rob Anderson say allegations that Smith contacted Crown prosecutors directly are “defamatory.”
So it’s defamatory to suggest that Smith kept her promise to Pawlowski? How dare you suggest Smith wasn’t lying! It’s a slander on her hard-earned reputation for duplicity!
Of course there is a difference between lies and ignorance. In a rather touching moment during the call Smith says she had the wrong idea about what she had the power to do. “It’s unfortunate that I didn’t understand the limitations,” she said. “I thought we had the same power of clemency we had in the U.S.”
How disheartening. King Charles must have been just as disappointed when they explained to him that the whole “droit du seigneur” thing was a myth. Did you know you can’t even have people’s tongues cut out for singing satirical ballads anymore? Donald Trump was certainly irked to discover you can be thrown out of office for the misdemeanour of getting fewer votes than your opponent, not to mention actually indicted for breaking the law.
On the other hand, Smith may have been relieved to discover her limitations. With great power comes great responsibility, which frankly is a bit of a nuisance. Smith was probably relieved to possess only minor power, which there are fewer rules about. If you’re Spider-Man you’ve got to be all moral and everything. But if you’re on, say, a strata council, anything goes.
And to her credit, during the call Smith does recognize possible trouble ahead. She refers to the fact that pressuring legal authorities is just what Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was accused of in the SNC-Lavalin case. That’s handy for those of us in media. It gets tiresome sticking the “gate” suffix on every scandal. We can call this one SNC Alberta, for “Smith’s Neighbourly Call.”
Smith isn’t the only elected official who has been annoyed to discover their limitations. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was ticked to find out his country has judges and laws and stuff.
But these go-getters, Trump and Netanyahu, did something about it — they picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and tried to destroy democracy and the independent judiciary. Smith will have to show a little more gumption if she is to join their ranks.
Anyway, you asked about how this will affect the Alberta provincial election due in May. Indications are cloudy. One positive development for Smith: she won’t have to face Artur Pawlowski at the ballot box. This week he was ousted as leader of the Independence Party of Alberta. Apparently he was just too out there for the sober parliamentarians of the Alberta separatist movement. Pawlowski responded by blaming his ouster on a “transgender secretary.”
For Smith that clears the field of one obstruction. Now Dr. Steve thinks she should lean into her new reputation for criminal defence services. Why not a series of TV ads? “Legal problems? Have you fallen into the clutches of the globalist Gestapo due to a speeding ticket or a DUI? Better call Smith!”
People love that personal touch.