Danielle Smith has received Stephen Harper's imprimatur -- backhanded though it may be. Michael Harris writes:
First it was Jason Kenney, then Pierre Poilievre, and now Danielle Smith.
Former prime minister Stephen Harper has once again elbowed his way back into active politics in Canada, this time with an “endorsement” for Alberta’s embattled premier.
According to the most recent polls, Alberta’s May 29 election could be headed for a photo finish. In some polls, Smith and the not-so-United Conservative Party trail Rachel Notley’s NDP by five points, a finding still within the margin of error.
But Harper, who is currently an advocate for electing right-wing governments around the world through his work as chairman of the International Democrat Union, isn’t taking any chances. He has once again put his prestige on the line in what looks like an increasingly desperate attempt to keep the wobbly UCP in power.
Harper’s endorsement came in the form of a video message which was posted on social media. It was then texted to conservative voters by the UCP.
It was a strange endorsement:
Smith seemed not to notice that Harper didn’t mention her name in the “endorsement.” That didn’t stop her from mentioning his. She called Harper an “exceptional leader” with an unwavering commitment to the economy, employment and the energy sector. No mention that the “exceptional leader” was skunked in the 2015 election, and that his ongoing legacy has led the Conservative Party of Canada to three straight federal election losses.
So what did Harper actually offer up to aid Smith’s cause? Stuff so staid, so stale that it was clear he wasn’t exactly trying out for the Danielle Smith cheerleading squad. As Alberta Politics commentator David Climenhaga noted last week, Harper came across looking more like a weary actuary than a hyped-up advocate. “Vote for Alberta, vote Conservative.” His delivery of those words had all the verve of a clerk reading out the particulars of a ticket in traffic court.
Even the standard kicks at the NDP were tired and predictable. Notley would “derail” Alberta’s economy, usher in mass layoffs, business closures and a recession. Harper forgot to add that an NDP victory would bring on earthquakes, famine and pestilence. But then he only spoke on the video for 32 seconds.
Anyone who remembers Harper’s fulsome endorsements of Kenney and Poilievre will be struck by the zestless video that the UCP seems to think will attract progressive voters in swing ridings around Calgary and Edmonton. Without that support, Smith’s lock on rural Alberta may not be enough to carry the day when Albertans go to the polls in just over a month.
In the case of Poilievre, Harper went out of his way to publicly put his thumb on the scales of the last Conservative leadership race, calling his acolyte a “strong minister” and the CPC’s most effective critic of Justin Trudeau. But it was crickets when it came to Danielle Smith’s credentials for being premier, and with good reason.
As premier, Smith has displayed remarkable ignorance:
The first bill Smith introduced into the Alberta legislature was something of an oxymoron — the Alberta Sovereignty Within a United Canada Act. It was so bad that former premier Kenney described it as “nuts” and warned that it would make Alberta a “laughing stock” across the country. Just an hour after the legislation was introduced, Kenney resigned his seat and retired from politics, getting as far away from Danielle Smith as possible.
Since then, Smith has demonstrated a stunning ignorance of basic facts about the country and her powers as premier.
In claiming the right to opt in and out of federal law, Smith coined this beauty: “It’s not like Ottawa is a national government.”
While seeking the top job, Smith had promised to “pardon” people who had been convicted on non-violent charges stemming from violations of pandemic restrictions. It took her awhile in office to realize that she wasn’t the president of the United States, and she didn’t have the power to pardon a hamster, let alone a felon.
So what value is there in a Harper endorsement? Not much. He's not the man he was:
He is no longer the populist boy-politician collecting donations in KFC barrels in Calgary basements. Six-and-a-half years after leaving politics, Harper is now a full blown globalist entrepreneur raking in big money with his consulting firm Harper & Associates. His job description apparently entails cozying up to human rights violator Saudi Arabia and tweeting his congratulations to authoritarian politician Viktor Orban for his latest win in Hungary.
But it may make a difference in the Alberta election.
Image: The Tyee