Danielle Smith is proving surprisingly pragmatic as Alberta’s premier. Who’d have thought it?
Actually, I suspected she’d surprise early in her mandate; just as I have a feeling she’ll eventually come a cropper once this stitched-together union between those former PCs and Wildrose camps frays and the Conservative leader pays for trying to bridge a chasm too far.
But that’s an issue for down the road. For now, Smith is proving a decisive, take-charge leader — dealing with issues on their merit, not letting ideology shape her government’s decisions too much.
That silly moniker Smith herself sometimes wears, of being a libertarian, is gone. Really, how can any rule-maker-in-chief imagine they’re some living embodiment of individual choice? Only anarchists are true libertarians, and you wouldn’t want that lot ruling your roost.
During Smith’s first few months in the big chair, the right decisions were made on a few of her own early favourites — getting rid of Mounties in Alberta and backing a Commonwealth Games bid, both ideas now deservedly deep-sixed. No messing about, either: they didn’t pass the smell test so — poof — on to other things.
The idea of Alberta’s own pension plan will be studied, as it should be. We pay more in than we get out. Yet, the temptation for future provincial governments — yes, those could include the NDP — to mess with it for political reasons are worrisome. We have a habit of robbing tomorrow to pay ourselves today. Still, let’s have the numbers before we judge.
Then there’s the decision to temporarily halt more large-scale renewable energy development across the province, as the burgeoning industry runs hot with few controls.
It’s become the Wild West in parts of rural Alberta, and there’s enough of an issue already with abandoned oil wells that we don’t require later duplication involving broken down windmills and surplus solar panels. (Incidentally, Alberta’s energy industry should belly up and pay for this well-cleanup mess. You want a sympathetic public and provincial government? Then stop shirking your responsibilities. Or would you rather federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault pick up the tab? I’m sure he’d step up, though he might not step back afterward.)
As for the renewables moratorium, it was immediately met with howls of outrage from environmental groups.
Strange, those same folk didn’t previously laud our province for being the Canadian leader in the field. Such leadership makes sense — we actually know about energy infrastructure and there’s lots of wind and sun around. But don’t dare challenge the rhetoric that plays well in Ottawa, where so much funding for those global-warming messiahs originates.
Then there’s health care. As Hamlet said, “There’s the rub.”
A few weeks ago I reminisced about how frozen the whole health-care apparatus became when amalgamated into one big enchilada: Alberta Health Services. Today, Smith muses about splitting up that past amalgamation, guaranteeing a similar organizational freeze in reverse.
A timely test case is the long wait times at Calgary blood clinics. Appointments stretch almost two months and then, when you arrive on time, there’s another long wait because so many desperate folk arrive as walk-ins. The entire system gets blocked.
Drawing blood is a basic health procedure — if you cannot solve this important but routine issue in isolation how can blowing up the entire system achieve improved results?
One tree at a time, premier, or be consumed by the forest. Still, there are signs she understands this. We’ll see soon enough.
True, she can be a loose cannon, but Smith is also blessed with a big heart. Hopefully, one that’ll override what she once thought she knew.
Simplistic, I know, but there are worse criteria for judging politicians.
Chris Nelson is a regular Herald columnist.