Nation, as you've no doubt heard by now, Danielle Smith is getting a bit of flack over past positions she and her party have expressed.
This shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone, really - and I don't feel that it does. Everyone knew that, if polls suggested a possible Wildrose victory, the media, political opponents and common voters alike would start to take a good, long look at what (and who) they were being asked to vote for. It's our democratic "due diligence".
A growing list of Wildrose candidates are having past statements, associations, and business dealings dredged up. Which is not only fair politics, it's the way the system is supposed to work. If politicians in office are crooked or have appalling personal views, someone's supposed to expose them. If politicians STRIVING for office are crooked or have appalling personal views, someone's supposed to expose that, too. It's part of asking the public to make an informed choice.
This post isn't about those candidates, though. This post is about Danielle.
We've spent the last 6 months being told by Danielle and the Wildrose Party how Alison Redford "feels" about issues. About how, regardless of what she does or says, she "doesn't care" about this, or she "wants" to do that. Her party's policies on the issue be damned. Her stated position on the issue be damned. We, the Wildrose Party, know what's in Alison's heart on this issue, and we're going to tell you about it.
Now, that's either okay... or it's not. We're each going to make up our own minds about that. But clearly, Wildrose and Danielle think it's okay, or they wouldn't be doing it.
The Wildrose Party is in favour of binding, citizen-initiated referendae. Supporters say this is the essence of democracy. Detractors say it's a way to get controversial issues brought forward, without having to sully the hands of the governing party by taking a stand on the issue. Both points are valid ones. When the notion of such a referendum being brought forward to de-list abortion in Alberta came up this week, Danielle responded like so:
"The advice I’ve been given from legal scholars is that there are certain issues that would be offside with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms... This is the reason why it has to go to a judge. Because we can’t be having public referenda on things that can’t be instituted."
Which is true. Except, what if the referendum question was "Should Alberta invoke the Notwithstanding Clause to..."? Then, the BINDING referendum would NOT be offside with the Charter. Which means it would be allowed under that standard. And, if it passed, it would become law in Alberta.
Here's the thing, though: When she does this dance around de-listing abortion, or conscience rights, Danielle repeatedly goes out of her way to NOT say how she personally feels about the issue. It's something the media have started to notice. The same (liberal, eastern, elite, lamestream) media who have been fawning all over Danielle for months and crapping on Alison Reford's every sentence are using phrases like "Smith dodged the question". That's not good. We're being told "My personal opinions don't matter, the Party's policies are this...".
Okay. Sounds reasonable.
Just one problem, though...
We've spent the last 6 months having it crammed down our throats by Danielle and the Wildrose how Alison Redford, that mean evil nanny-state tax-and-spend ghost of Joe Clark elitist human rights lawyer FEELS about every issue that comes up. What's in her heart. Not what she says, or what her party's policy is, but how she feels, in her heart, about an issue. THAT'S the important thing, and the Wildrose somehow knows what she truly feels, and they're going to tell us about it.
So... how Alison Redford personally feels about an issue is of paramount importance. But... how Danielle Smith personally feels about an issue isn't relevant?
There's more, though. Danielle, Vitor, and the braintrust at Wildrose HQ know we're not stupid. They know we see the dissonance between what they tell us we should expect of Alison and what they tell us we're entitled to from Danielle. In fact, they're counting on it... because they know someone ELSE sees that dissonance, too.
The same special interests who would be spearheading the push to de-list abortion in Alberta. The same groups that would be pushing to codify conscience rights. Danielle isn't saying what she thinks, because she wants those people to think she's with them, and "obviously, she can't come right out and say it... but we know she's one of us. So we'll vote for her, and donate our money and time."
She wants to reap the reward, without taking the risk of endorsing the viewpoint publicly.
She's playing COY with them.
So Danielle, here's my challenge to you: Just say "NO".
Don't give us "This is a divisive issue, and we don't discuss those". Don't come at us with "That sort of thing wouldn't withstand a Charter challenge". And spare us the insufferable "We won't legislate on that", because if it's passed by a referendum you'll be obligated by your own law TO legislate on it. You know it, and we know it. You'll try to distance yourself from it afterwards - JUST far enough to make it clear it wasn't your idea. But you'll take the support, and the votes, from the special interests who were behind the effort. and because they got their way, you'll take that support and those votes in the next election, too. And the one after that.
Say "NO", Danielle.
We keep getting told what a great communicator you are. Get in front of a bank of cameras, look dead centre into the biggest one, and say "I am not in favour of de-listing abortion. This issue has been dealt with by the courts, and I say NO. I say it as Danielle Smith, private citizen. I say it as Danielle Smith, Leader of the Wildrose Party. We will not entertain referendae on this issue. If you are someone who is going to support me or my party based on the belief that a Wildrose Government will provide a way to get this legislated, I want you to stay home and not send us money. I don't want your vote, if to get it I have to pretend to be in favour of this issue."
THAT would be courage. THAT would be leadership. And you know what? No member of the media would ask you about it, EVER AGAIN. It would put the issue to bed, forever.
Right now, with this "we have no plans on this, that was an old policy book our staffer was reading from, we don't discuss those things", it looks for all the world like you're playing coy to get the votes and bucks from the special interest groups, without having to take a position that would make some people think twice about voting for you.
What you personally think about this MATTERS, Danielle. It matters, because of the standards you've spent six months setting for Alison Redford. And every day that goes by without you making it 100% clear where you stand, and risking some support by taking a solid and clear position, you're seeming less like the "kicking butt and taking names, second-coming-of-Ralph Klein" Danielle Smith we were told was coming to save us as Albertans, and more like THIS guy:
"I'm Jerry Boyle, and if you can mark an X, you're my kind of people!"