Danielle Smith is both libertarian and authoritarian

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Prime Minister Danielle Smith has a reputation for listening to “the people.” Her policies, however, suggest just the opposite.

Currently, three policies dominate Smith’s (and therefore the UCP’s) political agenda: a provincial police force, an Alberta pension plan, and municipal political parties. Their dogged pursuit of these initiatives raises big questions.

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Each of them is opposed by a range of policymakers, academics and representative organizations, including governments. In addition to the RCMP, Alberta municipalities and rural Alberta municipalities oppose the creation of a provincial police force. The federal government and other premiers (most of whom are Conservative) oppose a PPP. The board of Alberta Municipalities, an organization that represents 265 Alberta municipalities, has called for the idea of ​​municipal parties to be scrapped.

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Each of these policies is also strongly opposed by Albertans, including potential UCP supporters. A survey conducted in early 2023 showed that 67 per cent of Albertans do not believe the move to a provincial police force would reduce crime. Interestingly, rural Albertans (where the UCP’s political base is strongest) were the most opposed to a change.

Despite the government spending a huge amount selling Alberta’s pension plan (and refusing to release the results of its publicly paid consultations), Albertans remain staunchly opposed to leaving the CPP. A Léger poll conducted last October shows that opposition has increased, even among UCP supporters. Overall, only 22 per cent of Albertans were in favor of leaving the country.

As for municipal parties, a survey conducted by Janet Brown Opinion Research in late summer last year found that 68 percent of respondents preferred municipal candidates to run as individuals. Two Alberta government surveys in fall 2023 had similar results, with more than 70 percent of respondents expressing opposition in the multiple-choice section and more than 80 percent expressing opposition in the open-response section of the survey.

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The policing and pension plan proposals, if implemented, would also come at a huge cost to Albertans. A report commissioned by the government in 2021 showed establishing a provincial police force to replace the RCMP would cost, at a minimum, $366 million and could take more than six years to establish, with an annual operating cost of $200 million. Another report published in 2021 puts the total price of a provincial police force at between $734 and $759 million.

Calculating the final cost of a PPP is more difficult because it is based on changing workforce demographics. But the UCP sold the idea based on a requested report that argues Alberta is entitled to 53 per cent of the current CPP fund, or $334 billion. More realistic calculations suggest a much lower total. Economist Trevor Tombe says the figure is probably closer to 20 to 25 percent of the fund, or between $126 billion and $157 billion. Others suggest an even smaller number.

In summary, each of these proposed changes is opposed by various organizations and the public, although they lack a financial justification. The question then is why? What drives UCP and Danielle Smith to implement these policies?

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The answer is in the search for power; specifically, in the centralization of power within Smith’s office.

In the case of policing and pensions, the policies are intended to disempower federal organizations. In the case of municipal parties, the intention is to be able to establish obedient sectoral parties to comply with the orders of the UCP. If successful in each of these efforts, it is predictable that the UCP will seek to further centralize authority by eliminating the power of other representative bodies, such as nurses, teachers, and doctors, while perhaps also seeking an escape route from the U.S. Health Law. Canada.

Smith has long portrayed herself as a libertarian. But she firmly believes in what she considers “the good society” and how it can be achieved.

She is more ideologue than populist, more authoritarian than libertarian. The libertarian utopia she seeks to create in Alberta can only be achieved through coercive means.

The police, pensions and political parties are just the starting points.

Trevor W. Harrison is a retired political sociologist from the University of Lethbridge and co-editor of Anger and Angst: Jason Kenney’s Legacy and Alberta’s Right (Black Rose, 2023).

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