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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Danielle Smith's Risky History (Part 2) Narrative of Persecution

This is Part Two of Smith's Risky History - Part One is Here

As I said in Part One, I was the School Board Trustee for Wards 6 and 7 after Ms Smith. Since the best indicator of future performance is past performance, we need to look at her past as a Trustee.

One of the things I've been blogging about lately is how Smith likes to blame liberal conspiracies for any dissent against her. It's interesting to note her language. She has blamed "eastern Canadian critics" (read liberals) for her troubles, attacking her opponents for doing their best to protect reproductive rights and gay rights, while she herself says she's pro-choice and pro-gay rights. On the one hand, Smith claims philosophical alignment with pro-choice and pro-gay rights folks, and on the other, she blames them for trying to bring her down.

Something doesn't add up. A person who is pro-choice and pro-gay rights doesn't propose or encourage strategies that will harm reproductive rights and gay rights. As Part One makes clear, there's nothing in her history to characterize her as a progressive on these issues except her statement at last night's forum. If there were, the media would have printed it when the stories broke. Progressives with some credibility as progressives understand her "fauxgressive" rhetoric. I think her party knows exactly who she is - someone who can appear moderate compared to the rest of them and won't lift a finger to stop their regressive agenda. Now, on to Part Two.

Part Two: Smith's Narrative of Persecution

Smith's tendency to demonize her critics and portray herself as persecuted was clear while she was a Trustee and continues today.

Here's one example from the School Board days. While on the Board, Smith and Peggy Anderson had their poor attendance reported to the government by a constituent, Donn Lovett. Lovett wanted them removed from the Board in accordance with the School Act. Smith claimed that the daytime budget meetings conflicted with her day job and suggested the scheduling of those meetings was done just so it would be impossible for her to attend. Jennifer Pollock, a Trustee at the time, confirms that Smith and Anderson had a political stance against attending budget meetings. They didn't think the elected board should have anything to do with the details of the budget, except to write general policy or guidelines. (I'll talk more about this in part three, when I talk about Smith's record on governance.) Smith and Anderson said trustees Jennifer Pollock, Liz LoVecchio and Judy Tilston had put Lovett up to the letter. Lovett responded, "Nobody needs to tell me to do anything." (See this source and Daveberta again.) [Addendum April 13, 2012: I've just been able to confirm with Donn Lovett that Smith initiated a law suit against him as a result of this incident.]

More recently, when opposition to the idea of “conscience rights” arose and a former supporter publicly bailed on Wildrose as a result, Wildrose started saying it was a plot against them by a liberals. Their former supporter was labelled a conservative mole. Like Lovett, she affirmed that she acted independently. (As do I, by the way.) Smith and Wildrose deny that their opponents might have brains of our own. To them, we are all puppets on a conspiratorial string.

Here's another example. Smith was well known as the subject of some legendary "mean girl" note passing during school board meetings, a situation widely believed to be the final straw for a frustrated public and the catalyst for the Board's removal. Smith released the notes to the media, and has since called this "good opposition research." She is obviously proud of her work here. Although she denies she retrieved the notes from the garbage, other trustees said that was the only place she could have found them. The point here is that Smith made it an issue, found the notes and made them public. She wanted those notes in the media. The media in turn were delighted to outline all the details of who said what about who's hair and someone's ugly suit. (See Daveberta's blog for excruciating detail on the whole note passing fiasco.)

In this campaign, Wildrose used another "mean girl" comment and made hay out of it. The Globe and Mail reported that Wildrose had used the ridiculous tweet about Smith's family life and childless status so that it played strongly in Smith's favour. At first, media was ignoring the tweet, because it was completely insignificant. Anyone who's ever been on Twitter knows it's full of crap like this. After being unable to light a fire under the tweet, Wildrose sent out a press release just to make sure everyone knew. They wanted it to be an issue. Yes, the tweet was ridiculous and insulting and the woman who tweeted it was idiotic and was dealt with. Similarly, yes, the notes were ridiculous and petty and all involved were publicly shamed. But Smith sure made the most of both of these situations to draw attention to herself. Even I felt sorry for her after the idiotic tweet. What a woman wants to do about a family is no one's business. I'm pro-choice. But I never would have known someone took a pot shot at her unless her people had spent so much time making sure I did. After I learned that, my sympathy evaporated. It reminded me too much of the "mean girl" note incident.

What’s interesting to me is that the "mean girl" notes about bad hair and the recent tweet are genuinely petty compared to saying you’ll put “issues like abortion” to citizen initiated referendum and enact conscience rights that override human rights. But it is this abortion issue and this conscience rights issue that Smith portrays as frivolous. Again, as the Globe and Mail notes, Smith says it's all liberal lies, electioneering and those darned easterners are behind it. (For the record, I'm from Toronto and moved to Calgary in 1988. In Smith's world, that fact alone would seem to be enough to dismiss my concerns about her policies.) If, as Smith says, “It’s typical of liberal politicians to demonize a conservative party using fear-mongering,” it is just as typical for Smith to demonize progressives and use their well-founded concerns to portray herself as hard done by and misrepresented.

This week, journalists are finding out just how little negative opinion Smith and the Wildrose are willing to brook. Another article in the Globe and Mail says that journalists who aren't towing the Wildrose Party line are being rebutted. But Wildrose is not just rebutting what they find to be errors in facts; they are rebutting so-called errors of opinion. They are coming down on people who merely disagree with them. This is all sounding very Stephen Harper to me. When Harper first got into power, he de-funded Status of Women Canada the Court Challenges Program, certainly both venues for dissenters. I could write a book about how Stephen Harper has quelled dissent, and right now the last chapter would be about CBC cuts.

As I've said before, the very idea that Conservatives are the subject of liberal media persecution is  hard to buy when you remember that Smith used to work for the Calgary Herald, has had more than enough presence in media in both print and television, and that her husband is an executive with Sun Media. The media is biased? Really? In what direction? Does Smith really want to open up that can of worms?

I don't want a Provincial leader who cries persecution anytime anyone disagrees with them, or a leader who dismisses and derides dissent. And I sure don't want a leader who is going to pick a fight with the rest of Canada. I get a sense that Wildrose could start another persecution narrative, the old one where Alberta is hard done by within Canada. It's already started. Wildrose policy has enough in it to show us how a Wildrose government will relate to the rest of Canada. Wildrose is bothered by the fact that Albertans give more in transfer payments than we get. Oh poor Alberta. No reason for us to help out our neighbours. Libertarians leave that kind of stuff to individuals, remember?  Wildrose policy suggests Alberta get its own immigration policy, opt out of Canada Pension in favour of our own, and that Alberta reject any federal legislation that might come to bear on our industry (read environmental rules). If Quebec were saying some of what's in the Wildrose policy book, the word "separatist" would surely arise. Someone else can blog about that.

Part Three: Government Smith Style

The Abortion Monologues is available as an e-book on Smashwords

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