Wild Card - 2012-03-12

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F0.png Wild Card March 12, 2012, Jen Gerson, The Walrus

Smith is a true believer in conservative principles. At the University of Calgary, where she took English and economics, she led the campus PC club and studied under political scientist Tom Flanagan. An internship at the Fraser Institute imbued her with a passion for Ayn Rand and charter schools. After graduation, she held positions with various advocacy groups focused on land rights, the libertarian cri de coeur. At twenty-seven, she won a spot as a trustee on the Calgary Board of Education. "It was a horrible black mark on Alberta's democracy," says Jennifer Pollock, a fellow trustee and three-time failed federal Liberal candidate. Back then, the school board was among the most vocal critics of Ralph Klein's cuts; Pollock believes Smith was parachuted in to discredit the organization. Within months, it had become so fractious that minister of learning Lyle Oberg dissolved it.

Smith moved on to the Calgary Herald 's editorial board, where she advocated for the privatization of health care and public services. One former board member recalls her arguing in favour of privatizing sidewalks. When Wildrose formed in 2007, Smith—who had stayed in politics for the debates—saw an opportunity. At the time, the party managed to unite social conservatives and gun-loving libertarians. It is now competing with the governing PCs, who have achieved forty consecutive years in power. (Only two other provincial parties, the Ontario PCs and the Nova Scotia Liberals, have recorded longer stints.)

"So many people call us and say, 'I'm now with you,' " Smith says. "They tell us, 'I'm no longer with the PCs. I didn't leave them. They left me.' " The Tories first defeated the Social Credit Party in 1971 under a young Peter Lougheed, whose personal charisma reflected the emerging cities of Calgary and Edmonton. It was out with dowdy pastoral values, and in with all things hungry, ambitious, and urbane. Since then, the Conservatives' values have tilted away from any one ideology and toward popular inclination; their longevity attracts candidates who know they must don blue to gain power. "Would [current premier] Alison Redford have joined the PCs," asks Duane Bratt, chair of policy studies at Mount Royal University in Calgary, "if the Liberals were viable in the province?"

Wikipedia cite:
{{cite news | first = Jen | last = Gerson | title = Wild Card | url = https://thewalrus.ca/wild-card/ | work = The Walrus | date = March 12, 2012 | accessdate = October 8, 2022 }}