Albertans will likely know Danielle Smith from her time as Leader of the Wildrose Party (2009-2014). Today, Smith is the host of Afternoons on NewsTalk770 for Calgary, Alta. and last week, she was a keynote speaker at the Prairie Cereals Summit at Banff, Alta.
In this interview, filmed at the summit, Smith speaks candidly with RealAgriculture’s Jessika Guse, on political topics ranging from Andrew Scheer’s resignation to what the agriculture industry has to do to advocate for itself, and get ahead of “extreme environmentalists.”
Continues below video player.
Andrew Scheer’s resignation
Andrew Scheer announced his resignation as leader of the Conservative Party of Canada on December 12th.
“I personally thought he should have had another chance to run again, because people didn’t really know who he was,” says Smith, “and one of the reasons he won the leadership in the first place is because all the A-Team bailed out…”
Smith says that being taken out internally by an expense scandal makes everyone look bad.
“If they wanted to get rid of him, they should have done it properly, through the AGM process, and unfortunately, I think now it’s going to make it even harder for them to keep people engaged in choosing a new leader.”
Smith says she also doesn’t want to see internal turmoil in the party cause splits.
“I don’t want to see that, because I lived through it in Alberta. And I was responsible for a lot of the Conservative split, but I think that what we’ve realized now — in this province, and in this country — is that when Conservatives are divided in separate parties, they lose.”
“If this ends up going so badly that it creates some other kind of break-off group, then we’re looking at liberal governments forever and ever.”
As for who will take the lead, Smith says the suggestions are different in Eastern versus Western Canada.
“But this is the question: if you select another Western leader, is that person going to resonate in the belt around Toronto (which is crucial to win)? Are they going to be able to make a breakthrough in Quebec? Are they going to be able to win some seats back in Atlantic Canada?”
Following the federal election, talk of a Western separation heated up.
While Smith says Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is doing excellent job raising issues for Albertans, he has some work to do.
“I would say that if Jason Kenney doesn’t take serious action on some major files, that that will make Wexit more real,” says Smith.
He needs, she says, to establish an Alberta pension plan, collect income taxes, and establish a provincial police force. These things, she says, tamp down expectations to go further, and they make sense, because “we’re a grown up province.”
“If he doesn’t, then that’s where I think there’s potential for the Wexiters to win a couple of seats federally, and maybe even a couple of seats provincially.”
Oil, gas and agriculture
In the face of “extreme environmentalists using divide and conquer strategy,” Smith says it’s important the energy and agriculture industries look after each other.
“[Extreme environmentalists] tested out this strategy on the forestry industry first. They practically shut down our forestry industry. They’re chaining themselves to trees and equipment to prevent old-growth forests from being cut down during the Clayoquot protest — and it raised them a lot of money.”
Smith says that when they moved onto the Oilsands next, around 2008, and there was no strategy to fight back until recently.
“But they’ve already moved on — they’ve moved to beef, they’ve moved on to cattle,” says Smith, who believes the next target is natural gas, which attacks the energy sector, and the agriculture industry.
Smith suggests agriculture focus on drawing a connection between food and farming, and supporting each other.
“Don’t think that you win at the expense of beef, because you both lose in the end with the divide and conquer strategy.”