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Danielle Smith speaks out on loss of Towle, Donovan

In her first interview since two Wildrose MLAs crossed the floor earlier this week, Danielle Smith addressed the loss and took questions Wednesday morning.

"I suspect they're going to be in for a bit of a rude awakening on the other side," she says

Danielle Smith spoke with CBC's Mark Connolly, host of Edmonton AM, Wednesday morning about losing two MLAs earlier this week. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

In her first interview since two Wildrose MLAs crossed the floor earlier this week, Danielle Smith addressed the loss and took questions on CBC radio Wednesday morning. 

Smith said she took some time to stabilize her caucus and speak with her members about the direction they want to go in before speaking publicly.

"When a pilot is in a plane and it feels like it is crashing, you have to make sure you know what direction it's going — otherwise you can over-correct."

On Monday, Innisfail-Sylvan Lake MLA Kerry Towle and Little Bow MLA Ian Donovan announced their decision to leave the opposition party. 

“We are a party of free votes. However, our membership was deciding how I, as an MLA, was expected to vote and that caused me great conflict," Towle said on Tuesday. "I just felt that some of the decisions that were being made were taking our party in a way that was not in line with what my constituents elected me to do ... I didn't think I could do anything to fix that path."

Donovan, on the other hand, said he was crossing to the PCs because he was impressed with Prentice's leadership. 

Smith, however, is skeptical of Towle and Donovan's reasoning for defecting. 

"I think it's a bit bizarre to complain about the approach we have in our party when we have always been very open in saying that we've got free votes on issues. I think that they will find that on the other side, historically, they have not been open to free votes.

"I suspect they're going to be in for a bit of a rude awakening on the other side."

When asked about Towle specifically, given their once-close friendship, Smith's disappointment was evident.

"Kerry was a friend and we spent a lot of time together," she said. "I thought she was a great advocate for the vulnerable, I thought she was a great advocate for seniors and I think that's the shame — that her voice is now going to be silenced on the government's side. That's what happens when you're in the PC caucus.

"In the end, some people don't turn out to be who you thought they were, so we're going to move on with the caucus that we have."

'Albertans deserve a better government'

Smith said she accepts ownership for the "tough time" her party is going through, but remains optimistic for its future.

"I do think that leadership is tested when you go through adversity, and I have to tell you that the reason I wanted to be leader of this party are exactly the same today as when I started," she said.

"I'm leading this party because I believe that Albertans deserve better government than they've been getting, and having a strong and effective voice in the legislature as the official opposition is the best way to make sure that we can push the government in the right direction."

Although the Wildrose is now down to just 14 members, Smith says they will continue holding the government accountable. 

"None of that is going to change because we've had a bad couple weeks," she said.

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