Danielle Smith says Albertans have a clear-cut choice to make in the upcoming provincial election. Do they want a conservative-led government, or one run by a closet left-winger?
Smith says the Progressive Conservatives have lost their way, inexplicably failing to balance the books by falling into former bad habits like deficit spending, despite having enviable revenues.
"I think Albertans are really on the cusp of a major choice," says Smith, who likes to paint Premier Alison Redford as "the first Liberal premier in 90 years" in Alberta.
By contrast, Smith describes herself as "libertarian and pro-choice."
The Tories are heading into the election promising not to raise taxes for a three-year period. But Smith says her party would go further.
She publicly signed a pledge in late February promising not to increase taxes, health-related premiums or taxes of any kind if Wildrose forms a government.
"We think Alberta families and businesses are taxed enough," she explains.
Smith argues the province needs to take a more hands-off approach when it comes to things like business and environmental regulation. If her party is elected, she would allow citizen referendums on contentious issues at the community level.
Running in Highwood riding
Smith and her party have also highlighted property rights as a major issue, repeatedly attacking the Conservatives for infringing on them in legislation covering government acquisition of land for things like electricity transmission lines.
It’s an issue that appears to find a more receptive audience in rural Alberta than in the cities.
Smith is vying for a legislature seat for the first time — in the Highwood riding just south of Calgary. But Wildrose has four seats in the legislature, more than the NDP and less than the Official Opposition Liberals.
Still, the Wildrose has consistently placed second in polls for more than a year, showing its strongest pockets of support in Calgary and southern Alberta.
Perhaps a strong indication that the Conservatives fear inroads made by the Wildrose surfaced in early March.
The Conservatives confirmed plans to start running attack ads against Smith and her party, targeting Smith in particular for her opposition to the government’s plans to toughen drunk-driving laws.
The Tories say they want to add penalties for those caught driving just below the current legal impairment limit of .08. But Smith and Wildrose say that won’t make roads safer, and tougher enforcement of existing laws is the answer.
In 40 years of power, the Tories have largely stayed away from attack ads. Some pundits think that will change in the upcoming election.
Former newspaper columnist, radio host
Smith, 40, was born in Calgary. She has a B.A. in economics and a B.A. in English from the University of Calgary.
She studied public policy with a one-year internship at the Fraser Institute, a conservative think-tank.
Smith’s first taste of politics came in 1998 when she was elected to the public school board in Calgary. Following a high-profile public squabble, Learning Minister Lyle Oberg fired the entire board in 1999 after the chairwoman alleged the board was dysfunctional.
Smith then worked as an advocate with the Canadian Property Rights Research Institute and the Alberta Property Rights Initiative on behalf of rural landowners.
She later worked for the Calgary Herald as an editorial board member and columnist, and as a host of two talk-radio shows. She also hosted for a time the national current affairs program Global Sunday.
Prior to running for the leadership of the Wildrose party, Smith was Alberta provincial director for the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.
Smith won the Wildrose leadership in October of 2009 by a wide margin after party leader Paul Hinman resigned the position.
A marriage to college boyfriend Sean McKinsley didn’t last. She remarried in 2006, to second husband David Moretta, a TV news manager .