Highwood MLA apologizes for angering Albertans
Politics: Danielle Smith says public should have been consulted
Wednesday, Jan 28, 2015 11:43 am
Highwood MLA Danielle Smith was in High River over the weekend defending her move to join Alberta’s Progressive Conservative Party after issuing an on-line apology for angering Albertans over the move.
“I misunderstood how angry people would be, I have to take responsibility for the fact that people were surprised,” she said, while sitting beside Premier Jim Prentice at a press conference on Jan. 24.
Earlier that day Smith posted a statement on her Facebook page addressing her decision to join the Prentice-lead PC Party.
“It has been just over a month since I and a majority of my Wildrose colleagues made the decision to start a process to unify conservatives under the leadership of Premier Jim Prentice,” Smith wrote. “It has not gone as expected. It has not been an easy path. It has angered a lot of people. For that I am truly sorry.”
Smith said it became clear, in hindsight, that there should have been more public discussion and consultation.
She apologized to Wildrose members for not being able to make the party a viable alternative for government. She said the party members rejected her efforts to make the Wildrose a “socially mainstream” party, adding she never wanted to lead what she called an “NDP of the right.”
Responding to media questions on Saturday, Smith said the timing of her decision was dictated heavily by schedules of both the Wildrose and PC caucus meetings, which didn’t allow for more consultation.
The PC caucus was scheduled to meet on Dec. 17 and there wasn't another one scheduled until January. In the mean time, Smith said the Premier made it clear he wanted the nomination process to select candidates for the PC party to begin in January.
“If we'd had the luxury of a little bit more time, raising it maybe a month earlier so we could discuss it I think many people would've come to the same conclusion I did that it was time to unify conservatives,” she said.
Smith said there were three factors that lead her to make the decision to leave the Wildrose Party.
One was the loss of the fall 2014 byelections in four ridings, she said she took it as a sign conservatives were already starting to unite under Prentice's leadership.
She said the Wildrose Party's fall annual general meeting made it clear the party members were taking a different direction than she wanted.
Finally, when former Wildrose MLAs Kerry Towle and Ian Donovan crossed the floor to join the PCs Smith said she realized it was time to seriously consider joining the PC party.
She said she did what she thought was best for Highwood constituents and Albertans, particularly as the province struggles to deal with the low price of oil.
“I think when you're facing $50 oil, maybe $40 oil for not just six months but for a year or two or three years, you really have to think about what it is where you need leadership and what we can do together as conservatives to be able to make sure that we can move forward on addressing the issues and doing it in a responsible way,” said Smith.
She said she will hold town hall meetings to hear from Highwood residents and she will leave her fate in voters’ hands in the next provincial election.
The President of the Highwood Wildrose constituency association said he doesn’t accept Smith’s apology. Milton Sundset said her comments don’t reflect all that has happened in recent months.
“This type of apology is a day late and a dollar short,” he said.
Sundset said he believes it came as a surprise to Danielle that people were upset over her decision and didn’t fall in line behind her.
“She found out the board and people here are Wildrose members first,” she said.