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Wednesday, 30 October 2013 15:07

Could this finally be it for the Wildrose Party?

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In sports,the word “potential” is a coach killer.

“This player has the potential to lead the team and has these skills...” etc. is a popular refrain amongst coaches and media.
Unfortunately, for many players, a lot of potential isn’t necessarily realized right away. Despite having the skill set, they need to put it together and reaching a better league or even a professional level takes a lot of understanding the game and utilizing that skill set.
Potential in politics is a lot more fleeting, but if there was ever a time for Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith to realize her potential, it’s now.
With the sitting of the Legislature having returned Oct. 28, it will mark a crossroads for Smith. Wildrose will have just completed its annual convention where Smith received 91 per cent approval rating from party faithful to remain as leader. The convention was also important in a lot of ways for Smith.
Resolutions were put forth such as showing no intolerance towards those who are gay.
In the last election, Smith didn’t suspend the Wildrose candidate who blogged gays “would be condemned to a lake of fire.”
Maybe the removal of a couple of other controversial policies such as replacing the RCMP with a provincial force and pulling out of the Canada Pension Plan were even more important. Adding new policies on reducing greenhouse gases should also be voter-friendly.
If she’s not successful after ridding the party of a couple of eyebrow-raising resolutions which comes across to voters as hard, uncaring, intolerant and only worrying-about-spreadsheets-kind of party, she will never win.
Removal of harshness: check.
Smith also proved to be a leader during the flooding within her home riding in High River. She organized numerous town hall meetings and knowing people who lived there was the politician residents seemed to lean on in the time of crisis.
One would think Smith would’ve learned from that terrible ordeal and watch what and what not to do if you’re in government in regards to mishandling the situation. Getting a grasp and close up read of what ordinary people are thinking is invaluable.
For the Wildrose, all of the eggs are in the Smith basket. There are some intriguing personalities who are carving some nichés such as Kerry Towles with seniors’ issues, Bruce McAllister with education, Heather Forsyth with health and of course finance critic Rob Anderson who quit the Conservatives in 2010 to join the upstart party.
Local MLAs Brooks-Strathmore’s Jason Hale, Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barnes and Medicine Hat MLA Blake Pedersen have been active in southeast Alberta.
But it’s Smith’s face which is everywhere. Even the party’s official Twitter handle is @electDanielle.
Smith is articulate, intelligent and seems prepared. She commands attention and carries a presence when speaking in public forums.
She has a strong media background as well as working with the Calgary school board, the Fraser Institute, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, the Alberta Property Rights Initiative and the Canadian Property Rights Research Institute.
She also has degrees in economics and in English from the University of Calgary. Smith was a member of the Conservatives up until 2009 and actually backed Ted Morton in the 2006 Tory leadership race.
Times change, people change, but whether Smith can make voters’ perceptions and attitudes change, in the urban areas especially, will be the ultimate test. The skill set is there, but whether she “can put it altogether” is another matter.
She has been honing her skills while getting a full understanding of what it means to be in the limelight and what the public wants and perceives from politicians.
If she can’t put it all together, it will be a long time until the Wildrose Party will contend for the ultimate prize. Let the Alberta legislature’s own version of The Hunger Games begin...
Ryan Dahlman is managing editor with the Prairie Post. Contact him with comments about this opinion piece at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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Ryan Dahlman

Managing Editor