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Susan on the Soapbox | CPAC

Smith’s Confrontational Style Raises Eyebrows and Stuns Audiences

Will the Premier’s direct style make her friends and get results at the upcoming COP 28 conference?

Albertans like feisty leaders. 

We like it when our leaders are strong and defend us.

But we don’t always like it when our leaders start arguments just to argue.

We’ll see which way Premier Danielle Smith goes when she heads to COP28 in Dubai this week.

At this year’s conference, the agenda will be on whether to call for a complete phaseout of fossil fuels.

But Smith has a very different plan.

She brings over 100 Alberta delegates representing dozens of companies and organizations to market Alberta’s “clean” fossil fuel industry.

“It occurred to me that on these major opportunities for international profile, we’ve got to be there to tell our own story,” Smith told reporters in a news conference earlier this week. 

“I’ll be looking to tell the Alberta story and also see if we can get some investment in Alberta.”

And Smith has a unique style for telling the Alberta story.

Chutzpah and Confrontation

Smith is confident and aggressive – sometimes overly aggressive –  when talking about oil and gas. 

For instance, in October at the Pembina Climate Summit, Smith faced a knowledgeable audience of industry experts keen on exploring solutions for Alberta’s clean energy future.

However, her remarks were far from encouraging, insightful or supportive of a clean energy future. 

She dismissed the aim of attaining clean electricity by 2035 as unachievable, arguing that it would require the extensive development of massive hydroelectric dams or nuclear energy to replace the current levels of oil and gas consumption.

The crowd didn’t agree with her, so she asked them what they knew that her expert friends didn’t. The audience, filled with CEOs of companies with actual projects operating or ready to implement, started talking about wind and solar energy, but Smith didn’t buy any of it.

She dismissed alternative renewable energy solutions despite the expertise present in the room. 

Her attitude was not only surprising but also disrespectful to many. 

The summit’s host, Dave Kelly, reminded the Premier of Alberta’s ‘can-do’ attitude. 

This spirit, he argued, could drive innovations in the sector, a point Smith seemed to overlook when she stood by her assessment of 2050 as a more realistic goal for ‘clean’ energy.

Rather than add to the dialogue about solutions, she stridently lectured the crowd about how they were wrong.

Danielle Smith; in press conferences smiles are rare, “lecuring” is common | Alberta Government

Direct or Dismissive?

Smith’s supporters love her straightforward style, citing her “tell it like it is” attitude as refreshing.

But her recent comments and responses in interviews and press conferences have left many others incredulous and questioning her stance on various crucial issues. 

Her November 16 appearance on CBC’s “The Current” with Matt Galloway is a case in point.

In that interview, Smith’s responses were equally startling. 

Discussing the idea of Alberta leaving the Canada Pension Plan (CPP), she asserted that Alberta is entitled to a significantly higher percentage of CPP’s assets than what is acknowledged by the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board

She claimed there would be a minimal financial impact on the rest of Canada, estimated at $175 per person. Yet, when questioned, Smith wouldn’t provide any concrete evidence, leading to questions about her methodology for such a precise calculation. 

But she stood confident in the face of those mythical numbers

Telling the Feds

Danielle Smith “telling it like it is” | TNC News

Smith’s “Tell the Feds” campaign, aimed at critiquing federal clean electricity regulations, raised another set of questions from The Current’s Galloway. 

Our Premier suggested the ads were needed to show Canadians about potential nationwide blackouts, which seemed exaggerated given that Alberta’s energy situation, heavily reliant on natural gas, does not reflect the entire country’s energy mix.

Meanwhile, the ads claim that electricity will become unaffordable to Canadians. 

Smith’s affordability claims are strange, ironic and somewhat hypocritical because UCP government policies mean that Albertans are already paying higher electricity bills than people in any province in Canada.

Moratorium Messaging

The Premier’s defence for the moratorium on wind and solar energy developments was equally baffling

She justified the renewables moratorium by stating the need for more natural gas power plant applications approved by the feds.

She told Galloway that Alberta needs backup natural gas plants for days when the wind doesn’t blow, or the sun doesn’t shine. 

When questioned about battery storage, she answered, “Battery technology is not there yet,” even though many other jurisdictions are moving aggressively to build various forms of energy storage, including batteries. 

Smith also mentioned concerns about the loss of productive farmland to renewables or problems with the reclamation of abandoned renewable facilities

Yet, she made no mention of the abundance of abandoned oil and gas wells littering the province.

Getting Cozy with Tucker 

On the international front, Smith’s decision to appear with Tucker Carlson in January was spun as an effort to share Alberta’s story. 

Tucker Carlson | Fox News

You may remember Carlson, the former Fox News host who was abruptly fired last spring. Carlson has been described as the leading voice for “white grievance politics” and Trumpism.

He has promoted conspiracy theories on COVID-19, supported the January 6 United States Capitol attack, and Ukrainian bioweapons and has been noted for false and misleading statements about these and other topics.

According to Smith, all that matters is the size of the audience to share Alberta’s story – it does not matter, the messenger.

Galloway asked Smith, “You’re comfortable being on stage with somebody like that?”

“If I refused interviews with every person I disagreed with, I might not come on your show, Matt. I mean, I’m a person who has to get my message out, and I’m going to get my message out in as many forums as I possibly can.”

And get her message out; she will!

It does not seem to matter where, when or who she offends or associates with or how inconvenient the facts are.

It’ll be interesting to hear what she says at COP28 because she will make a splash, no doubt about it!

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