Premier Danielle Smith’s byelection win in Brooks-Medicine Hat on November 9 is not really surprising considering the riding’s longtime conservative leanings. Whether the UCP leader should be happy with the less-than-stellar 54.5 per cent victory is anyone’s guess.
What is known is that now that she has a seat in the legislature, Smith can move forward with her agenda in the run-up to the May 2023 provincial election.
And judging from recent poll results showing the opposition NDP in a good position to win a majority in that election, Smith has her work cut out for her, and in particular trying to convince Albertans that she can lead the province forward in the face of many challenges.
In her election victory speech, Smith said her three key priorities in the coming months will include addressing the cost-of-living crisis and improving the multi-billion dollar health-care system.
She also said she plans to ramp up her battle with the federal government by pushing forward with her Alberta Sovereignty Act.
“The paternalistic approach of the Trudeau government has been corrosive to national unity; our country has never been more divided,” said Smith. “This act will renew Alberta’s place as an equal partner of Confederation, not a child of the federal government. The act will restore the ultimate purpose of Confederation.”
There can be no doubt that residents in this district and across Alberta would welcome concrete progress in addressing the cost-of-living crisis, with skyrocketing food prices in particular continuing to be a significant drain on the household incomes of many, many families.
At the same time, improvements to the health-care situation, including a pressing need to address the staggering pressures now being seen in urban and rural hospital emergency rooms and with ambulance services, would also be very warmly welcomed.
Whether Premier Smith’s third priority – spending taxpayer money fighting Justin Trudeau over the coming months – will translate into general election votes next spring remains to be seen.
Dan Singleton is an editor with the Albertan.