Alberta Premier Danielle Smith said Conservatives need to learn how to win in big cities. And, that she’s finally back in politics after being exiled for years following her floor-crossing days.
The premier was speaking to hundreds of attendees at the Canada Strong and Free Networking conference, formerly dubbed the Manning Centre, on Thursday afternoon.
Smith said the United Conservative Party’s values resonate in rural Alberta but there’s a bigger challenge talking to and unifying urban audiences in Calgary and Edmonton.
“I think what we really need to do is to develop a vision for how we apply our conservative values to the delivery of public services,” she said.
For example, the new premier said the work her government has done on healthcare reform is her greatest political accomplishment.
Upon her election in October, Smith said the left was screaming that the healthcare system was going to collapse following two years of the Covid-19 pandemic. Following a couple months of reform, Smith said the surgical backlog of 35,000 Alberta patients should be cleared within 12 months.
“I think I’ll be the first province to be able to do that,” she said. “We run away from healthcare and we should run towards it.”
About one month after being elected leader of the United Conservative Party, Smith fired Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical health officer who oversaw the province’s Covid-19 pandemic. She instead appointed Dr. Mark Joffe, the vice-president and medical director for Cancer Care Alberta.
Asked about a big challenge she’s overcome in her life, Smith said she was a “social pariah” in Alberta after crossing the floor as leader of the Wildrose party to join then-premier Jim Prentice’s Progressive Conservatives.
The following year, Smith lost her nomination and the PCs lost government to the Alberta NDP.
“When I got kicked out of public life, I decided not to leave it and went on to talk radio, and I can tell you that the blue streak people texted me on probably my first three months there was a little unpleasant,” she said.
Smith said it took her about three years to make amends for that mistake and show her face at Conservative conferences again.
“Conservatives can be very forgiving,” she said. “I think we’re doing some great things together in Alberta.”