Smith’s win will make it harder for Alberta to recruit workers

“Alberta is Calling,” is the province’s marketing campaign. It hypes lower taxes, housing affordability, shorter commutes and proximity to the Rocky Mountains.

Image: The Narwhal

Unfortunately, young professions from other parts of Canada are getting mixed messages from Alberta. It’s a great place. I lived there for 40 years before moving to Kamloops. But the politics lean a bit too far to the right for my tastes and with Danielle Smith’s win of the UCP party, they tilt looney libertarian.

On one hand, young professionals from downtown Toronto and Vancouver get the message that Alberta has high-paying jobs and a considerable dose of “honest, it’s nicer here than you think.”

On the other hand, the province is often seen as a backward bastion of conservative values; an unrepentant champion of an environmentally unfriendly oil industry; and ill-suited, if not outright hostile, to the progressiveness and multiculturalism by which many people from downtown Toronto and Vancouver define themselves.

Now Alberta will be seen as backing freedom convoys.

Toronto’s busiest downtown subway station has been recently plastered with bright baby-blue posters on walls, pillars and even staircases, making sure that commuters get the message in the midst of their daily trudge. “It’s mountain time somewhere,” reads one of the posters.

In Vancouver one of the displays reads: “What did the Albertan say to the Vancouverite? You’re hired.”

It’s all very clever but enthusiasm for Alberta will be dampened by Danielle Smith’s message. The cornerstone of Smith’s leadership campaign was the proposed sovereignty act which purports to give Alberta the power to ignore federal laws that the province believes intrude on its jurisdictional territory. She intends to introduce the legislation this fall.

Smith’s cranky insular tone is hardly inviting. How comfortable would young professionals be knowing that if they came to Alberta they would be walled off from friends and family back home?

Even members of Smith’s own UPC party argue that the sovereignty act would destroy Alberta’s economy by injecting instability. Constitutional experts largely pan the idea as illegal.

Smith wants to tie her leadership to federal Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre’s talking points that appeal to a populist libertarian base.

Parts of Smith’s platform are straight out of Poilievre’s videos –that inflation is primarily caused by the fiscally destructive policies of what she called the federal NDP-Liberal coalition.

Many of voters in the cities targeted by Alberta’s marketing vote either for the NDP or Liberals.

Smith will link herself to the federal Conservative’s demand that the Liberals freeze further increases to the carbon price.

She has embraced unproven “therapeutics” to treat COVID-19. Smith campaigned on no more COVID lockdowns, restructuring the province’s centralized health care authority and bringing a bigger fight to Ottawa over provincial rights.

Do workers who come from other parts of Canada want a fight with the provinces they left?

After winning the leadership of the UCP, Smith has said she will double down on her promises, ensuring an even more intolerant mood than her predecessor Jason Kenny.

In her victory speech she crowed “I’m back.”

I can imagine workers considering Alberta replying “No thanks.”

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