Danielle Smith

Danielle Smith
MLA for Highwood
In office
April 23, 2012  May 5, 2015
Preceded by George Groeneveld
Succeeded by Wayne Anderson
Leader of the Official Opposition
In office
April 24, 2012  December 17, 2014
Preceded by Raj Sherman
Succeeded by Heather Forsyth
Leader of the Wildrose Party
In office
October 17, 2009  December 17, 2014
Preceded by Paul Hinman
Succeeded by Heather Forsyth (interim)
Personal details
Born Marlaina Danielle Smith
(1971-04-01) April 1, 1971
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Nationality Canadian
Political party Progressive Conservative (c. 1998-2009, 2014–present)
Wildrose (2009–2014)
Spouse(s) Sean McKinsley (divorced)
David Moretta (m. 2006)
Children none[1]
Residence High River
Alma mater University of Calgary
Occupation Lobbyist and advocate
Profession Journalist, broadcaster
Website www.daniellesmith.ca/

Marlaina Danielle Smith,[2] (born April 1, 1971) is a former Canadian politician and journalist. Smith served as leader of the Wildrose Party from October 2009 to December 17, 2014 when she resigned to cross the floor and join the governing Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta caucus.[3] She represented the riding of Highwood in the Legislative Assembly of Alberta. On March 28, 2015, she lost the PC nomination for Highwood to Okotoks Councillor Carrie Fischer.[4] Fischer lost to Wildrose candidate Wayne Anderson.

Prior to being elected leader of the Wildrose Party, Smith was the director of provincial affairs for Alberta with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.[5] She has also worked as a journalist in print, radio and television. As leader, Smith was instrumental in the growth of the Wildrose Party, taking a party that lacked official party status to one that formed the Official Opposition within three years.


Danielle Smith was born in Calgary on April 1, 1971, and is the second of five children. Her paternal great-grandfather was Philipus Kolodnicki, a Ukrainian immigrant whose name was anglicized to "Philip Smith" upon his arrival in Canada in 1915.[6][7] Growing up, her family lived in subsidized housing.[8]

Smith attended the University of Calgary and acquired a Bachelor of Arts in English and in economics. While at university she was active with the federal and provincial Progressive Conservatives and won the presidency of the campus PC club.[9] Smith's work in public policy began with a one-year internship with the Fraser Institute. Smith wed her second husband David Moretta, a former executive producer with Sun Media, in 2006.[10]

At the age of 27, in 1998, Smith entered politics when she was a candidate for the board of trustees of the Calgary Board of Education. She was successful in the election but in 1999, provincial Minister of Learning Lyle Oberg dismissed the entire board after the chairwoman accused the board of being dysfunctional.[9] Years later, Smith acknowledged she had been far too strident during her tenure as a board trustee and said the experience taught her to be more tolerant of those with whom she disagreed.[6] Subsequently, Smith pursued work as an advocate for ranchers, farmers and other rural land owners with the Alberta Property Rights Initiative and the Canadian Property Rights Research Institute.[10]

After her time as a board trustee Smith joined the Calgary Herald as a columnist with the editorial board. She then went on to succeed Charles Adler as host of the national current affairs program Global Sunday, a Sunday-afternoon interview show on Global Television. She also hosted two talk radio programs focused on health policy and property rights.[9][10]

In 2004, Smith was named one of Calgary's "Top 40 Under 40".[11]

In September 2006, she co-hosted the Calgary Congress, a national assembly of citizens and economic and constitutional specialists to consider basic federal reforms for Canada.[12]

Smith was hired by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business in 2006, becoming provincial director for Alberta.


Smith supported Ted Morton in the 2006 PC leadership election. Morton lost to the more centrist Ed Stelmach and Smith became increasingly disillusioned with what she claims were Stelmach's "free-spending ways".[9] Smith cites the 2008 provincial budget as a turning point where she determined that Stelmach's government had 'lost its way'.[7]

Party leadership

Danielle Smith answers questions from the media after the release of the 2013 provincial budget.

Smith quit the PC party in 2009 and joined the Wildrose Alliance.[6] The Tories were unnerved enough by Smith's defection that they sent MLA Rob Anderson, one of the more fiscally conservative members of their caucus, to talk Smith out of it. Smith refused to stay, saying that there was no hope of Alberta being restored to fiscal sanity under the Tories. She told Anderson, "This government is beyond redemption. It's out of control."[13]

Later that year, Smith was recruited by Wildrose officials to run for the leadership of the party.[9][14] During the course of the leadership campaign outgoing leader Paul Hinman was victorious in a by-election in the riding of Calgary-Glenmore.[15] His win meant he was one of four in the Wildrose caucus; by the time Smith was elected leader on October 17, 2009, support for the party had quadrupled since the 2008 election.[16][17] After Smith was elected leader, support for the Wildrose Party continued to grow.[18] Smith convinced three PCs who served in government to cross the floor to join the Wildrose Party: Rob Anderson and Heather Forsyth, and later Guy Boutiller.[6]

2012 election

For most of the time before the 2012 provincial election, it appeared that Smith was poised to become the first woman to lead a party to victory in an Alberta election. Numerous polls indicated that the Wildrose Party could defeat the governing Progressive Conservatives, who were also led by a woman, Premier Alison Redford. The PCs had governed the province since 1971, the second-longest unbroken run in government at the provincial level.[19][20][21]

The Wildrose Party won 17 seats [22] on 34.3% of the popular vote, and took over Official Opposition status from the Alberta Liberal Party. Smith was elected to the Legislature from Highwood, just south of Calgary, on the same day, defeating John Barlow, editor of the Okotoks Western Wheel.[9][23][24]

Political pundits suggested Wildrose lost their early polling lead over the Progressive Conservatives due to Smith's defence of two Wildrose candidates who had made controversial remarks. Allan Hunsperger, running in an Edmonton riding, had written a blog post claiming that gays would end up in a "lake of fire" if they did not renounce their lifestyle. Ron Leech had claimed he would have a leg up on the competition in his Calgary riding because he was white.[25] According to the National Post, Hunsperger and Leech's extreme views, as well as Smith's refusal to condemn them, cost her a chance of unseating Redford.[22] Ultimately, Wildrose was denied victory mainly because it was unable to get any foothold in the urban areas. It won only two seats in Calgary and was completely shut out in Edmonton.

In appraising the election results at the Wildrose 2012 annual general meeting, Smith advocated freezing out candidates who cannot respectfully communicate their views in future elections. Smith asked members to adopt a forward-looking policy platform for the next election.[26]

Rejoining the Progressive Conservative Party

Smith and Jim Prentice announcing that she and eight other Wildrose MLAs would be crossing the floor to join the Progressive Conservatives.

After Redford was forced out of politics in the spring of 2014 due to allegations of corruption, Smith's Wildrose party was initially the major beneficiary. However, this momentum stalled when former federal cabinet minister Jim Prentice became PC leader and premier. Under Prentice, the PCs swept four by-elections in October.[13] Smith was dealt a second blow at the Wildrose annual general meeting, when an anti-discrimination resolution that she strongly supported was voted down while she was out of the room.[27]

On December 17, 2014, Smith announced that she, deputy leader Rob Anderson, and seven other Wildrose MLAs were crossing the floor to join the PCs. Smith had criticized two other Wildrose MLAs for defecting to the PCs a month earlier; she had publicly stated that "there'll be no more floor crossings."[28] It was later revealed, however, that Smith and Prentice had been in talks about a possible merger for several months.[29] Smith said that several conversations with Prentice revealed that they shared much common ground, particularly on fiscal issues. Ultimately, she concluded that it made little sense for her to continue in opposition. "If you’re going to be the official Opposition leader," she said, "you have to really want to take down the government and really take down the premier. I don't want to take down this premier. I want this premier to succeed."[30] Several weeks after Smith joined the Progressive Conservatives, in a Facebook post, she apologized for the anger caused by her move and for not consulting with Albertans before making the decision. At the same time, she stood by her decision to "unify conservatives" in the province, and indicated that she intends seek the Progressive Conservative nomination in Highwood for the next election.[31][32][33]

Smith was defeated in her bid for the PC nomination in Highwood by Okotoks Councillor Carrie Fischer on March 28, 2015.[4][34] Fischer lost to Wildrose candidate Wayne Anderson. Since her retirement from provincial politics, Smith has joined Calgary radio station News Talk 770 as the afternoon show host.

Public image

Smith presents herself as a libertarian, particularly on moral issues.[6] She is pro-choice on abortion, and also supports same-sex marriage. A Wildrose insider told Calgary Herald editorial page editor Licia Corbella that Smith had grown increasingly uncomfortable leading a party with a strong tinge of social conservatism.[35] Smith herself told CBC News that the defeat of the anti-discrimination resolution led her to seriously consider returning to the PCs.[27]

She has a declared affinity towards former Reform Party leader Preston Manning, and to Stephen Harper, with whom she shared a mentor, Tom Flanagan.[6] Smith distanced herself and the Wildrose Party from Flanagan in February 2013, after he made controversial remarks regarding child pornography.[36][37] She has been described as media-savvy and adept at presenting a professional and polished image.[38]

She lives in High River, a town south of Calgary.

Electoral history

Alberta general election, 2012: Highwood
Party Candidate Votes%∆%
WildroseDanielle Smith 10,094 52.59% 41.14%
Progressive ConservativeJohn Barlow 8,159 42.51% −22.11%
LiberalKeegan Gibson 547 2.85% −10.90%
New DemocraticMiles Dato 392 2.04% −1.30%
Total 19,192
Eligible electors / Turnout 32,64958.8%


  1. "Alberta Tory aide resigns after mocking Wildrose leader over not having children". thestar.com. 31 March 2012.
  2. "Candidate - Marlaina Danielle Smith Campaign 2012". Elections Alberta. Retrieved September 14, 2012.
  3. "9 Wildrose MLAs, including Danielle Smith, cross to Alberta Tories". CBC News, December 17, 2014.
  4. 1 2
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Sharpe, Sydney (April 16, 2012). "Danielle Smith: Is she Alberta's Sarah Palin, or the future of Canada?". Toronto: The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 14 April 2012.
  6. 1 2 "Danielle Smith Wildrose Leader profile". Calgary Herald. Retrieved 1 April 2012.
  7. Verma, Sonia (12 November 2010). "Danielle Smith: 'My life will fall under the microscope'". Globe and Mail. Toronto. Retrieved 1 April 2012.
  8. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Wood, James (1 April 2012). "Party leader profile: Wildrose Party Danielle Smith". Calgary Herald. Retrieved 2 April 2012.
  9. 1 2 3 "Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. 19 March 2012. Retrieved 1 April 2012.
  10. "Top 40 Under 40 Alumni". Avenue Calgary. Retrieved 1 April 2012.
  11. "The Calgary Congress 2006". Citizens Centre for Freedom and Democracy. Retrieved August 10, 2009.
  12. 1 2 Rise And Fall Of Alberta Wildrose Party Inextricably Linked To Danielle Smith. Canadian Press, 2014-12-17.
  13. "Two announce bid for Wildrose Alliance leadership". CTV. 7 June 2009. Retrieved 2 April 2012.
  14. "Tories stunning defeat sends strong message to Stelmach". CTV. 15 September 2009. Retrieved 2 April 2012.
  15. "Provincial Vote Intention Alberta Public Opinion Study – Fall 2009" (PDF). Lethbridge College. 7 October 2009. Retrieved 2 April 2012.
  16. "New Wildrose leader ready to take on Stelmach Tories". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. 18 October 2009. Retrieved 1 April 2012.
  17. "Albertans eyeing Wildrose Alliance". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. 29 December 2009. Retrieved 2 April 2012.
  18. MacArthur, Mary (26 March 2012). "Alberta vote shaping up to be closest one seen in decades". The Western Producer. Retrieved 2 April 2012.
  19. McLean, Tanara (26 March 2012). "'Break from the past': Wildrose leader". Edmonton Sun. Retrieved 2 April 2012.
  20. Thomson, Graham (26 March 2012). "Thomson: Countdown to April 23 vote starts today". Edmonton Journal. Retrieved 2 April 2012.
  21. 1 2 "Social issues sank Wildrose during campaign, experts say". 2012-04-24.
  22. "Barlow loses Highwood". Okotoks Online. Retrieved 2013-06-06.
  23. "Western Wheel contact page". Retrieved 2013-06-06.
  24. Graveland, Bill. "Alberta Election 2012: Danielle Smith Defends Controversial Candidates Ron Leech And Allan Hunsperger".
  25. "Looking to the future, Wildrose leader pushes for a more progressive approach". Globe and Mail. Retrieved 2013-08-06.
  26. 1 2 Danielle Smith speaks out on defection to the Tories. CBC News, 2014-12-17.
  27. 9 Wildrose MLAs, including Danielle Smith, cross to Alberta Tories. CBC News, 2014-12-17.
  28. Alberta’s Wildrose leader and eight members join Prentice government. Canadian Press, 2014-12-17.
  29. CBC News (24 January 2015). "Danielle Smith apologizes for anger caused by defection". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
  30. Smith, Danielle (24 January 2015). "Facebook post to supporters". Facebook.
  31. The Canadian Press (24 January 2015). "Danielle Smith apologizes for not allowing debate on her floor-crossing". Globe and Mail.
  32. "Danielle Smith will face opposition in Highwood PC nomination". cbc.ca. 17 March 2015.
  33. Corbella, Licia. Danielle Smith leads a bounty of mutiny. Calgary Herald, 2014-12-18.
  34. "Wildrose dumps campaign manager Tom Flanagan over child pornography comments". Calgary Herald. March 1, 2013. Retrieved May 28, 2013.
  35. "Wildrose Leader Smith condemns Flanagan's child porn remarks". Wildrose Party. February 28, 2013. Retrieved May 28, 2013.
  36. Den Tandt, Michael (April 18, 2012). "Danielle Smith and Wildrose ride the wave". POSTMEDIA NEWS via The Province.
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