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United Conservative Party leader Danielle Smith speaks at a campaign launch rally in Calgary on April 29.Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith spent her first day on the campaign trail Monday answering the most important question she faces ahead of the May 29 provincial election: what is the public to make of her volatile governing style?

In the seven short months she’s been in charge, Ms. Smith has leapt from one hot mess to another, almost all of which have been of her own making. Her premiership has been defined by tumult and controversy. She has been as mercurial a political leader as the province has ever known.

Now she is seeking a mandate to govern for four more years. Albertans will have to decide whether they can take any more.

“I’m not perfect,” Ms. Smith told reporters on Monday, kicking off her campaign. “I think everyone knows that.”

Well, if they didn’t before, they certainly do now.

It’s truly remarkable how blithely Ms. Smith moves from one contretemps to another, unconcerned, seemingly, about the reputational hit she might be suffering as a consequence of her actions. It’s as if she believes that as long as she occasionally admits to not being perfect, voters will respect her honesty and cut her some slack.

And maybe they will.

Or maybe she thinks that extravagant promises will be enough to make people forgive her erratic nature and lure the skeptics to her side. She recently pledged $330-million toward a new NHL arena in Calgary and had no qualms about tying the money and the entire viability of the project to a United Conservative Party victory.

Last week, she may have come up with her worst policy idea yet: legislation that would make any proposed personal or business tax increase in the province subject to a binding referendum. Brilliant. Let cash-strapped voters decide if they want to pay more in taxes. I’m sure they will give proper consideration to any proposed increase before promptly voting the proposition down.

The good news is, Ms. Smith’s track record suggests that she won’t hesitate in turning her back on a pledge if it suits her interests.

You might remember something called the Alberta Sovereignty Act, which is the short version of its official name. This was the act that was going to upend the relationship Alberta had with Ottawa. The province would be subservient no more – Constitution be damned.

Of course, the bill was designed to help her win the leadership of the United Conservative Party, and it did. Later, when she tried selling the idea to the province as a whole, most Albertans were against it. They had no interest in the type of separatist manifesto she was proposing. Now the Sovereignty Act is never mentioned and destined to go the way of other dumb ideas from Ms. Smith – see: her plan to secure protections for the unvaccinated under the Alberta Human Rights Act – straight to Nowheresville.

Only two years ago, Ms. Smith was also arguing in favour of private health care. This forced her to recently spend valuable time trying to assure Albertans they won’t have to use their credit card to get cared for in hospitals. Then there was the recording that surfaced of her playing verbal footsies with Calgary street pastor and political provocateur Artur Pawlowski. In the conversation, the Premier admitted to frequently talking to justice officials about charges laid against those who violated vaccination ordinances during the pandemic, like Mr. Pawlowski himself. Later, she went to great pains to explain how she hadn’t really done what she said she had done.

The tax referendum idea is one of Ms. Smith’s more ludicrous and ill-conceived ones, but at least it’s one she can seemingly call her own. Other policies, including the Sovereignty Act, have been collected from a variety of ideological gutters.

A story last week in The Globe and Mail revealed ties Ms. Smith has with David Parker, founder of the right-wing Take Back Alberta movement. Her office admitted that the Premier had attended Mr. Parker’s wedding in March. The overarching strategy of the organization is to take over public positions at various levels of society to exert greater influence on decision-making in the province. It is already exercising enormous sway over the UCP itself.

Meantime, Ms. Smith herself is publicly singing the praises of hard-right politicians, like Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida and Governor Kristi Noem of South Dakota, for creating “little bastions of freedom” in their states – ones she’d like to replicate in Alberta. Ah yes – that little anti-gay, book-banning bastion of freedom: Florida.

In her chat with reporters on Monday, Ms. Smith said that every time she’s made a mistake she’s tried to learn from it. “People don’t expect their politicians to be perfect,” she said.

No. But they do expect them to be at least modestly competent. And during her seven-month audition as Premier, it’s hard to argue Danielle Smith has even been that.

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