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David Parker, founder of Take Back Alberta, speaks to a small audience in the basement of Deer Run Community Centre in Calgary on April 24, 2023.Jude Brocke/The Globe and Mail

Danielle Smith has always been one of the most unique politicians in Canada.

Her ascent from the political graveyard in Alberta to become Premier was impressive. The fact she’s always marched to the beat of her own drummer was something people found appealing and worrisome at the same time. A stubborn, defiant streak also made some in her United Conservative Party worried.

When she won a massive majority in 2023, there was a sense that she felt invincible.

Consequently, no one was truly surprised when she shared a stage with American commentator Tucker Carlson in January. Most politicians in Canada wouldn’t have been caught dead with the man, given his abhorrent commentary on everything from immigrants to Vladimir Putin. The Premier was also photographed with fellow event speakers and conservative provocateurs Jordan Peterson and Conrad Black.

But as questionable as associating with any of these people might have been, it’s been Ms. Smith’s relationship with another man that many in her party have been most concerned about – Take Back Alberta founder David Parker.

The Premier attended his wedding. And has been known to talk to him about the political landscape in Alberta – one Mr. Parker is trying to shape in his own image. (God forbid).

Mr. Parker has been in the news this week for a raft of disturbing tweets on X that targeted everyone from former Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi to NDP leadership candidate Sarah Hoffman, to federal Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre, his wife Anaida and party strategist Jenni Byrne.

Mr. Parker attacked Mr. Nenshi, who is said to be considering a run for the provincial NDP leadership, referencing his physical appearance as “grotesque.” He went after Ms. Hoffman, who has embraced her plus-size appearance, saying anyone who “can’t control how much food she puts in her mouth” shouldn’t be aspiring to run the province. He later tried to walk the comments back, saying they were incited by his frustration with the state of the world. “I am deeply sorry to my God,” he said.

But it was his attack on Mr. Poilievre et al that left people gobsmacked. In one tweet he said he felt sorry for Anaida Poilievre because she has to watch her husband spend “hundreds of hours a month” with a former paramour, Ms. Byrne. He later explained the tweet was prompted by long-running beefs he’s had with both Ms. Poilievre and Ms. Byrne, whom he knew when he worked in prime minister Stephen Harper’s office.

He later made an appearance on a talk show hosted on YouTube by Dean Blundell. It went on forever and likely had anyone associated with the man looking for ways to never have contact with him again. Mr. Parker came across as someone drunk on his perceived political influence in the province. He clearly craves the attention he is receiving, regardless of how negative it is.

The one person who this whole thing has not reflected on well is Ms. Smith. She tried to distance herself from Mr. Parker this week, saying she told him to delete his X account and “get some help.” Mr. Parker confirmed this was true.

It would be fair to ask how someone like Ms. Smith couldn’t have seen what a potential time bomb Mr. Parker was. Maybe she felt she couldn’t do anything, because his ultra-conservative organization has effectively taken over the UCP. Mr. Parker fashions himself as a bit of a kingmaker – queenmaker in Ms. Smith’s case – and she has been around long enough to know who wields consequential power and who doesn’t.

There isn’t anyone who understands the Alberta political scene who would suggest Mr. Parker is a nobody. Far from it. And now he’s trying to use his organization’s power to take over school boards in Alberta and stack them with people in favour of parental rights.

This would tell me that Mr. Parker is not going away any time soon. He says he still has work to do in Alberta, which is a scary prospect. Ms. Smith must be worried about her political future. If she decides to completely cut ties with Mr. Parker, he could retaliate. At the same time, she can’t be seen saying one thing and doing another.

While some might believe that this entire debacle is unlikely to grow into something much worse for Ms. Smith and her government, I’m not so sure.

Mr. Parker sounds like someone who possesses the same kind of hubris the Premier does. There could be some very dark days ahead on Alberta’s political scene.

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