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Danielle Smith has ratcheted up the rhetoric regarding Alberta's sovereignty. When did Alberta ever have to ask Ottawa for permission to be 'prosperous and free?'JASON FRANSON/The Canadian Press

It was early in her victory speech at the United Conservative Party leadership convention two weeks ago that Danielle Smith began laying out her vision for Alberta.

And much of it centred on a fresh war with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government.

“No longer will Alberta ask permission from Ottawa to be prosperous and free,” she told her party in a message that was also intended for the entire province. “We will not have our voices silenced and censored.

“We will not be told what we must put in our bodies in order to work or to travel. We will not have our resources landlocked or our energy phased out of existence by virtue-signalling prime ministers. Albertans, not Ottawa, will chart our own destiny on our own terms, and will work with our fellow Canadians to build the most free and prosperous country on Earth.”

Cue the raucous applause.

Much of it, of course, was empty, spurious rhetoric. When did Alberta ever have to ask Ottawa for permission to be “prosperous and free?” When did people in the province ever have their voices “silenced and censored” by the Trudeau government? She referenced the “virtue-signalling” Prime Minister landlocking Alberta energy and phasing it out, but somehow failed to mention the same Prime Minister’s government purchased, at enormous expense, the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project, which is now being completed to connect Alberta to tidewater.

Danielle Smith is the new leader of the UCP. Her career and campaign promises so far

It is important for all Canadians to understand what is happening here: The new Premier of Alberta is trying to further poison the minds of her citizens with anti-Trudeau propaganda, purely for political gain.

To be sure, she is using the same playbook as her predecessor, Jason Kenney, whose strategic plan ultimately led to political disaster. But for Ms. Smith, this is all about playing to a constituency she desperately needs if she has any chance of winning the next election in the spring of 2023: rural Albertans who hold a disdain and hatred of everything Ottawa and Liberal.

There are 41 Alberta legislature seats outside the main cities of Calgary and Edmonton; the UCP currently holds 39 of them. You need 44 seats to form a majority government. If the UCP holds those 39 seats, it only needs to add five or more in the two major centres to win re-election in 2023.

So from that standpoint, the strategy is pretty simple: Keep the rural base happy by bashing Mr. Trudeau and promising things you have absolutely no control over – such as building pipelines to tidewater – and continue harping on things such as the pandemic and how unfair the restrictions were to a fringe element in the province.

In a social-media campaign that’s now under way, Ms. Smith rails about Mr. Trudeau tripling the carbon tax, claiming that this makes life more unaffordable for many Albertans. She fails to mention, however, that most of the people who pay the carbon tax will get a full rebate. They will be no further ahead or behind financially as a result. But she won’t let facts get in the way of politics, no matter the damage to public trust.

For Alberta’s Premier, it’s all about ensuring the province gets whatever it wants: the freedom it wants, the prosperity it wants, the pipelines it wants, the pollution it wants. (There was no mention of climate change in Ms. Smith’s victory speech, to the surprise of no one.)

She will get pipelines built to tidewater if Ottawa just gets out of the way, she suggests. But how? She never says.

She’s also ignoring the many Canadians who don’t want any more pipelines built in their province or in this country, including many who live in B.C. and Quebec. That has nothing to do with Mr. Trudeau and everything to do with people worried about rising carbon emissions and the existential threat they pose to the planet.

But that’s not something Ms. Smith wants to talk about. She’d rather focus on grievance, that great elixir of all populists. Focus on things that people are mad about or will get them mad – this is how Donald Trump made his move. This is what helped sow the divisions that have created the perilous political climate that now exists in the United States.

Mr. Trump’s lies weren’t challenged enough. His preposterous promises needed to be more exposed as the air-filled balls of nothingness that they always were.

There is a broad swath of the public that is susceptible to the simplistic slogans and fanciful rhetoric uttered by politicians adept at telling people what they want to hear. Sadly, it only results in greater anger and more cynicism. It seems we still don’t know any better.

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