Analysis | The danger of governing without a strong mandate
The new premiers of Alberta and British Columbia are trying to distance themselves from their predecessors.
David Eby and Danielle Smith both took the reins of their province this fall.
In Alberta and British Columbia, two new premiers took over the helm of state this fall after leadership contests between ruling parties in those two western provinces. Their first months in office illustrate the dangers of governing without a strong mandate from all voters.
Danielle Smith and David Eby both wanted to distance themselves from their predecessors, Jason Kenney and John Horgan, in their own way.
Former leader of Alberta's Wildrose Party, who left politics in disgrace eight years ago, Danielle Smith used her proposed Alberta sovereignty in a united Canada bill to win favor with the base of the United Conservative Party (UCP).
Now passed, this law gives the Cabinet the power to order provincial entities, such as municipalities or the police, not to enforce federal laws and policies that he deems unconstitutional.
This highly controversial idea appeals to the rural base of the PCU, which pushed Jason Kenney out.
For Danielle Smith, the problem is that she is making significant changes and her tenure is not cemented.
During the leadership race, she repeatedly rejected the idea of putting her flagship bill to the people in the elections next spring, saying she had a mandate from her activist base. His key idea, however, has the support of only a third of the general population, according to a Leger poll in early December.
Danielle Smith has made her Alberta sovereignty bill the heart of her political platform.
By forcing her bill through anyway, Danielle Smith has both strengthened and weakened herself. Much of his base continues to support him, but the general population is wary.
A recent Abacus Data poll puts Alberta's New Democratic Party (NDP) in the lead in voting intentions, but it's the undecided Conservatives who will tip the scales in the event of a provincial election. The mandate they will give to the next Prime Minister in five months will be without question.
By contrast, the new British Columbia premier, David Eby, was widely seen as the continuity candidate following the announcement of John Horgan's departure. Rather, it was his only opponent, environmental activist Anjali Appadurai, who embodied the major changes. However, she was disqualified by the party leadership.
Still, David Eby stunned the British Columbian opposition with a whirlwind of announcements and bills in his first weeks in office. He tackled the issues of housing affordability, the homelessness crisis and the overdose crisis, as well as the overload of the health care system.
On November 18, David Eby was sworn in surrounded by members of the Musqueam First Nation and on their lands, a gesture posed in an effort to reconcile.
This relative continuity gives more legitimacy to the mandate of David Eby, even if he did not benefit from a leadership race as strong as Danielle Smith.
The provincial elections being scheduled for October 2024, it also has much more leeway than Danielle Smith to appeal to the people of her province. The imperative for radical change was less strong for him.
He still has his work cut out for him, since a recent Angus Reid poll shows that a majority of British Columbians believes that the NDP government has performed poorly or very poorly on their three priorities: inflation, health care and affordable housing.
The two leaders will have to meet the challenge of integrating their predecessor's balance sheet with theirs. The intensity with which they embrace change or continuity will have a marked impact on their chances of re-election.