Wildrose leader takes lead on city issues

EDMONTON — Alberta is increasingly divided between urbanites and rural dwellers, says Wildrose Opposition Leader Danielle Smith, who named herself cities critic Tuesday.

EDMONTON — Alberta is increasingly divided between urbanites and rural dwellers, says Wildrose Opposition Leader Danielle Smith, who named herself cities critic Tuesday.

Her comments come only days after criticizing “urban elites” for their attitudes toward small-town voters and they follow suggestions by one of her newly minted members that rural voters have more common sense.

Bridge building “needs to go both ways,” Smith said after announcing her shadow cabinet Tuesday. “There’s a serious divide in this province, a lack of understanding about how much of our wealth is generated in our rural areas.”

Smith’s right-wing party was nearly shut out of the province’s two largest cities, winning only two seats in Calgary and none in Edmonton.

But Tuesday, Smith seemed to suggest that it’s the city dwellers who need to open their minds.

She said she was upset over an independently produced video that came out during the campaign that she said painted small-town people in a bad light. Titled “I never thought I’d vote PC”, the video featured people, some of them actors, talking about holding their noses and voting PC to keep the Wildrose out.

“It’s clear that there is a problem in Alberta when you have a video that received 75,000 views that depicts hard-working men and women in rural Alberta as being gun-toting simpletons,” she said. “That actually demonstrates that we have some very serious bridges that need to be built between rural and urban.”

Still, she admitted she has work to do in the cities, where two-thirds of Alberta’s population lives.

“We are prepared to set the reset button,” she said.

“We know we have a lot of work to do to build the trust with Edmonton council and with Edmontonians, that was very clear from the election results.”

Smith said she has asked Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi if he might be able to broker a peace summit with Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel, who was critical of the Wildrose during the campaign.

Smith shadow cabinet includes key posts for Rob Anderson and Heather Forsyth. Both are former Tory members of the legislature who crossed the floor to the Wildrose during the last session. They were also the only two Wildrose members to retain their seats in last week’s vote.

Anderson was named Opposition house leader and finance critic. Forsyth was named to the health portfolio.

Shayne Saskiw, the Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills member who knocked off cabinet minister Ray Danyluk, is deputy house leader and justice critic. Bruce McAllister, who bested cabinet minister Ted Morton, was given education.

Innisfail-Sylvan Lake MLA Kerry Towle, an associate broker/co-owner of Royal LePage Weber in Innisfail, is now the whip and Seniors critic for the official Opposition.

Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre MLA Joe Anglin was named the Environment, Water and Utilities critic.

Anglin is an outspoken advocate for landowner rights and opponent of the province’s transmission strategy. He has served on the Town of Rimbey council since October 2010.

Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills MLA Bruce Rowe, a former mayor of the village Beiseker near Airdrie, was named Municipal Affairs critic.

Drumheller-Stettler MLA Rick Strankman is the Tourism, Parks and Recreation critic.

Lacombe-Ponoka MLA Rod Fox is Service Alberta critic.