HIGH RIVER — Saying her actions were in the best interests of her party and the province, former Wildrose leader Danielle Smith apologized for how her defection to the Tories went down.
Speaking at a press conference in her home riding of Highwood Saturday, hours after issuing a lengthy “sorry” on Facebook, Smith said she was taken aback at how upset her constituents and party supporters were with her unexpected floor-crossing.
“I misunderstood just how angry people would be,” she said. “I have to take responsibilty for the fact people were surprised, it was unexpected.”
Smith, along with eight other Wildrose MLAs, crossed the floor of the legislature in December to join the rival Progressive Conservatives — making many question her motives and the timing behind the surprising move.
“Not only did my caucus have to debate it, but the PC party had to debate it as well,” she said.
She said delaying discussions past the government’s Dec. 17 caucus meeting would have pushed the process to the new year, interfering with Alberta Premier Jim Prentice’s plans to begin candidate nominations.
“If we had the luxury of a little bit more time — raising it maybe a month earlier and having an opportunity to debate it and discuss it — I think many people would come to same conclusion that I did,” she said.
“It’s time to reunify conservatives, and Premier Prentice is the right leader for the province.”
She also cited the PCs’ sweep of the Oct. 27 byelections as an indication the province’s conservatives had already come to the same conclusion about Prentice, and November’s defections of Wildrose MLAs Kerry Towle and Ian Donovan.
The Wildrose party’s Oct. 26 annual general meeting also played a role in her decision, she said.
“After the AGM, it was clear to me that party membership was going in a direction that was different than I wanted to go,” she said.
Addressing those constituents who saw her defection as a betrayal, Smith maintained her decision was in the best interests of her riding.
“I did what was best for my constituents — I did what was best for Alberta,” she said.
She plans to face their concerns head-on with a series of town hall meetings, beginning with two planned addresses in Okotoks next month.
“This is just what you have to do when you are an elected politician,” she said.
“You make tough decisions, but not every decision is a popular one.”
As for her future, she reiterated her intention to seek the PC nomination for Highwood and let the democratic process determine what happens next.
“I’ll leave it to the members, and to the voters, to decide what they think of the decision in the next election,” she said.