03/08/2012 04:48 EST | Updated 05/08/2012 05:12 EDT

Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith says Alberta Tories running scared with attack ads

OTTAWA - Alberta Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith says it's no surprise the governing Progressive Conservatives are running attack ads against her party.

Smith says the 30-second radio ads running in Calgary prove that the Tories view the Wildrose as a threat to their 40-year hold on power.

"I think it's a feather in our cap that the 41-year dynastic PC government has decided for the first time in their history to go after an opposition party," Smith said Thursday after delivering a speech in Ottawa.

"That gives you some level of indication about how worried they are about the threat we pose to them in the next election."

The ads criticize the Wildrose for opposing new drunk-driving rules passed late last year by Premier Alison Redford's government.

The new law, which takes effect later this year, allows for licence suspensions and penalties against drivers who are just below the legal alcohol limit.

The ads say Albertans are not only killed by drivers over the legal limit, but by those under it, too, and that the Wildrose is OK with road carnage.

"They are mischaracterizing our position, which should be no surprise," said Smith.

"We've always said we want to go after drunk drivers who are endangering lives. Those are people who are driving at above the .08 legal alcohol limit."

Instead, she said, the Tories are targeting regular Albertans and infringing on civil rights.

"(The problem) is (they're) going after those who are enjoying a drink or two after work with friends or sharing a bottle of wine over dinner," said Smith.

The drunk-driving law is expected to be a major issue in the spring election. Redford has promised to drop the writ shortly after the budget is passed in about two weeks.

The Wildrose has been making gains in the polls and is running second to the Tories. The party has successfully tapped into grassroots anger over changes that gave cabinet more authority over private land and the PC's refusal to rule out income tax increases after the budget is passed.

— By Dean Bennett in Edmonton