Former Wildrose Party Leader Danielle Smith to Seek Alberta UCP Leadership

Former Wildrose Party Leader Danielle Smith to Seek Alberta UCP Leadership
Former Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith speaks to media after a caucus meeting in Edmonton Alta. on Dec. 17, 2014. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press)
Noé Chartier

Former Wildrose Party leader and radio host Danielle Smith says she will be running for leadership of the United Conservative Party of Alberta (UCP) after Premier Jason Kenney announced this week he would be stepping down.

“We’re all Albertans, we all want the best for Alberta, and I think that you will find that my campaign is going to be centred around putting Alberta, Alberta interests, and Albertans first,” Smith said in a virtual press conference on May 19.

Smith took the helm of the Wildrose Party in 2009 and later defected to join the ranks of the Progressive Conservatives (PC) in 2014. Wildrose eventually merged with the PC to form the UCP in 2017.

Kenney stepped down on May 18 after obtaining 51.4 percent support in his leadership review, which he said wasn’t a strong enough mandate to stay at the helm. He will remain in the role until a successor is decided.

“Over the last number of years, [Kenney] and I had a number of differences on a number of things, but we had far more that we agreed upon,” Smith said, thanking him for his work advocating for the province and its energy sector.

Smith attributed Kenney’s mitigated support from party members partially to his management of COVID-19.

“Part of the judgment of the grassroots [in the leadership review] was that as much as the premier had hoped that he had balanced lives and livelihoods during the course of COVID, I think that there are many who felt he didn’t get that right balance,” Smith said, mentioning the divisions that occurred between friends and families over “identity lines” such as vaccination status.

Smith said pandemic restrictions have sparked renewed interest in politics in the province, noting how the party attracted new members recently.

“There are a lot of people who got brought into the UCP who had never been in politics before... there are a lot of people who were just going along minding their own business, and now their entire lives have been disrupted in the last two years.”

Smith said her priority as leader would be to assert Alberta’s autonomy by making sure Ottawa does not encroach on its jurisdictions while collaborating better in areas of joint jurisdiction.

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