Canada

Meet Danielle Smith: UCP leader and Alberta’s next premier


The United Conservative Party (UCP) has placed Danielle Smith, the former leader of the now defunct Wildrose Party, at the helm as it looks to solidify support ahead of the next provincial election.


The 51-year-old, who lives in High River with her husband, will become Alberta’s next premier but will first need to secure a seat in the legislature.


Smith was named leader of the Wildrose Party of Alberta in 2009 and was elected as MLA for Highwood in 2012.


She crossed the floor to join the governing Progressive Conservatives under Premier Jim Prentice, alongside eight Wildrose caucus members, in December 2014. The move left the Wildrose Party, the Official Opposition, with only five sitting members.


She sought the PC Party nomination for Highwood in 2015 but was defeated by Okotoks councillor Carrie Fischer.


The PC Party lost handily to the Notley-led NDP in the 2015 general election, finishing third behind the Wildrose Party with Brian Jean at the reigns.


The UCP was created in 2017, bringing the Wildrose and PC parties together as a united front in an effort to oust the NDP.


During her departure from politics, Smith spent six years as a talk show radio host with Corus Entertainment before moving on to become president of the Alberta Enterprise Group.


In April of this year, Smith announced her plans for a foray back onto the provincial political scene as a UCP member with her sights set squarely on the party’s leadership position by way of a nomination for the Livingstone-Macleod riding. Roger Reid was, and remains, the UCP MLA for Livingstone-Macleod.


At the time, Premier Jason Kenney was facing a leadership vote as questions swirled around his standing within the party amid dwindling approval ratings.


Smith pulled few punches in April regarding the optics of the cancellation of the UCP’s general meeting in Red Deer — “When it looked like the premier was going to lose, (the party) cancelled it” — or how she viewed the premier’s standing with rural Albertans — “There are people who are offended that he doesn’t seem to understand rural Alberta. And there are people that are offended that he doesn’t appear to put Alberta first.”


After declaring her intention to run to become UCP leader after Kenney announced his plans to resign, Smith said her first order of business as premier would be to bring forth Bill 1, known as the Alberta Sovereignty Act, to increase Alberta’s autonomy over the federal government.


Earlier this month, Smith said she would seek “an early opportunity to get into the legislature” if she won the leadership vote, stating her preference would be to run in a by-election in a rural riding and not Calgary-Elbow, which remains vacant following Doug Schweitzer’s departure. She also said she would not call a snap general election and would likely keep some members of Kenney’s cabinet in their current roles.


Alberta’s next general election is currently scheduled for May 29, 2023. 

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