Danielle Smith won the United Conservative Party (UCP) leadership race and will become Alberta’s next premier. Smith captured 53.8% of votes on the sixth and final ballot. She will be Alberta’s 19th premier, succeeding Jason Kenney in the role he held for three years. Travis Toews, former Finance Minister and MLA for Grande Prairie, was the runner-up on the final ballot with 46.2% of the vote. According to the party, 82,000 mail-in and in-person ballots were cast from approximately 124,000 members who were eligible to vote.
The other five candidates in the contest were: Rebecca Schulz, former Children Services Minister and MLA for Calgary-Shaw; Brian Jean, former Wildrose Party leader and MLA for Fort McMurray; Leela Aheer, former Culture Minister and MLA for Strathmore; Todd Loewen, former UCP caucus chair and independent MLA; and Rajan Sawhney, former Transportation Minister, Social Services Minister and MLA for Calgary North-East. The vote was conducted using a preferential ballot, where members were asked to rank candidates in order of preference. If no one candidate was able to get a majority of 50 per cent plus one on the first ballot, the candidate with the lowest total was dropped from the next round of balloting and their second preference votes were transferred.
In her victory speech to party faithful at the BMO Centre in downtown Calgary last night, Smith said her victory marks the start of a new chapter in a “great Alberta story”. She stated: “It is time for Alberta to take its place as a senior partner in building a strong and unified Canada”, but also said to loud cheers from the crowd “no longer will Alberta ask permission from Ottawa to be prosperous and free.”
The centrepiece of Smith’s campaign was the proposed Alberta Sovereignty Act, which she has signalled will be introduced when the legislature resumes in November. The bill would outline how and when Alberta would ignore federal legislation and regulations it determines are not in the best interests of the province. Legal experts have said the bill would likely not survive a constitutional challenge and her opponents in the leadership race predicted it would scare away investment and create economic chaos.
Smith’s first order of business will be meeting with members of the UCP caucus this morning. She is expected to be sworn in as Premier on Tuesday, October 11th. Smith has indicated she wants to run in a by-election as soon as possible so she can lead the government in the fall sitting of the legislature and says several current UCP MLAs have offered to give up their seats to allow her to run.
The next provincial election is set to take place in just under eight months from now on May 29, 2023.
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