Red Deer’s MLAs are sharing their congratulations to Danielle Smith after she won the leadership of the United Conservative Party to become Alberta’s new premier.
On Thursday evening, Smith captured nearly 54 per cent of the vote on the sixth round of the preferential ballot, defeating six rivals and securing the majority needed for victory.
Red Deer-South MLA Jason Stephan said he’s “really excited” to be moving forward with Smith as the leader of the party and the province’s premier.
“I feel like her election revitalizes our party in a positive way,” Stephan said the morning following the election.
“Change is exciting. I appreciate the good things the former premier did, but everyone has their strengths, talents and things to contribute – I’m excited for Danielle to contribute her strengths and serve the province.”
Stephan said he finds Smith to be a personable individual.
“She has talked to Albertans from all walks of life. Talking with her personally, I’m very impressed with her breadth of knowledge about so many different topics. If you sit down and talk with Danielle one on one, she’s very likeable,” he said.
“She’s friendly, she’s articulate, she’s a very strong communicator. Most importantly, she’s a principled conservative and that’s going to increase the freedom and prosperity of Albertans – that’s what government is there to do.
“I appreciate her vision in seeking to protect and enable Albertans to become more self-reliant from Ottawa.”
Red Deer-North MLA Adriana LaGrange issued the following statement regarding Smith’s election victory:
“I was pleased to offer my congratulations to Premier-designate Danielle Smith at our caucus meeting this morning. I look forward to working together with my colleagues, under her leadership, to strengthen the unity of our party and to serve Albertans and this great province.”
Smith pledged unity after her first UCP caucus meeting on Friday. She is to be sworn in as premier on Tuesday, but she still needs to secure a seat in the legislature.
John Kennair, a Red Deer Polytechnic political science teacher, said leadership races are divisive so her first hurdle will be getting the party on the same page.
“If she had won on the first ballot, there would be support from the party. But it wasn’t, it was the sixth ballot,” said Kennair.
“She doesn’t have clear support from her party and now she has to find a place to run. There’s a little bit of a honeymoon (phase) because she’s won, but the reality is there’s more to this story.”
Michaela Frey, who had earlier signalled she did not intend to run in the 2023 provincial election, has resigned and says it’s her hope that Smith will choose to run in the constituency of Brooks-Medicine Hat.
Smith says she will visit the southeastern riding this weekend to meet with Frey’s board and the local campaign team before making a formal announcement next week.
Kennair, who unsuccessfully sought the nomination for the federal Conservatives in the Edmonton-St.Alberta riding in 2007, said Smith will also have to figure out how to work with Ottawa.
“She’s never been a minister, she’s only ever been opposition leader. There’s a big difference between opposing and being the government,” he said.
“There are a lot of hurdles to overcome … so it’s going to be a very interesting time.”
—With files from The Canadian Press