Ex-Wildrose leader Danielle Smith returns to Alberta politics and will vote against Kenney’s leadership

The machinations ravaging Jason Kenney and his party took a new turn on Friday with the return of a former leader promising to vote against Alberta’s premier in his leadership review and then trying to take office.

Danielle Smith, the former leader of the Wildrose party – which later integrated into the current United Conservative Party – has announced she is returning to provincial politics for the UCP after a seven-year hiatus.

Smith said she plans to run in the southern riding of Livingstone-Macleod and will vote no in Kenney’s next leadership mail review.

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If Kenney fails to secure at least majority support in the vote – the results are due to be announced May 18 – the party must hold a contest to choose a new leader.

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“If MPs vote that they want to participate in a leadership race? I would put my name on it,” Smith said.

“I would love to represent the people of this province in this capacity.

Smith said Kenney had made progress on job creation and the economy but fell short on some COVID-19 measures.

But more importantly, she said, Kenney ignores the voice of ordinary Albertans in the party and in the province.

“This process appears to be completely broken down.”

Smith left politics in 2015 and has since worked as a radio talk show host and in business.

She said one of the reasons she returned was dismay that Kenney had recently vilified his opponents by calling them “crazy”.

Click to play video: 'Premier Jason Kenney defends recorded comments calling party opponents 'crazy'

Prime Minister Jason Kenney defends recorded comments calling party opponents ‘crazy’

Prime Minister Jason Kenney defends recorded comments calling party opponents ‘crazy’ – March 25, 2022

Another was anger at the UCP executive who decided last week to change the leadership review from an in-person vote to a wider postal vote – a decision, she said. , which seems to favor Kenney.

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Kenney said if he got 50% plus one vote in the contest, he would stay on as leader.

Smith said leaders usually stay if they get much higher approval ratings and a mere majority isn’t a credible mandate to continue.

“If you can’t get a significant number of your own members behind you, ready to fight for you and with you, side by side before the next election, you just can’t beat the NDP,” she said.

Smith said it would be a mistake for the NDP opposition to be dismissed as a “one-hit wonder”.

“They’re not. They’re formidable. Rachel Notley — she knows the business, she’s known to Albertans. She’s no longer an unknown factor.

Smith said while she disagrees with some of Notley’s political views, she was surprised to hear that many people in Alberta are willing to give the NDP another chance.

“You look at the latest poll that shows the NDP is ahead in Calgary, it’s ahead in Edmonton, it’s 32% in rural Alberta.

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“So we can’t take it for granted that rural Alberta is going to stay UCP.”

Kenney, when asked about Smith’s announcement, replied, “I’m not going to be distracted by divisive voices.”

But Kenney later appeared to criticize Smith for allowing a candidate to run for Wildrose in the 2012 election, despite the candidate’s past comments urging gays and lesbians to repent or suffer eternally in the ‘lake of fire’ from hell.

“An Alberta Conservative party was eliminated in an election in (2012) due to a leadership failure to prevent extremists from getting elected,” Kenney said.

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Kenney says he won’t allow ‘lake of fire’ incident to repeat as he answers question about Danielle Smith

Kenney says he won’t allow ‘lake of fire’ incident to repeat as he answers question about Danielle Smith

The current UCP MP for Livingstone-Macleod is Roger Reid, a local businessman. Smith said she informed Reid of her intention to seek the nomination on Wednesday.

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“I just thought it was the decent thing to do, and he’s making his own decision about what his future will be,” Smith said.

Reid said Friday he intended to run again.

“It has been the privilege of a lifetime to represent the people of Livingstone-Macleod in the Legislative Assembly for the past three years and I look forward to a rigorous nomination process in the months ahead,” he said. he said in a statement to Global News.

“I will run for this nomination with the same integrity and dedication to representing these same people. I believe that the best campaign is characterized by hard work and honesty.

Smith became leader of the Wildrose party in 2009 as it flourished as a group of disgruntled Progressive Conservatives who believed their party and government had abandoned core values ​​of fiscal discipline and popular participation.

Under Smith, the Wildrose became the official opposition to the PCs in 2012. But three years later, Smith and eight other Wildrose members crossed the floor to join the PCs under then Prime Minister Jim Prentice.

Alberta Premier Jim Prentice and former Wildrose leader Danielle Smith speak to the media after a caucus meeting in Edmonton, Alta., Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014.

Jason Franson, The Canadian Press

It was a decision made without grassroots party support and one Smith said she deeply regrets.

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The move decimated the Wildrose, but it managed to survive under new leader and former Tory MP Brian Jean to eventually merge with PCs under Kenney in 2017 to form the UCP.

Jean is due to be sworn in next week after winning a recent by-election for the UCP in the riding of Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche.

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Whether he will be allowed to sit in the UCP caucus is an open question, as Jean has made it clear he believes the party is ineligible in 2023 with no changes at the top.

Jean also did not rule out the possibility of presenting himself as leader.

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How will Brian Jean affect Jason Kenney’s UCP leadership vote? Political analyst Jason Ribeiro intervenes

How will Brian Jean affect Jason Kenney’s UCP leadership vote? Political analyst Jason Ribeiro speaks – March 16, 2022

Meanwhile, the UCP faces furious opposition from dozens of riding association presidents and caucus backbenchers over leadership changes.

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“It all speaks to the deep divisions, factions, fractures within the UCP and the challenge of anyone who wants to try and lead this party both to appeal to people on the far right and those who might be conservatives. more moderate,” said Lori Williams, a political scientist at Mount Royal University in Calgary.

“I wonder more and more if it’s possible to do it.”

For the past few years, Smith has hosted a radio show on 770 CHQR in Calgary, a radio station owned by Corus, which is also the parent company of Global News. After six years on the air, Smith quit his radio job last January.

— With files from Karen Bartko, Global News

© 2022 The Canadian Press

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