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Editorial: Smith's tall task

Danielle Smith cleared the first hurdle this month when she won the United Conservative Party’s leadership race, but she faces a far taller one next spring.
Editorial Stock Photo

Danielle Smith cleared the first hurdle this month when she won the United Conservative Party’s leadership race, but she faces a far taller one next spring. 

Smith must be congratulated for coming out on top of six other hopefuls in the race to replace Jason Kenney, but a leadership contest and a general election are entirely different animals – something she would be wise to acknowledge in the months ahead. 

Buoyed by anti-Ottawa, anti-COVID restrictions and pro-freedom rhetoric, Smith’s campaign resonated with a significant chunk of UCP members, but there were many even within her own party who felt the messaging went too far. That's not even including the broader population who she will have to win over if she wants to keep the top job of premier for more than a few months. 

Appealing to a wider electorate while not alienating the base that put her in this position will require some impressive political gymnastics, to say the least. Smith's predecessor struggled to reconcile competing factions within the party, so the new leader faces a significant challenge trying to create one big happy family of Conservatives out of the dysfunction that currently exists. 

She has pledged to bring unity to the party, which is easier said than done given that in the wake of her victory, there were Conservatives out there who felt so at odds with the new leader they now consider themselves politically homeless. Smith must convince them to remain in the fold and persuade others that her vision is the right one for Alberta. 

She doesn’t have a lot of time to accomplish that lofty goal, what with an election set for next spring, but if history has taught us anything, counting her out could prove to be a mistake. 

After all, Smith was in the political wilderness not that long ago after an ill-fated crossing of the legislature floor in 2014. Despite that, she now holds the highest political office in the province. 


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