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Danielle Smith will run for UCP leader

Danielle Smith said Thursday she will run for the leader of the UCP amidst Jason Kenney's resignation.
NEWS-Danielle Smith BWC 2573 web
Danielle Smith in Foothills County on April 12, 2022. Smith announced May 19 that she will be running for UCP leader after Premier Jason Kenney announced he would be stepping down.

Danielle Smith has officially announced her intentions to run for leader of the United Conservative Party, following the news of Premier Jason Kenney's impending departure. 

"I can handle the heat," she said. 

Smith is also running for the seat in Livingstone-Macleod, which is currently held by MLA Roger Reid. 

In a media availability Thursday morning, the day after Kenney said he would step down as leader following a 51.4 per cent review in his favour, Smith praised the work of the premier in his final weeks. 

The former Wildrose leader said her current political run is not continuation of her past political life, where she crossed the floor ahead of the Conservatives' loss to the New Democrats. 

A High River resident, Smith said she is in the business of acknowledging the needs of voters in different centres, with the ultimate motivation being unity. She said she brings a varied perspective with her experience as a radio host, small business owner and politician. 

She blamed the pandemic for increased division amongst Albertans, particularly legal action taken against COVID-19 regulation breakers, including pastors, Freedom Convoy truckers and small business owners. 

Smith went as far as to suggest apologies be granted to those who violated the rules, as well as compensation and perhaps a civil suit. 

Part of the healing process is dropping the charges, she added. 

"It's completely legitimate to offer amnesty when the government has made a mistake," Smith said. 

When the vote for a new leader is conducted, her preference would be an in-person vote. She claimed there were reports that 9,000 ballots were destroyed ahead of yesterday's vote and that she was told by several people they never received their ballots. 

Smith suggested that a minimum of eight polling stations be available throughout the province in large centres, including Fort McMurray, Calgary, Edmonton, Medicine Hat and Lethbridge. 

"We have to make sure that everyone feels the vote is legit," she said. 

In terms of platform, Smith said there needs to be focus on the energy sector with specific mention to hydrogen. She also stressed the idea of Albertan autonomy, describing a strategy by former Wildroser Paul Hinman that would somehow allow the province to opt-out of federal legislation for projects that don't coincide with the provincial government's decisions. 

Smith said the province needs "to get a better deal with Canada." 

At this moment, it is not clear if Kenney will remain leader throughout the race for a new captain. 

Smith said she would be in support of the premier remaining at the helm until July so he could meet Pope Francis when he pays a visit to Edmonton. She added that Kenney played a large part in securing the apology from the Vatican for the atrocities of residential schools and he deserves to see that initiative to its end. 

Ultimately, the UCP is in need of some major healing, according to Smith. 

"We certainly have a long way to go," she said.