Danielle Smith returning to politics with sights on UCP leadership

Danielle Smith, former leader of the Wildrose Party, has confirmed to CBC News that she will run for the United Conservative Party nomination in the Livingstone-Macleod riding.

She also confirmed that she may take a run at the UCP leadership.

Premier Jason Kenney’s hold on the party will be determined next month in a leadership review by mail-in ballot. 

Smith is expected to make a formal announcement tomorrow morning.

The former Official Opposition leader left the Wildrose Party in 2014 when she crossed the floor to join Jim Prentice’s ruling Progressive Conservatives. She brought with her eight members of the Wildrose Party.

At the time, she defended her decision, saying “to me, it’s declaring victory and uniting conservatives under the leadership of one person so that we can deal with some very significant challenges ahead.”

Duane Bratt, a political scientist at Mount Royal University, said he was surprised by published comments from Smith saying that she was running now because she is upset the party changed the leadership review vote to a mail-in ballot and cancelled its April 9 general meeting.

“There seemed to be a suggestion that Kenney was betraying the grassroots of the party,” he said.

“For her to criticize Jason Kenney for not listening to the grassroots is the height of hypocrisy.” 

In 2015, Smith left politics after she lost her bid for the Progressive Conservative nomination in her riding of Highwood, to Carrie Fischer, who was on Okotoks’ town council.

That same night, Brian Jean was elected as the new leader of the Wildrose Party.

Now, years later, both have expressed interest in becoming the leader of the UCP.

“To see two former Wildrose leaders running against Kenney, you know, it just sort of further emphasizes just what a big split there is between those traditional PC voters and the traditional Wildrose voters,” said political commentator and pollster Janet Brown on CBC Calgary News at 6.

Since taking a break from politics, the former journalist has hosted a daily talk show on Corus Radio, which she left in January, and written a number of columns.

Smith is currently the president of the Alberta Enterprise Group. 

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