Analysis | To unify her party, Danielle Smith has no room for error
Danielle Smith won the United Conservative Party of Alberta leadership race with 53.77% of the vote.
Danielle Smith won the United Conservative leadership race by a narrow lead Thursday night after six rounds of voting. If she has been able to adequately seduce a part of the militants, the next premier of Alberta now has before her a daunting challenge: to unify the various factions of the United Conservative Party (UCP).
Many members from the Wildrose wing of the party, in particular, felt they had not been listened to during the pandemic, or even betrayed by the imposition of health measures, such as the vaccine passport. Many cited their leader's arrogance as an insurmountable problem.
The marriage of convenience between the Wildrose Party and the Progressive Conservative Party was unraveling. Only fear of Rachel Notley's New Democratic Party (NDP) regaining power seemed to keep some activists in the union.
During this race, Danielle Smith demonstrated her political genius by pinpointing what most concerned a large faction of the party. His message of fighting Ottawa and defending individual liberties, particularly those who were not vaccinated, was exactly what activists who felt left behind within their party and the Canadian federation wanted to hear.
His Alberta sovereignty bill, however, worries many moderate conservatives. In recent days, Danielle Smith has indicated that she will not refocus her message to appeal to a larger electorate. On Thursday night, she hammered home her priorities again in her speech and didn't sound like she would water down her message anytime soon.
Almost all United Conservative Party MPs posed behind their new leader, Danielle Smith, the day after her victory. within the party with her at its head? Even if they wanted to leave, where would they go eight months before the provincial elections?
It is unthinkable for many of them to vote for the NDP, the only other party represented in the Legislative Assembly. Some may choose to vote Conservative anyway, others will prefer to stay at home. Danielle Smith must imperatively reassure them to keep them within the big conservative tent.
As for the losers in the race, they seem to be considering two possibilities: agree to side with Smith or quietly leave politics. On Friday, Travis Toews, Leela Aheer and Brian Jean all said they should study the situation before committing to run in the spring election. One thing is certain, no one seems to have any appetite for a latent war within the party.
Leela Aheer , Travis Toews and Brian Jean strongly criticized Danielle Smith's Alberta sovereignty bill.
Danielle Smith demonstrated, Thursday and Friday, a desire to be unifying. She had good words for her opponents, indicated that she would like to see more of them in her cabinet and specified that she would give space to her deputies, that she would listen to them.
< p class="e-p">Many deputies and party activists despaired of obtaining it from Jason Kenney. He precipitated his loss by being arrogant, almost never admitting his wrongs.
Jason Kenney was very critical of Danielle Smith's flagship politics during the race.
By showing openness, Danielle Smith is positioning herself favorably to undertake the work of party unity. This begins with the unification of his caucus.
Time is running out: she will have to reassure the moderates while satisfying her supporters, who expect her to act quickly on their priorities, including the fight against Ottawa.
With a By-election in which she must be elected and a break at Christmas, Danielle Smith has just enough time in front of her to accomplish her goals.
In the past, Alberta Conservatives have often been ruthless with their leaders when he made missteps, pushing them out prematurely. Since 2006, eight premiers have succeeded each other at the head of the province and the only one who has completed her term is New Democrat Rachel Notley.
Danielle Smith had a lesson in 2014. After joining the ranks of Jim Prentice's government, when she was leader of the Official Opposition, her old and her new party rebelled against her. She even lost her nomination in her constituency against a virtual stranger. This ended her political career at the time.
Eight years later, Danielle Smith has made amends with the Conservative grassroots, who offer her a invaluable second chance. Unlike Jason Kenney, who benefited from the support of Canadian conservative elites thanks to his career in federal politics, Danielle Smith owes everything to the militant base, especially in rural areas.
Danielle Smith celebrates her victory at the BMO Center in Calgary, October 6, 2022.
She did not have the support of much of the caucus during the race. This could quickly backfire if things start to go wrong, as Alison Redford learned the hard way during the Sky Palace scandal in 2014.
The game of he balancing act that Danielle Smith will have to engage in over the next few months will therefore be particularly delicate. Any malcontents might quickly remember his past mistakes.
In politics, third chances are rare and the United Conservative Party cannot afford another fratricidal struggle.