Danielle Smith, the target of United Conservative Party leadership hopefuls

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Danielle Smith, the target of United Conservative Party leadership hopefuls

The seven Conservative Party leadership candidates united in the hangar of the HALO air ambulance service in Medicine Hat. Left to right, Todd Loewen, Danielle Smith, Rajan Sawhney, Rebecca Schulz, Leela Aheer, Travis Toews and Brian Jean.

Danielle Smith was the main target of her rivals in the first debate of the candidates for the leadership of the United Conservative Party. The other six candidates in the race to replace current Alberta leader and premier Jason Kenney have criticized the former Wildrose Party leader over the Alberta sovereignty law she proposes and his comments on cancer.

Several of the aspiring leaders have strongly denounced Danielle Smith's proposal to immediately introduce a bill to give Alberta the power to ignore federal laws and court decisions deemed contrary to the interests of the province.

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They asserted that Alberta must, of course, defend itself against the federal government, but that Danielle Smith's plan is, on the other hand, illegal and unenforceable. They say it would create uncertainty, especially for businesses, at a time when the province is barely recovering financially.

It would be great to just wish everyone our problems go away with this thing called sovereignty law. But we'd be crazy to believe that's going to happen, former Alberta finance minister Travis Toews told Danielle Smith during the debate.

MP and former United Conservative Party transport minister Rajan Sawhney said the party needed a more thoughtful strategic approach and that's how you win. According to her, a law like the one proposed by Danielle Smith would fail in the courts and cause economic uncertainty in the province.

Former Minister of Children's Services, Rebecca Schulz, remarked to Danielle Smith: You make promises you can't keep.

According to a recent poll conducted by the Canadian research firm Léger, Danielle Smith, Travis Toews and Brian Jean are the favorite candidates of 1,025 Alberta respondents.

PCU MP Brian Jean called the Conservative candidate's plan a tax fairy tale.

According to Danielle Smith, a former leader of the Wildrose Party, the Alberta self-government law she is proposing would qualify to be legal. She said the law was necessary, in part, because federal government policies are strangling the development of the oil industry.

Ottawa has brought chaos, she said said.

Lawyers have argued that not only would such a bill be illegal, but also that it represents a dangerous rejection of respect for the rule of law. Government leader Jason Nixon told him he doubted such a bill could pass.

Danielle Smith was also at the heart of criticism from her opponents following a comment she made in recent days. The former radio host said in a podcast that people who have cancer can prevent the progression of the disease before it reaches stage 4.

During the debate Michelle Smith explained to the audience that her comments had been awkward. She added that she rather meant that preventive measures in the field of health are only one more way to detect and fight cancer at an early stage.

I know cancer can strike anyone, anytime, added Michelle Smith.

Brian Jean said there was no misunderstanding about the comment by Michelle Smith. She said it. She needs to apologize. I believe this comment may have harmful consequences.

Candidate Rajan Sawhney thinks Danielle Smith's explanations are insincere and she should apologize: These comments are deeply hurtful to all Albertans and Canadians who have lost loved ones to cancer.

With information from Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press

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