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Danielle Smith says she won't alter Alberta's next general election date if elected UCP leader

Danielle Smith answers a question at the final UCP leadership debate in August.  Smith has proposed a sovereignty act that some scholars and critics have said would likely be unconstitutional. (Manuel Carrillos Avalos/CBC - image credit)
Danielle Smith answers a question at the final UCP leadership debate in August. Smith has proposed a sovereignty act that some scholars and critics have said would likely be unconstitutional. (Manuel Carrillos Avalos/CBC - image credit)

Danielle Smith plans to run for a seat in the legislature this fall if she wins the leadership of Alberta's United Conservative Party on Thursday.

Smith confirmed at a news conference on Monday that she doesn't plan to call an election earlier than the legislated date of May 29, 2023.

"When early election calls occur, the public is suspicious," she said. "They think that there's some advantage that the person is trying to gain.

"And I think we've seen that oftentimes when you hold an early election ... at the federal level and at the provincial level, you either lose or lose ground or end up getting a reduced majority."

While Smith wants to run in a fall byelection if she wins the leadership, she mostly ruled out running in Calgary-Elbow, which became vacant when former cabinet minister Doug Schweitzer resigned as an MLA last month.

She said several UCP MLAs have volunteered to resign to trigger a byelection. She said her preference is to run in the southwestern constituency of Livingstone-Macleod, where she lives.

Sovereignty act a priority, Smith says

Five UCP MLAs and one independent member join Smith in the contest to replace Jason Kenney as party leader and premier: Travis Toews (Grande Prairie-Wapiti), Rajan Sawhney (Calgary-North East),  Rebecca Schulz (Calgary-Shaw), Leela Aheer (Chestermere-Strathmore), Brian Jean (Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche) and Todd Loewen (Central Peace-Notley).

Smith has been the presumed front-runner after her proposed sovereignty act gained attention and attracted controversy over the summer.

The act would set out how Alberta intends to ignore federal laws the provincial government decides are not in its best interest. It has given Smith a boost with UCP members who believe Ottawa treats Alberta unfairly within Confederation.

However, constitutional experts say the bill wouldn't survive a court challenge. Smith's proposal has been denounced by all but one candidate in the leadership race.

Smith said Monday she wants to be in the legislature to introduce the Alberta Sovereignty Act, one of the key planks of her leadership platform.

She wants to work with the UCP caucus on the language in the act "so that everybody is comfortable with it," she said.

A Smith cabinet would include several of the leadership candidates. Smith said many current ministers  are doing a great job and would likely continue to sit at the cabinet table.

Smith praised Health Minister Jason Copping for his work getting a new agreement with the Alberta Medical Association, which settles a long-festering dispute with physicians.

In addition to passing the sovereignty legislation, Smith has several other priorities leading up to the general election, if she becomes premier.

They include testing students to see if they are lagging due to pandemic school shutdowns, working out the details of her $300 health spending account, launching a 30-day review of Alberta Health Services and changing the Alberta Human Rights Act to prohibit discrimination based on vaccination status.