CALGARY – Danielle Smith is in a tough race to win the PC nomination for Calgary’s Highwood riding after crossing the floor from the Wildrose Party. Several senior cabinet ministers campaigned on Smith’s behalf over the weekend in High River, fuelling speculation she’ll be appointed by Premier Jim Prentice.
Labour Minister Ric McIver was one senior Tory championing Smith, while Education Minister Gordon Dirks said he was glad she joined the caucus.
“I am hopeful for her that she will continue to be able to serve Albertans with her skills and expertise,” said Dirks. “She’s certainly a great MLA in her riding.”
Many people in the Highwood riding supported Smith before she crossed over to the Tories, but it’s unclear whether their support will carry over after what some saw as a betrayal.
The PC nomination for Highwood is Saturday, March 28—the same day the Wildrose Party names a new leader to replace Smith.
Some Tory sources have told Global News Smith could be appointed by Prentice to avoid a messy and embarrassing nomination battle.
Danielle Smith said she does not expect to be appointed.
Her competition for the nomination, Okotoks councillor Carrie Fischer, is also hoping that won’t happen.
“I am hoping for a free and open nomination vote, not an appointment,” said Fischer. “We have dozens of volunteers, donors and members who want a choice in who represents them.”
Former Calgary Police Chief Rick Hanson was appointed the PC candidate in Calgary-Cross on Saturday, and some analysts say Smith could be next.
“If their reading of the situation is, ‘Danielle, we don’t think she can win,’ then what do you do?” said Duane Bratt, political science professor at Mount Royal University.
On Monday night, the Highwood Progressive Conservative announced both Fischer and Smith were declared nomination candidates in the riding.