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Danielle Smith files UCP nomination package with a focus on Alberta autonomy

UCP leadership hopeful Danielle Smith speaking to supporters at an Edmonton rally on Monday, July 4, 2022. CREDIT: Twitter.com/ABDanielleSmith

United Conservative Party leadership hopeful Danielle Smith says her campaign has officially filed its nomination papers and paid the $175,000 in fees required to the party.

The nomination package included 4,800 signatures from Albertans — nearly five times the number required to enter. The party still has to go through the package and interview Smith before she’s officially named as a candidate.

“I think I’ve just tapped into something that has been floating around the last couple of years,” Smith told Global News ahead of filing the paperwork.

“People feel like they really need their government to listen, to hear them and to act on their concerns.”

READ MORE: Alberta UCP leadership candidate Danielle Smith promises immediate sovereignty act

If elected as the new leader of the UCP, Smith has promised to take steps to assert Alberta’s autonomy in confederation, including introducing legislation she says will authorize the provincial government to refuse to enforce federal laws deemed harmful to Alberta’s interests.

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“When you start acting like a senior partner in confederation, I think you start getting treated as a senior partner in confederation,” Smith said, “So those are the things we’ve got to do if we want to change the relationship with the rest of the country.”

Currently, the only approved candidate in the race is former finance minister Travis Toews, who is also committing to carrying forward with the UCP government’s so-called fair deal agenda.

READ MORE: Travis Toews steps down as finance minister, throws hat into UCP leadership race

Late Monday, his campaign announced a series of commitments, including continued discussions with Albertans about a provincial police force, laying the groundwork for an opt-in Alberta Pension Plan and shifting tax powers away from Ottawa to the provinces.

“We must strengthen Alberta’s place in Canada and win meaningful reforms,” Toews said in the release.

“Threats and sternly worded letters aren’t enough, and radical actions that create chaos will only set us back.”

New polling by political scientists Lisa Young and Jared Wesley done through the University of Alberta’s Common Ground initiative has found that while these types of ideas are popular with conservatives, they don’t hold broader public support in the province.

The poll of 877 Albertans looked at feelings about confederation. Those holding views in line with separation made up 19 per cent of the sample, Albertans supportive of more autonomous policies made up another 17 per cent. These two groups both identified their political leanings as right of centre, with the separatist’s furthest right on the spectrum.

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Read more: Former Alberta Liberal Leader Raj Sherman registers to join UCP leadership race

Albertans with federalist views made up the remaining 64 per cent and largely positioned themselves at the centre of the political spectrum.

“Those voices who want to reconsider Alberta’s place in confederation have a lot of opportunities to get that message across and try to influence what the governing party’s stance on this is going to be,” said Lisa Young, a political scientist with the University of Calgary.

“While this group is critically important, I think, to winning the UCP leadership, it raises all kinds of questions about what the party would do when it comes to governing all of Alberta.”

Along with Smith and Toews, seven other people are campaigning for the UCP leadership. They include former Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean, former UCP cabinet ministers Rajan Sawhney, Rebecca Schulz and Leela Aheer, independent MLA Todd Loewen — who was kicked out of the UCP caucus in May 2021 after calling on Premier Jason Kenney to resign — former Liberal Party leader Raj Sherman and ATB Financial executive Jon Horsman. Amisk Mayor Bill Rock pulled out of the race citing an inability to raise sufficient funds to pay the entry fee.

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