Lethbridge’s MLAs, mayor and others react to Danielle Smith’s UCP leadership win

Click to play video: 'Lethbridge officials react to Danielle Smith’s UCP leadership win'
Lethbridge officials react to Danielle Smith’s UCP leadership win
WATCH ABOVE: On Thursday, close to 85,000 United Conservative Party members voted in the UCP leadership race and Danielle Smith was elected as the new leader. Eloise Therien hears from those with ties to the Lethbridge political landscape about what the win could mean for the southern Alberta city. – Oct 7, 2022

Following a fairly close vote between top candidates Danielle Smith and Travis Toews on Thursday night, the former has been chosen as the new leader of the United Conservative Party of Alberta.

Jason Kenney announced he would be stepping down from the role in May, prompting the search for the province’s next premier.

Out of seven total candidates vying for the top spot, Smith earned the majority of votes on the sixth ballot with 53.8 per cent.

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More details on Smith’s campaign, the vote, and what happens next can be found by clicking here.

Potential leverage for Lethbridge

Nathan Neudorf, the member of legislative assembly for Lethbridge-East and the UCP caucus chair, told Global News on Friday that he is feeling both “excited and relieved” now that the process is over.

“Leadership elections are challenges times,” Neudorf admitted. “It’s very competitive and sometimes combative in nature, and I think we saw those elements.

Neudorf, who was elected to his role during the the 2019 general election, had endorsed Smith for premier.

Geoffrey Hale, a retired professor of political science at the University of Lethbridge, said as Smith chooses her cabinet in the coming weeks, she will likely have her eye on Neudorf.

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Click to play video: 'What does Danielle Smith’s UCP leadership win mean for Alberta, future of party?'
What does Danielle Smith’s UCP leadership win mean for Alberta, future of party?

“Danielle Smith appeals to a more Reform (Party)-oriented or Canadian Alliance or federal Conservative-oriented electorate,” Hale said.

“I think this was a significant part of (Nathan Neudorf’s) decision to endorse her, and I would expect to see him in a Smith cabinet.”

Having Lethbridge represented through a seat at the table is something Neudorf sees as geographically and economically appropriate.

He said he feels the Smith government can help strengthen Lethbridge’s voice in Alberta.

“I do hope I fill that need for Danielle Smith, but more importantly for Lethbridge,” the MLA said.

“I’ve always believed that Lethbridge deserves a cabinet position. The third-largest city in the province, the food and agricultural hub of the province, we have a lot to offer (and) we have a very different perspective.”

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Reacting to Smith's win, plans going forward

When it comes to how Smith will be received in the city overall, Hale said many public-sector employees have felt “beaten up” over the the provincial government’s fiscal constraints and pandemic actions under Kenney.

“The reality is that the demands of public administration are not likely to result in a major change of focus of the Smith government towards those people,” Hale said.

“It’ll be interesting to see how premier(-designate) Smith tries to broaden her appeal, as she certainly tried to do last night, in speaking to a wider audience than she was speaking to during the leadership campaign.”

Lethbridge-West MLA Shannon Phillips criticized Smith for being “beholden to a very narrow set of interests.”

Click to play video: 'Notley says UCP leader out of touch with Alberta concerns'
Notley says UCP leader out of touch with Alberta concerns

“What I think people in Lethbridge can expect is more chaos in health care, more chaos in general,” Phillips said.

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“We didn’t hear last night constructive solutions in making our economy resilient, on making affordability a priority.”

In a statement released Friday morning, Lethbridge’s mayor addressed both the outgoing premier and premier-designate Smith.

“I’d firstly like to thank Premier Kenney for his dedication to the people of Alberta and for his leadership over what has been an unprecedented term in office,” Blaine Hyggen said.

“I extend my congratulations to premier-designate Danielle Smith on her victory in the leadership race. We look forward to working with her and her team in continuing to find opportunities to advocate for the residents of Lethbridge.”

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-With files from Adam Toy, Global News and The Canadian Press

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