Danielle Smith will continue as premier of Alberta after a United Conservative Party win in the provincial election.
Global News is projecting a majority government with 49 seats going to the UCP and the NDP opposition securing 38 seats.
Speaking to party faithful in Calgary, Smith borrowed a phrase from former premier Ralph Klein: “Welcome to another ‘miracle on the Prairies.’”
She said the campaign was “the very definition of a hard-fought election.”
“Many folks wrote us off … Despite it all, today Albertans chose to move our province forward by re-electing a strong, stable, United Conservative majority government.”
Smith thanked the people of Brooks-Medicine Hat for re-electing her, and urged party faithful to put partisanship aside and unite as Albertans, “no matter who we voted for.”
Smith was first elected MLA for Brooks-Medicine Hat in the November 2022 byelection.
Smith has been leader of the UCP since succeeding Jason Kenney in October 2022.
The United Conservatives ran on a campaign of public safety and affordability measures like a new tax bracket and extending the existing fuel tax savings.
The UCP leader noted she took a concession call from NDP Leader Rachel Notley before delivering her victory speech.
“We all know about our differences of opinion, but I believe that Rachel Notley is a loyal Albertan who loves this province as much as I or anyone else I know, and she is deserving of respect and kindness and gratitude for the thousands of hours she has sacrificed to serve our democracy,” Smith said.
Both the UCP and its opponent Alberta NDP tried to position themselves as the more trustworthy party.
Bill 1 for a second UCP term, dubbed the “Taxpayer Protection Act,” would ensure no provincial government can increase personal or business taxes without a referendum.
Monday evening, Smith repeated her pledge to oppose policies from the nation’s capital the premier said “would significantly harm our provincial economy.”
“We have been made aware that in the coming weeks, Justin Trudeau is planning on bringing forward new restrictions on electricity generation from natural gas,” Smith said.
She also said the prime minister is ready to introduce emissions limits on the oil and gas sector that were “de facto production caps.”
Her seven months as UCP leader aren’t the only experience Smith has had at the head of an Alberta political party. She was elected leader of the Wildrose Party in October 2009 and became leader of the Official Opposition in the 2012 provincial election.
Two years later, Smith, then-deputy leader Rob Anderson, and seven other Wildrose MLAs, crossed the floor to join the Progressive Conservatives.
After not getting the 2015 PC nomination in Highwood, Smith went on to host a talk show on Corus Radio, from which she resigned in February 2021.
Smith would briefly be president of the Alberta Enterprise Group before announcing her bid to be UCP leader in May 2022.
Smith came under fire during the election for her past comments about health care, pandemic policy, and substance abuse treatment. The ethics commissioner found she violated conflict of interest law relating to conversations with Artur Pawlowski, who was later found guilty of mischief for his actions during the Coutts border blockade.
The UCP formed government under Kenney’s leadership in 2019, with 63 candidates elected as MLAs. The Alberta NDP sat as Official Opposition with 24 MLAs.
Notley told NDP supporters in Edmonton she’s shouldering the responsibility for the loss.
“On one hand, I feel tremendous gratitude and pride in the people of Alberta and those who stood up and put their support behind building a better future,” she said Monday evening.
“Where we fell short, the responsibility rests entirely with me,” Notley said, met by gasps. “That’s fine. That’s the joys of being the leader.
“It’s part of responsibility and accountability.”
She said the NDP is forming the largest Official Opposition in the party’s history, breaking a previous record set in 2019. She also said the NDP collected the largest proportion of popular vote in its history.
Notley did not say she was stepping down as party leader.
“It is my honour to serve as your leader, and it is my privilege to continue to serve as leader of the Official Opposition.”