United Conservative Party voters have had their say, and they said Danielle Smith should be their next leader.
Smith, a long-time politician and TV radio host was considered one of the front runners from the start of the four-month race.
Smith won on the sixth ballot. Candidates were required to secure at least 50 per cent, plus one vote, on a ranked ballot system. The last place vote-getter is removed from the list and their ranks added to the next round.
Smith was one of seven candidates. That list included Leela Aheer, Brian Jean, Todd Loewen, Rajan Sawhney, Rebecca Schulz and Travis Toews, along with Smith.
Nearly 124,000 people had purchased or renewed their UCP memberships by the Aug. 12 deadline.
Before the announcement, party brass rallied UCP supporters in attendance at the BMO Centre in Calgary.
UCP President Cynthia Moore said they’ve now got 250 days until the next Alberta provincial election. Choosing the next leader of the party is a milestone.
“To all of our leadership candidates here tonight, the message from our party members is simple. We’re behind you,” she said.
“We are united, and we’ll do whatever you need to win the next election and keep Alberta on the right track.”
Smith ran an anti-Ottawa campaign, with the proposed Sovereignty Act soaking up much of the attention. She also dove into health care, with health spending accounts for Albertans and a 30-day review of Alberta Health Services.
She also wants to see broad-based testing of Alberta students to see where they’re at post-pandemic.
Smith to Alberta: 'I'm back'
Danielle Smith addressed supporters and Albertans after being announced the winner of the UCP leadership on Thursday evening.
"My fellow Albertans, over the last 117 years we have written a remarkable story together. The story of pioneers and farmers, entrepreneurs and innovators, communities and families," she said.
"A place where the best and brightest come from every corner of this world to join with us in building one of the greatest places on earth, to live to work and to raise our families."
Smith said this is a new chapter in Alberta's history. She said it's a time to take Alberta's place as a senior leader in a strong and unified Canada.
"We will no longer will have to ask permission from Ottawa to be prosperous and we will not have our voices silenced and censored," Smith said.
Smith thanked many, including her husband David. She quipped that when he was asked if his wife was going back into politics, he would say "she's welcome to get back into politics with her new husband."
She also gave a special thanks to Brian Jean, who was the third place candidate.
"On a personal note, I want to thank Brian for showing leadership after I made a mistake in judgment in 2014," Smith said.
"This party will always owe you a debt of gratitude as one of the founders of this United Conservative Party."
Wiping the slate clean, said Smith
Smith said party unity isn't just a talking point. She said it's an action.
"Now is not the time for settling old scores or rivalries. It's not the time to punish our fellow conservatives for past mistakes," she said.
"This is why as Premier and leader of this party I am wiping the slate clean."
Smith said they would need to take aim at the NDP-Liberal coalition in Ottawa in order to deal with the issues that are most important to Albertans.
She said there's an affordability crisis caused by the fiscally destructive policies in Ottawa - particularly new spending.
"The result is crippling inflation that is hurting a sizable majority of Albertans," she said.
Near the end of her speech, Smith shifted to what needs to happen at home in Alberta.
She said they can't just be the party of balancing budgets, debt reduction and lower taxes.
"We also need to show Albertans that we can be trusted to compassionately care for our vulnerable, and our seniors, especially in this time of crippling inflation," Smith said.
"That also means repairing our relationship with nurses and doctors; it means replacing managers with frontline staff."
She said starting Friday she would meet with MLAs to start charting the course forward.
"We will discuss unity and how to best meet the massive responsibility in front of us," Smith said.