Danielle Smith returns to politics with sights on UCP leadership

Danielle Smith, former leader of the Wildrose party, has confirmed to CBC News that she will be running for the United Conservative Party nomination in the riding of Livingstone-Macleod.

She also confirmed that she could run for the leadership of the UCP.

Premier Jason Kenney’s sway over the party will be determined next month in a leadership review by mail-in ballot.

Smith is expected to make an official announcement tomorrow morning.

The former official opposition leader quit the Wildrose party in 2014 when she crossed the floor to join Jim Prentice’s ruling Progressive Conservatives. She brought with her eight members of the Wildrose Party.

At the time, she defended her decision, saying ‘for me it’s declaring victory and uniting the Conservatives under one person so that we can face some very important challenges ahead’.

Duane Bratt, a political scientist at Mount Royal University, said he was surprised by published comments of Smith saying she was running now because she was upset that the party had changed the leadership review vote to a vote by mail and canceled its April 9 general meeting.

“There seemed to be a suggestion that Kenney was betraying the base of the party,” he said.

“For her to criticize Jason Kenney for not listening to the base is the height of hypocrisy.”

In 2015, Smith quit politics after losing his bid for the Progressive Conservative nomination in his constituency of Highwood to Carrie Fischer, who was serving on Okotoks City Council.

That same night, Brian Jean was elected as the new leader of the Wildrose party.

Now, years later, both have expressed interest in becoming the leader of the UCP.

“To see two ex-Wildrose leaders running against Kenney, you know, highlights even more the big divide that exists between those traditional PC voters and traditional Wildrose voters,” political commentator and pollster Janet Brown said on CBC Calgary News at 6.

Since her political break, the former journalist has hosted a daily talk show on Corus Radio, which she left in January, and has written several columns.

Smith is currently president of the Alberta Enterprise Group.