UCP members side with Danielle Smith ahead of leadership vote registration deadline

Seven candidates rushed Friday to sign last-minute memberships in the United Conservative Party of Alberta leadership race, while political observers say that without precise data on which candidate has a head start, follow the feet.

Danielle Smith, who started out with a handful of Conservative caucus and cabinet supporters united, has seen more internal support in recent days, including some who initially pledged to support rival Travis Toews.

« Sometimes when you see people start to switch allegiance, it kind of gives you an idea of ​​where the momentum is going, » political scientist Lori Williams of Mount Royal University said in a statement on Friday. interview.

« These are those people who want to be in cabinet or in a position where they can work with the new prime minister. They think things are moving in that direction and they are moving with them. »

Labor Minister Kaycee Madu was the latest convert, announcing his support for Smith at a rally in Edmonton on Thursday.

Earlier Thursday, former cabinet minister Devin Dreeshen said he would support Smith. Earlier in the week, Service Alberta Minister Nate Glubish shifted his support from Toews to Smith.

Prior to that, Toews supporter Pat Rehn shifted his support to Smith, joining fellow backbenchers Devinder Toor, Peter Guthrie and Nathan Neudorf.

Toews, who quit as finance minister to run for the contest, still has the lion’s share of support, with about two dozen cabinet and caucus members openly in his camp.

Political scientist Duane Bratt said that even so, by all measures, from the size of the crowds to the polls to the fact that Smith is at the center of attacks from her opponents, she is clearly the one to beat as party members. voting next month, with the results to be announced in October. 6.

« She draws the biggest crowds, we have [MLA] mentions that come to her now because they see her as the favorite,” said Bratt, also of Mount Royal University.

“All the other candidates respond to him in one way or another [and] some adopt the same policies.

« I wonder after midnight, [when membership sales end] whether there is some soul-searching among the other candidates and whether or not they give up. »

The party says hand-delivered memberships were due for delivery by 5 p.m. Friday, with online memberships cut off at midnight. These will be the only memberships allowed to vote in the race.

The final membership count is not expected from the party for about two weeks.

Smith, a former leader of the Wildrose party, grabbed headlines early in the contest with her proposed Alberta sovereignty bill. The law, as introduced by Smith, would seek to give Alberta the right to ignore federal laws and court decisions deemed contrary to its interests.

Lawyers and most of the other contenders in the race called it an outrageously inflammatory, bizarre and illegal scheme that would create a domino effect of economic uncertainty and investment bordering on chaos.

But Bratt noted that the other two main contenders excoriated Smith’s plan while adopting versions of it.

Toews promised his government would seek to impose tariffs on goods and services or imports from specific regions to counter rules and policies deemed unfair to Alberta. Brian Jean pledged to affirm that the Alberta Bill of Rights takes precedence over Section 1 of the Constitution.

« It’s an attempt at the Sovereignty Act under a different name, » Bratt said.

Candidates Rajan Sawhney and Rebecca Schulz have also criticized Smith’s Sovereignty Act, but have adopted more combative federal relations policies in recent days.

Schulz has promised a summit on protecting provincial rights within two months of his victory, while Sawhney pledges to pursue stand-alone initiatives such as a provincial pension plan and a police force.

Both Bratt and Williams said Smith had done a better job capturing and tapping into the simmering anger within the party base when it came to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the federal government.

And they note that Alberta’s 4.5 million people could, on October 6, be propelled in a new direction dictated by about 40,000 UCP voters.

« To me, it seems like only the really spirited, diehard, committed, largely angry people are driving the narrative right now, » Williams said.

« They’re angry and they want to see change not just at the provincial level but at the federal level, and they want someone who’s going to fight. »


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