Premier Danielle Smith resurrected the United Conservative Party after former UCP Premier Jason Kenney left it with just 30% support from Albertans.
After Kenney just barely passed a leadership review last year in May, he said he would step down once a new leader was chosen.
At the time of his leadership review, Kenney’s approval rating had fallen to below 30%, with one poll showing Rachel Notley’s NDP was 12 percentage points ahead of the UCP in terms of province-wide support.
Kenney stepped down in November 2022 once Smith won her nomination for leadership and assumed the position of premier.
Kenney’s support started strong after he captured 63 seats in 2019 to form a majority UCP government, which followed four years of a Rachel Notley-led NDP government. But Kenney’s handling of the COVID pandemic, particularly his reneging on a promise not to implement vaccine passports, ultimately led to his demise from within his own party.
What went wrong with Kenney?
Kenney was pro-lockdown and pro-vaccine passport for a long enough period of time to irk freedom-loving, conservative Albertans.
Smith, meanwhile, supported unvaccinated individuals and once even said they were the most discriminated against group she’s ever seen in her lifetime.
The leadership review in May 2022 showed Kenney had just 51.4% support from UCP members, which was lackluster enough for him to step down. Although he technically didn’t have to, Kenney read the tea leaves.
Smith took the divided party and in just seven months re-won a majority government for Alberta.
During the election campaign, Smith faced a barrage of attacks from the NDP as well as the mainstream media. The NDP continually told Albertans Smith was going to “give away your pensions,” something Smith promised she wouldn’t do.
Smith also fended off constant false attacks from the CBC.
The CBC even attacked Smith by alleging her office meddled with Crown prosecutors over non-violent border blockade-related charges that Smith was sympathetic to. Later, the CBC admitted it didn’t actually verify the damning claims that they printed.
In other words, the network relied on an anonymous source to run with its article, without verifying the claims, and that issue became the mainstream media’s focus for the two months leading up to the election.
An Ethics Commissioner subsequently cleared Smith of wrongdoing in relation to allegations she interfered with the Crown Prosecutor Service.
Smith may not have won as many seats as Kenney did in 2019, but she sure cleaned up the mess that he left.