|19th Premier of Alberta|
|Assumed office |
October 11, 2022
|Lieutenant Governor||Salma Lakhani|
|Preceded by||Jason Kenney|
|Leader of the United Conservative Party|
|Assumed office |
October 6, 2022
|Preceded by||Jason Kenney|
|Leader of the Opposition in Alberta|
April 24, 2012 – December 17, 2014
|Preceded by||Raj Sherman|
|Succeeded by||Heather Forsyth|
|Leader of the Wildrose Party|
October 17, 2009 – December 17, 2014
|Preceded by||Paul Hinman|
|Succeeded by||Heather Forsyth (interim)|
Marlaina Danielle Smith
April 1, 1971
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
|Political party||United Conservative (since 2017)|
|Progressive Conservative (1998–2009; 2014–2017)|
|Residence(s)||High River, Alberta, Canada|
|Alma mater||University of Calgary|
Smith attended the University of Calgary and earned degrees in English and economics. After briefly serving as a trustee for the Calgary Board of Education, she worked as a journalist in print, radio and television, during which she shared opinions on politics and healthcare. During this time she also worked as the director of provincial affairs for Alberta with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. She entered provincial politics in 2009, becoming the leader of the Wildrose Party. Smith contributed to the growth of the party; the party formed the Official Opposition after the 2012 election. Smith won a seat in the Legislative Assembly for Highwood in that election, and served as leader of the Opposition until 2014, when she resigned to join the governing Progressive Conservatives (PCs). Smith was defeated in her bid for the PC nomination in Highwood for the 2015 election.
Between 2015 and 2022, Smith worked in talk radio and served as the president of the Alberta Enterprise Group. Upon Premier Jason Kenney's resignation announcement on May 18, 2022, Smith announced her campaign in the United Conservative Party leadership election. Smith's campaign gained national attention, particularly due to her proposals to extend Albertan autonomy. On October 6, Smith won the leadership on the sixth count. She was sworn in as premier on October 11 and became MLA for Brooks-Medicine Hat on November 8, 2022. She led the UCP to re-election as a majority government in the 2023 general election.
Marlaina Danielle Smith was born in Calgary on April 1, 1971, and is the second of five children. Her father Doug Smith, is an oilfield consultant and previously a board member for the Wildrose Party. She is named after the song Marlena by The Four Seasons.
Smith described her parents as "reliably conservative" in an interview with the National Post. When Smith was a grade 8 student, she said she came home praising a teacher who spoke positively about communism. Smith said she had family in Ukraine, which was part of the Soviet Union at the time, and her father argued otherwise. "Then he realized we needed to talk a lot more around the dinner table," Smith told The Canadian Press in 2014.
She is also a past member of the Girl Guides of Canada and was featured in a 2013 museum exhibit about prominent Girl Guides at the Red Deer Museum and Art Gallery. She is an admirer of Ayn Rand, John Locke and Margaret Thatcher. She is a fan of the young-adult fantasy novel Eragon by Christopher Paolini, and once considered becoming a novelist in the science fiction and fantasy genres.
Smith attended the University of Calgary and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English in 1993 and economics in 1995. The university had a strong culture of conservative and progressive political activism and debate when Smith was a student. Her fellow classmates included Ezra Levant; Rob Anders; Naheed Nenshi; and Kevin Bosch, who became an adviser to prime ministers Paul Martin and Justin Trudeau. One of her classes was taught by former Alberta premier Peter Lougheed. The same class had Ian Brodie, who became chief of staff for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, as a teachers' aide. It was at the University of Calgary where she met Tom Flanagan, a conservative political activist and advisor, who was one of her professors while Smith studied economics. Flanagan became a mentor for Smith. In 1996, Flanagan recommended Smith for a one-year public policy internship with the Fraser Institute. He become her campaign manager during the 2012 Alberta general election. She was active in the campus Progressive Conservatives and was eventually elected president of the club. She also became involved in political campaigning and met her first husband, Sean McKinsley.
Early political and media career
Calgary Board of Education
In 1998, Smith entered politics when she ran for the board of trustees of the Calgary Board of Education. She won, but less than a year later, the chairwoman complained that the board had become dysfunctional. In response, the provincial Minister of Learning, Lyle Oberg, dismissed the entire board after 11 months into their term.
Years later, Smith said she had been far too strident during her tenure as a board trustee and said the experience taught her to be more tolerant of those with whom she disagreed. Subsequently, Smith pursued work as an advocate for ranchers, farmers and other rural landowners with the Alberta Property Rights Initiative and the Canadian Property Rights Research Institute.
Career as Calgary Herald columnist and talk radio host
After her time as a school board trustee Smith joined the Calgary Herald as a columnist with the editorial board. During the 1999–2000 writers' strike at the Herald, she crossed the picket line as a scab writer for the paper, at that time owned by Conrad Black. Her columns included coverage of city hall and health reform, but also ventured into other topics. In 2003, she wrote a column supporting the legalization of sex work and proposed the creation of a red-light district in Calgary. That same year, she also wrote an article titled "Anti-smoking lobby does more harm than good", in which she stated that smoking cigarettes can "reduce the risk of disease".
She then went on to succeed Charles Adler as host of the national current affairs program Global Sunday, a Sunday-afternoon interview show on Global Television. She also hosted two talk radio programs focused on health policy and property rights.
In 2004, Smith was named one of Calgary's "Top 40 Under 40".
In September 2006, she co-hosted the Calgary Congress, a national assembly of citizens and economic and constitutional specialists to consider basic federal reforms for Canada.
Smith was hired by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business in 2006, becoming a provincial director for Alberta.
Early political views
Smith supported Ted Morton in the 2006 PC leadership election. Morton lost to Ed Stelmach, and Smith became increasingly disillusioned with what she said were Stelmach's "free-spending ways". Smith cited the 2008 provincial budget as a turning point where she determined that Stelmach's government had 'lost its way'.
Early provincial political career (2009–2015)
Smith quit the PC party in 2009 and joined the Wildrose Alliance. The Tories sent MLA Rob Anderson, one of the more fiscally conservative members of their caucus, to talk Smith out of it. Years later, Smith recalled that Anderson told her that despite the Tories' reckless spending and unwillingness to listen to the backbench, they were the only credible centre-right party in the province. Smith refused to stay, saying that there was no hope of restoring Alberta to fiscal sanity under the Tories, and that the Wildrose was the only credible chance at electing a fiscally conservative government. As far as she was concerned, she told Anderson, "This (Tory) government is beyond redemption. It's out of control."
Later that year, Smith was recruited by Wildrose officials to run for the leadership of the party. During the course of the leadership campaign outgoing leader Paul Hinman won in a by-election in the riding of Calgary-Glenmore. His win meant he was one of four in the Wildrose caucus; by the time Smith was elected leader on October 17, 2009, support for the party had quadrupled since the 2008 election. After Smith was elected leader, support for the Wildrose Party continued to grow. Smith convinced three PCs who served in government to cross the floor to join the Wildrose Party: Rob Anderson and Heather Forsyth, and later Guy Boutiller.
For most of the time before the 2012 provincial election, it appeared that Smith was poised to become the first woman to lead a party to victory in an Alberta election. Numerous polls indicated that the Wildrose Party could defeat the governing Progressive Conservatives, who were also led by a woman, Premier Alison Redford. The PCs had governed the province since 1971, the second-longest unbroken run in government at the provincial level.
The Wildrose Party won 17 seats on 34.3% of the popular vote, and took over Official Opposition status from the Alberta Liberal Party. Smith was elected to the Legislature from Highwood, just south of Calgary, on the same day, defeating John Barlow, editor of the Okotoks Western Wheel.
Political pundits suggested Wildrose lost their early polling lead over the Progressive Conservatives due to Smith's defence of two Wildrose candidates who had made controversial remarks. Allan Hunsperger, running in an Edmonton riding, had written a blog post claiming that gays would end up in a "lake of fire" if they did not renounce their lifestyle. Ron Leech had claimed he would have a leg up on the competition in his Calgary riding because he was white. According to the National Post, Hunsperger and Leech's extreme views, as well as Smith's refusal to condemn them, cost her a chance of unseating Redford. Ultimately, Wildrose was denied victory mainly because it was unable to get any foothold in the urban areas. It won only two seats in Calgary and was completely shut out in Edmonton.
In appraising the election results at the Wildrose 2012 annual general meeting, Smith advocated freezing out candidates who cannot respectfully communicate their views in future elections. Smith asked members to adopt a forward-looking policy platform for the next election.
Rejoining the Progressive Conservative Party
After Redford left politics in the spring of 2014 due to allegations of corruption, Smith's Wildrose party was initially the major beneficiary. However, this momentum stalled when former federal cabinet minister Jim Prentice became PC leader and premier. Under Prentice, the PCs swept four by-elections in October. Smith was dealt a second blow at the Wildrose annual general meeting, when an anti-discrimination resolution that she strongly supported was voted down while she was out of the room.
On December 17, 2014, Smith announced that she, deputy leader Rob Anderson, and seven other Wildrose MLAs were crossing the floor to join the PCs. Smith had criticized two other Wildrose MLAs for defecting to the PCs a month earlier; she had publicly stated that "there'll be no more floor crossings." It was later revealed, however, that Smith and Prentice had been in talks about a possible merger for several months. Smith said that several conversations with Prentice revealed that they shared much common ground, particularly on fiscal issues. Ultimately, she concluded that it made little sense for her to continue in opposition. "If you're going to be the official Opposition leader," she said, "you have to really want to take down the government and really take down the premier. I don't want to take down this premier. I want this premier to succeed." Several weeks after Smith joined the Progressive Conservatives, in a Facebook post, she apologized for the anger caused by her move and for not consulting with Albertans before making the decision. At the same time, she stood by her decision to "unify conservatives" in the province, and indicated that she intended to seek the Progressive Conservative nomination in Highwood for the next election.
Smith was defeated in her bid for the PC nomination in Highwood by Okotoks Councillor Carrie Fischer on March 28, 2015. Smith's defeat was attributed to her floor-crossing which angered many in her riding. Fischer then lost to Wildrose candidate Wayne Anderson in the general election.
Out of politics (2015–2022)
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (May 2023)
In the intervening period, Smith went on to host a talk radio program on CHQR in Calgary. On January 11, 2021, she announced that she was leaving her talk show and Twitter, citing attacks from Twitter trolls, effective February 19, 2021.
After she became premier, it was revealed that she made comments on April 29 during a Locals.com livestream about Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Smith argued for a peace plan between Russia and Ukraine and advocated for Ukraine's neutrality. She also made subsequently deleted posts in March that questioned whether breakaway regions in Ukraine should be able to govern independently, and whether NATO played a role in the invasion, citing a conspiracy theory promoted by Tucker Carlson alleging 'secret U.S. funded biolabs' in Ukraine. On October, 16, she issued a statement saying that she "stands with the Ukrainian people" and advocated for diplomacy to "spare millions of Ukrainian lives." Smith also made posts on Locals.com critical of COVID-19 vaccines and questioned the legitimacy of reports that unmarked graves had been found in Canadian residential schools.
In a social media interview on November 10, 2021, Smith said that she was not wearing a Remembrance Day poppy because politicians and public health officials had "ruined it for her" by taking away Canadians' freedoms through public health measures during the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada, and that citizens that had gone along with public health measures and been vaccinated had fallen for the "charms of a tyrant" in the same way that Germans had fallen for Adolf Hitler. She elaborated, "That's the test here, is we've seen it. We have 75 per cent of the public who say not only hit me, but hit me harder, and keep me away from those dirty unvaxxed." When the interview resurfaced in 2023, Smith apologized, writing "As everyone knows, I was against the use of vaccine mandates during COVID. ... However, the horrors of the Holocaust are without precedent, and no one should make any modern-day comparisons that minimize the experience of the Holocaust and suffering under Hitler, nor the sacrifice of our veterans."
During her campaign for the UCP leadership, Smith conducted an interview with a Naturopathic physician during which they discussed lifestyle for the prevention of cancer and how Smith's health savings account proposal could help with that. She said "When you think about everything that built up before you got to stage 4 [of cancer] and that diagnosis — that's completely within your control and there's something you can do about that that is different." NDP leader Rachel Notley and Smith's fellow candidates including Brian Jean criticized this comment, with Jean (who lost a son to cancer) Tweeting "You [Smith] saying to someone that their cancer is 'completely within your control' before stage four is insensitive, hurtful, and outright untrue. Please stop."
Career as a lobbyist
In June 2019, Smith registered as a lobbyist for the Alberta Enterprise Group, an association where Smith was also the president. At that time Smith lobbied the provincial government on behalf of industry for the RStar program.
Premier of Alberta (2022–present)
UCP Leadership race
On May 18, 2022, Smith announced that she was launching a campaign to seek the leadership of the United Conservative Party of Alberta, after the resignation of sitting premier and UCP leader Jason Kenney. Smith was perceived to be the frontrunner among party members in the race to replace Kenney according to internal polling released to the Calgary Sun.
Smith's central policy was to enact what she called the Alberta Sovereignty Act if she became premier. The proposal argued for more autonomy for Alberta in Confederation and called on the provincial legislature to make determinations on when to ignore federal legislation infringing upon Alberta's jurisdiction. Six of Smith's opponents in the leadership race criticized the act. Jason Kenney described it as a "full-frontal attack on the rule of law", as well as a step towards separation and a "banana republic".
On October 6, Smith won the UCP leadership vote with 53.77% of the vote on the sixth count—the contest was conducted using instant-runoff voting—to become the premier-designate. She was sworn in as the 19th premier and minister of Intergovernmental Relations on October 11. Preceded by Herbert Greenfield and William Aberhart in this regard, she was the just the last in a series of persons who have ascended to the premier's position without holding a seat in the legislature.
Smith's campaign ran a deficit of $26,792 after spending $1,389,829 on her successful campaign.
After being sworn in as premier, Smith said that she would not impose any further measures to control the COVID-19 pandemic in Alberta. She also said that people who are unvaccinated should be protected under the Alberta Human Rights Act; alluding to COVID-19 vaccine mandates, she said that they have been "the most discriminated against group that I've ever witnessed in my lifetime", had "faced the most restrictions on their freedoms in the last year", and that "we are not going to create a segregated society on the basis of a medical choice". The remarks faced criticism for alleged trivialization of discrimination faced by minority groups, for which Smith did not apologize.
On October 24, Smith pulled Alberta from the World Economic Forum Global Coalition for Value in Healthcare, saying that she would not "work with a group that talks about controlling governments." "I find it distasteful when billionaires brag about how much control they have over political leaders," she said.
As Smith was not a member of the Legislative Assembly when she became premier, she ran in a by-election for the southern Alberta seat of Brooks-Medicine Hat on November 8, 2022. The incumbent, fellow UCP MLA Michaela Frey, resigned soon after Smith was elected leader and premier, and had encouraged Smith to run. Longstanding convention in Westminster systems when the leader of the governing party is not a member of the legislature to either hold a general election or a by-election, often caused by a sitting member in a safe seat resigning in order to allow the newly elected leader a chance to enter the legislature. Smith won the by-election, with 54.5% of the vote.
In late-November 2022, Smith backpedaled on her plan to introduce a bill that would add unvaccinated individuals as a protected class under the Alberta Human Rights Act. However, Smith continued to promote an intent for herself and her ministers to contact businesses and organizations that were still "discriminating" via COVID-19 vaccine mandates and ask them to "reconsider their vaccination policy in the light of new evidence". She stated that "most employers have made the responsible decision to not discriminate against their workers", and for people to inform their MLAs "If there is still discrimination". In December 2022 the legislature passed the Alberta Sovereignty Within a United Canada Act.
The Alberta ethics commissioner started investigating Smith in April, 2023 for her alleged interference with the administration of justice. Smith had previously promised pardons for those guilty of COVID-19 violations and indicated she was in regular contact with Crown prosecutors.
In the 2023 Alberta general election, Smith led the UCP to a significantly reduced majority government, defeating the New Democratic Party led by Rachel Notley. The election campaign was close and one of the fiercest in Alberta's history. Smith was re-elected in her riding. Smith had inherited a 16-seat majority from Kenney, but saw it slashed to four. Notably, the UCP was knocked down to second place in Calgary, which had been the power base for the centre-right in Alberta for years, and was completely shut out of Edmonton. However, the UCP swept all but four seats outside Edmonton and Calgary. Smith thus became the third woman to lead a party to a win in an Alberta general election, after Redford and Notley.
Political views and public image
Smith has been described as "libertarian on moral issues" by The Globe and Mail in 2012, a "populist Conservative" by Politico in 2023, and as "far-right" by The New York Times in 2023. In a 2023 interview with the Calgary Sun, she self-identified as a "caring conservative".
Smith shared a mentor, political scientist Tom Flanagan, with former Reform Party leader Preston Manning and former prime minister Stephen Harper. She has an affinity towards Manning's movement and Harper's government. Smith distanced herself and the Wildrose Party from Flanagan in February 2013, after he made controversial remarks over child pornography.
She is pro-choice and supports same-sex marriage. While she was a columnist with the Calgary Herald, she argued in favour of legalizing sex work. During her UCP leadership campaign in 2022, Smith gave alternatives to in order to allow transgender athletes to compete in preferred gender categories. While she was leader of the Wildrose Party, Smith supported conscience rights legislation for health care workers and opposed publicly funding gender-affirming surgeries.
A Wildrose insider told Calgary Herald editorial page editor Licia Corbella in 2014 that Smith had grown increasingly uncomfortable with the number of social conservatives supporting the Wildrose Party while she was leader. Smith herself told CBC News that the defeat of the anti-discrimination resolution led her to seriously consider returning to the PCs.
Smith has been described as media-savvy and adept at presenting a professional and polished image.
Smith has been criticized for making false claims about a cure for COVID-19, E. coli and statements blaming stage 4 cancer patients for their diagnosis. She has since apologised for making statements on E. coli.
Controversies about ancestry claims
Smith has made claims about her ancestry that have been debunked by genealogists and Canadian immigration records.
Her paternal great-grandfather was Philipus Kolodnicki, whose name was anglicized to "Philip Smith" upon arriving in Canada.
In October 2022, she claimed Kolodnicki left Ukraine after the First World War, which ended in 1918, to escape communism. She said her political beliefs were "largely born out of a complete distrust of the socialism from which my great-grandfather fled." In a 2012 profile in The Globe and Mail, Smith claimed Kolodnicki was a Ukrainian immigrant who arrived in Canada in 1915.
Immigration records reviewed by The Toronto Star showed Kolodnicki arrived in Canada in 1913, before either the First World War or the 1917 October Revolution. Kolodnicki also listed his nation of origin as Austria and his race as Ruthenian, a term that at the time referred to the ancestors of modern Ukrainians, Belarusians and Rusyns.
Beginning in 2012, Smith publicly claimed she had Cherokee roots through her great-great-grandmother, Mary Frances Crowe. Smith also claimed Crowe was a victim of the Trail of Tears and forcibly relocated to Kansas in the 1830s. An investigation from APTN National News looked over U.S. census records and found Crowe was born in 1870 in Georgia, about 20 years after the U.S. government forced the Cherokee out of their homelands.
Kathy Griffin, a Cherokee genealogist in Texas who worked with APTN, could not find proof that any of Smith's ancestors were members of the historical Cherokee tribes, including the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians of Oklahoma, or the Cherokee Nation. Smith's ancestors also did not appear on the Dawes Roll, a U.S. registry cataloguing members of the Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw and Seminole.
Following APTN's story, Smith's press secretary said Smith had not done a "deep dive into her ancestry" and "heard about her heritage from her loved ones".
2023 general election
|2023 Alberta general election: Brooks-Medicine Hat|
|United Conservative||Danielle Smith||13,315||66.49||+5.83|
|New Democratic||Gwendoline Dirk||5,477||27.35||+9.46|
|Alberta Party||Barry Morishita||1,233||6.16||-0.77|
|Rejected and declined||92||0.46|
|United Conservative hold||Swing||-1.82|
|Alberta provincial by-election, 8 November 2022: Brooks-Medicine Hat|
|United Conservative||Danielle Smith||6,919||54.51||-6.15|
|New Democratic||Gwendoline Dirk||3,394||26.74||+8.85|
|Alberta Party||Barry Morishita||2,098||16.53||+9.60|
|Alberta Independence||Bob Blayone||225||1.77||+0.80|
|Wildrose Independence||Jeevan Mangat||56||0.44|
|Total valid votes||12,692|
|Total rejected ballots||45|
|United Conservative hold||Swing||-7.48|
2022 United Conservative leadership election
|Candidate||Round 1||Round 2||Round 3||Round 4||Round 5||Round 6|
2012 general election
|2012 Alberta general election: Highwood|
|Wildrose Alliance||Danielle Smith||10,094||52.59%||40.74%|
|Progressive Conservative||John Barlow||8,159||42.51%||−22.60%|
|New Democratic||Miles Dato||392||2.04%||−1.26%|
|Rejected, spoiled and declined||50||33||10|
|Eligible electors / turnout||32,659||58.95%||17.86%|
|Wildrose Alliance gain from Progressive Conservative||Swing||−20.56%|
2009 Wildrose leadership election
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- Media related to Danielle Smith at Wikimedia Commons