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Danielle Smith of the United Conservative Party speaks during her party's provincial election night party after a projected win in Calgary on May 29, 2023.TODD KOROL/Reuters

Danielle Smith’s United Conservative Party won a majority victory in Alberta’s election Monday and immediately rekindled her feud with Ottawa, attacking the Prime Minister for environmental policies that she warned would decimate the province’s economy.

The election result was the culmination of a polarizing campaign that will leave Ms. Smith in charge of a diminished caucus and a province sharply divided between rural and urban communities. The UCP lost several prominent cabinet ministers in Calgary but held onto power despite a campaign that was overshadowed by her own past comments, as well as complaints that she steered the party too far to the right.

In a victory speech just before midnight, Ms. Smith fired shots at Mr. Trudeau, a tactic popular with her right-leaning supporters that she used to secure the leadership of the UCP last year. It was also frequently employed by her predecessor, Jason Kenney.

Alberta’s United Conservative Party rode a wave of rural support to win a renewed majority in the provincial election on May 29, but the NDP took a big bite out of its support in some areas.

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Ottawa, she warned, is considering policies that will significantly hurt Albertans and the provincial economy. Ms. Smith told the crowd that Mr. Trudeau wants to implement new restrictions on electricity generated from natural gas and impose an emissions cap on oil and gas production, which she described as a “de facto production cap.”

“This is not a road we can afford to go down. If he persists, he will be hurting Canadians from coast to coast and he will strain the patience and goodwill of Albertans in an unprecedented fashion,” Ms. Smith told supporters in Calgary.

“As Premier, I cannot under any circumstances allow these contemplated federal policies to be inflicted upon Albertans. I simply can’t and I won’t,” she said to some of the loudest cheers of the night.

During the campaign, Ms. Smith promised to continue her combative approach with the Prime Minister but she did not promote her controversial Sovereignty Act, passed late last year, which is designed to wrest control from Ottawa.

The election was the closest race in Alberta’s history. The incumbent UCP won 49 of the province’s 87 ridings. This tally, however, includes one candidate who Ms. Smith said will not be permitted to sit with the UCP caucus. The NDP, under Rachel Notley, was elected in the remaining 38 ridings.

Ms. Smith’s new government will be slimmer – and more conservative – than the one she inherited when she became UCP leader and Premier last fall, replacing Mr. Kenney, who resigned after receiving a slim majority in a leadership review. The NDP unseated a number of cabinet ministers, including Jason Copping, who served as Health Minister under Ms. Smith and Mr. Kenney.

Ms. Smith will still face a party in turmoil, both because of her comparatively poor performance relative to previous conservative leaders and because of the UCP’s ideological split. A handful of incoming UCP MLAs have ties to Take Back Alberta, a faction representing libertarians and social conservatives that could exacerbate those internal tensions.

Cryderman: Danielle Smith wins over Albertans, but governing a divided province won’t be easy

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Ms. Notley won her riding of Edmonton-Strathcona as the Official Opposition swept Alberta’s capital. In her concession speech, the NDP Leader said that while she took responsibility for the loss, she would stay to lead the party.

“It is my honour to serve as your leader,” she said in her speech in Edmonton. “And it is my privilege to continue to serve as leader of the Official Opposition.”

Ms. Notley will return to the legislature to lead the largest official opposition in Alberta’s history.

“Now is not the time to let up. Now is the time to step up,” she said.

Roughly 1.76 million people cast ballots in the election, according to Elections Alberta, with voter turnout dropping to 62 per cent compared to 67.5 per cent in 2019. That year marked the highest voter turnout since 1971.

The election was an unusually close race in a province where conservative parties have long held power. The lone recent exception was Ms. Notley’s victory in 2015, but that was against two conservative parties that split the vote on the right.

Alberta political strategist Stephen Carter said the fact that the NDP was competitive in a two-party race marked a shift in Alberta.

“We’re seeing, in this province, a real reconciliation of who we thought we were and who we’d like to be,” Mr. Carter said.

Ms. Notley ended the Progressive Conservatives’ 43-year stranglehold on power in Alberta in 2015, but lost to the UCP in 2019. She is Alberta’s longest-serving current MLA and, under her leadership, turned the NDP into a disciplined and competitive party.

This was Ms. Smith’s first campaign as UCP Leader, but the second time she has asked the province’s voters to make her premier. She led the populist Wildrose Party in 2012 and was on track to win, but her support collapsed after she failed to remove a candidate who, in an old blog post, said gay people would be condemned to a “lake of fire.”

In the second week of this year’s campaign, a video of Ms. Smith, recorded Nov. 10, 2021, emerged of her comparing people who got vaccinated against COVID-19 to those who support tyrants and specifically referenced Adolf Hitler.

The NDP also highlighted racist and transphobic comments from UCP candidates on social media. Ms. Smith said one of those candidates, Jennifer Johnson, would not be permitted to sit with the UCP caucus after an audio recording surfaced of her making hateful comments about transgender children. Ms. Johnson won her seat in central Alberta Monday evening.

The UCP, meanwhile, accused a number of NDP candidates of failing to support the province’s police forces and oil and gas industry.

The Ethics Commissioner released a scathing report earlier this month that determined Ms. Smith interfered in the justice system in a way that threatens democracy when she, as premier, pressed the Justice Minister to intervene in a criminal case related to the 2022 border blockade at Coutts.

The UCP Leader focused much of her campaign on supporting the province’s oil and gas sector and keeping taxes low at a time when the province’s finances are flush because of healthy energy prices. Ms. Smith promised to require a referendum before imposing any kind of tax increase, though observers noted such a change would not be binding on a future government.

Ms. Smith also pledged to contribute $330-million for a new $1.2-billion arena in Calgary, an expensive promise that was designed to court voters in the city but which failed to generate momentum.

Ms. Notley attempted to lure conservative voters who are uncomfortable with Ms. Smith’s leadership by pitching the NDP as a centrist alternative open to responsible oil and gas development but with an eye on transitioning to other forms of energy.

However, she also planned to increase corporate taxes to 11 per cent from 8 per cent, which opened her up to immediate attacks from the UCP and pro-business groups.

Both parties promised to bolster the health care system. Ms. Notley said the UCP would privatize health care, pointing to Ms. Smith’s history of comments advocating for users to pay to see a doctor. Ms. Smith accused the NDP of lying, insisting that she would protect public health care as she promised that no Albertan would ever have to pay to see a family doctor.

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