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Alberta Premier Danielle Smith’s office has been calling United Conservative Party operatives to ensure their support at the party’s annual general meeting this fall, True North has learned. 

As per the party’s constitution, UCP members must vote on whether to review party leadership after a general election. If 50% plus one of party members vote to hold a review, a leadership race will be triggered. 

Three organizers confirmed to True North on the condition of anonymity that they’ve fielded calls from staff in Smith’s office asking whether the premier can count on their support at the AGM. 

Two operatives said they would continue to support the premier, but all expressed concern about Smith’s judgement, noting her recent appointment of former Progressive Conservative premier Alison Redford to head the Invest Alberta Corporation and choices she’s made in staffing. They also said Smith is not taking the threat of Naheed Nenshi’s Alberta NDP seriously. 

A UCP board member told True North that the premier’s office is aiming for support from 80% or more of the membership.

If Smith is successful at the AGM, a review could still be triggered if 22 of the 87 UCP constituency associations request one; this is the same mechanism which eventually led to the resignation of former premier Jason Kenney. 

One organizer said the premier’s office seems “confident” in Smith’s success at the AGM, but warned that she is not preparing to campaign against Nenshi, who won the Alberta NDP leadership contest decisively last month. 

That claim is further bolstered by reporting from Calgary Herald columnist Rick Bell, who wrote in March that the premier’s office was “salivating” at the thought of running against Nenshi. 

“Running against him would present us with the mother of all target-rich environments,” the premier’s office told Bell at the time. 

Still, the UCP has released multiple attacks on Nenshi since he won the leadership race with ads criticizing his record as the Calgary mayor and painting him as “Justin Trudeau’s choice for Alberta.” 

In a statement to True North, Smith said she receives “a lot of positive feedback everywhere I go,” but doesn’t want to take it for granted. 

“I’m looking forward to hearing directly from our membership, about how we are doing and how we can do better during my summer tour across the province,” she said.

One operative said he spoke to more than one member of the premier’s office, and was urged to find out who’s working against Smith. 

Some Conservatives who feel Smith is not making enough progress on matters such as a provincial police force, an Alberta pension, and parental rights legislation are finding solace in the 1905 Committee. The new group focuses on citizen engagement, but has many social media posts critical of Smith.

One recent post points to Smith’s lack of progress in amending the equalization formula. 

“Despite decrying equalization as an unfair ‘gravy train,’ Alberta’s Premier has yet to forge a concrete plan with Ottawa to shield the province from federal intentions to lock in equalization until 2029,” the post reads. “Does the Premier’s rhetoric against the ‘gravy train’ truly reflect proactive measures for Alberta’s future, or is it merely political posturing?”

Group founder Nadine Wellwood denied that the group is anti-Smith and said she would not tell supporters how to vote. She said 1905 is seeking leadership accountability.

Those sentiments were shared by Alex Van Herk, who is facing sentencing after being found guilty of mischief over $5,000 for his involvement in the Coutts border blockade — a group Smith once expressed support for, but from which she has since distanced herself. 

Van Herk is now organizing to apply pressure on Smith at the AGM, pointing to the lack of progress on key Conservatives issues such as reining in high government spending and taxes. 

“If she gets a bad review, she’ll either smarten up or resign,” he said. 

The UCP AGM will be held in Red Deer in November.