© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Wildrose party leader Danielle Smith reacts with a smile after she lost the provincial election in High River, Alberta, April 23, 2012. REUTERS/Mike Sturk/File Photo
By Nia Williams
(Reuters) – Danielle Smith was sworn in as premier of Canada’s main oil-producing province Alberta on Tuesday, days after winning the United Conservative Party leadership race with promises to stand up to the federal government in Ottawa.
Smith became Alberta’s third female premier, and nineteenth overall, at a ceremony in the provincial capital Edmonton.
“Together we will stand up to defend Albertans’ charter rights, as well as defend Alberta’s exclusive rights over our areas of provincial jurisdiction,” Smith said in her speech.
Alberta, home to Canada’s vast oil sands and the world’s third-largest crude reserves, has a strained relationship with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government in Ottawa, stemming from a sense that the federal government’s climate polices are damaging its oil and gas industry.
Smith’s most eye-catching policy is the proposed Alberta Sovereignty Act, which would allow the province to ignore federal laws it must not like, and she has promised to restructure the provincial health authority and create an Alberta police force.
But Albertans are now waiting to see whether she will follow through on those campaign promises, or temper her more controversial plans for provincial autonomy, said Duane Bratt, a political science professor at Calgary’s Mount Royal University.
“She gave mixed messages in her victory speech on Thursday night,” Bratt said.
The new premier will appoint her cabinet later this month and will run in a by-election in the electoral riding of Brooks-Medicine, as she does not currently hold a seat in the Alberta legislature. A by-election date has not yet been set.
Alberta will hold a provincial election next May.