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Critics concerned Danielle Smith could alienate Albertans, Ottawa

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While Danielle Smith easily won the leadership of the United Conservative Party Thursday night, critics say it's not an endorsement from the province.

"The fact of the matter is, Danielle Smith essentially got support from about 1 per cent of Albertans," said NDP leader Rachel Notley, who is set to face Smith in a provincial election next spring,

"I would argue it's a fairly extreme group and I would argue that it's just over 50 per cent of the UCP membership."

Smith was chosen leader after six rounds of preferential balloting, gaining the majority of support from the 82,000 people who voted - roughly two-thirds of party membership and just a fraction of the provincial population.

Smith focused much of her campaign on fighting the federal government when it comes to issues and policies she says negatively affect Albertans, a vow she reiterated in her victory speech Thursday night.

She also plans to introduce her proposed "Alberta Sovereignty Act" in the legislature soon, giving her government legal authority to ignore federal laws of its choosing.

Deborah Yedlin, president of the Calgary Chamber of Commerce, says while there are some legitimate beefs with decision making in Ottawa, the provincial government needs to practice diplomacy if it wants to attract investment to Alberta.

"There certainly has been some frustration in terms of getting infrastructure projects approved and that's fair," said Yedlin, " but I also think yelling at the federal government is not going to get us to where we need to go, we need to prioritize being solutions-oriented and being collaborative because the approach doesn't work, we've never gotten anywhere by yelling."

Others say Smith cannot speak on behalf of Albertans because she doesn't have a mandate granted by the province's population.

"A UCP party leadership campaign and vote is not the will of the population," said Lars Hallstrom with the University of Lethbridge. "It is the will of the party. She can't really claim to have an electoral mandate because the province has not really validated her as premier.

"She has a brief window of time here in which she has to win that particular election."

Alberta's Official Opposition leader says the support that allowed Smith to assume office is only about one per cent of Alberta's population.

"I would argue it's a fairly extreme group," said Rachel Notley. "And I would argue that it's just over 50 per cent of the UCP membership."

Meanwhile, federal leaders say they're looking forward to working with Smith in the coming days.

"I will be speaking with her, hopefully, in the coming hours, to congratulate her on her victory in the leadership campaign, and to commit to her, as I do to all Canadians, that I am there to work with premiers of the provinces to deliver concretely for Albertans. And indeed, for all Canadians," said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Smith will be sworn in on Tuesday.

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