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Smith affirms she wants to stay as Wildrose leader, but asks for leadership review

The leader of the Wildrose Party says she still has “fire in my belly” to lead the official opposition, but it will be up to her party to make that decision next month.

Danielle Smith announced in Calgary Tuesday morning she has asked party president David Yager to hold a leadership review at the party’s next AGM in Red Deer on Nov. 13-14.

She made the decision the morning after the byelection defeat as the PCs swept all four ridings, but said she does have confidence she has the support she needs.

“I really do, I’ve gotten so many encouraging emails over the last couple of hours,” she said. “That being said, when you have the kind of speculation swirling on every pundit and columnist, you can’t just ignore that.”

She also said the AGM will study how the campaign was run, what improvements have to be made and how the party can make inroads in Edmonton and Calgary.

As for Monday night, Smith said she takes responsibility.

“Even though we came very, very close in West and we knew that West was the one feasibly that we had the best chance of winning, I think we’d also hoped that we had a good chance of winning Elbow,” she said. “I have to stay it was disappointing that we came just short of West and disappointing that we came in third place in Elbow, so there’s obviously something that we have to figure out about our messaging and the way we present ourselves.

Smith doesn’t actually have to call for a leadership review until after the next general election, but said she felt it was necessary and explained what it would take for her to step down after getting 90 per cent support in her last vote.

“I think 77 per cent seems to be the kiss of death so I would say that you probably need more than 77 per cent to be able to stay on as party leader and that’s what I would be looking for, I’d be looking for a firm mandate from my members to continue,” she said.

Despite the loss, Smith said she still remains very optimistic about the future, even though she admitted Premier Jim Prentice has probably cleaned the stain of the Alison Redford scandal-plagued era.

“Nobody wants to continue fighting old ghosts, nor do we, we felt like this was an opportunity for Albertans to render a judgment on the misdeeds and misbehaviours of the past and they did and so we move on and we look towards the future,” she said. “As I’ve said before, the reason I ran for political office in 2009 and ran for the leadership of this party are the same reasons and problems that we have today.”