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Danielle Smith's UCP holds onto power in Alberta

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Danielle Smith is still the premier of Alberta, surviving a vigorous campaign and a tight vote Monday against NDP challenger Rachel Notley.

Unofficial results at midnight showed Smith's United Conservative Party elected or leading in about 50 ridings to hold majority control of the province's 87-seat legislature.

"To paraphrase our dear friend Ralph Klein: Welcome to another miracle on the prairies!" Smith said to loud cheers in Calgary.

"Many folks wrote us off, even just as recently as last month. But you know what happened? Despite it all, Albertans chose to move our province forward!"

Smith acknowledged a fierce and well-funded challenge from the NDP. She appeared alone on stage and called Notley a "loyal Albertan who loves this province."

She promised to earn the trust of Albertans, including the hundred of thousands who did not vote for her party.

"My oath is to serve all Albertans, no matter how you voted," Smith said.

"I will work every day to listen, to improve and to demonstrate to you that I can be trusted to improve on the issues that you care so deeply about."

She asked Albertans for unity going forward and vowed to work on affordability, public safety and improving the economy.

Smith also promised to fight Ottawa on environmental and energy policies, arguing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's plans are "harmful" to the province.

NOTLEY CONCEDES, VOWS TO STAY ON

The NDP is expected to steal some seats, including Sherwood Park, Calgary-Varsity and Calgary-Falconridge, from Smith's party but fell short of power for the second consecutive vote.

"As a movement, we have grown our support in every corner of this province. I'm very pleased that we will be welcoming at least 10 more MLAs to our caucus," Notley told supporters in Edmonton.

"However tonight, I also know that we are all deeply disappointed in the overall result…Moments ago, I called [premier-elect] Danielle Smith to concede the race and I congratulated her party on their victory."

Notley, backed by her family on stage, told her MLAs to "get ready to get right back down to work."

She accepted responsibility for the loss and vowed to serve as leader of the Official Opposition.

Leader of the NDP Rachel Notley gives her concession speech in Edmonton on Monday May 29, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

Notley was aiming to end Smith's eight-month premiership, after the former head of the Wildrose Party won the UCP leadership race in October. Her predecessor, Jason Kenney, announced his resignation in May 2022.

The NDP leader, who was re-elected in Edmonton-Strathcona, last led Alberta as premier in 2019. She was defeated by Kenney on April 16 of that year, with the UCP winning 63 of the province's 87 seats.

Early results of this vote also confirm Alberta's two-party legislature will continue, with the Alberta Party and Liberals failing to win a seat for the second-straight vote.

The CTV News declaration was made just before 11 p.m. MT.

The results trickled in slowly. An Elections Alberta official said the organization was investigating the cause of those issues but that reports of tabulators not working were not true.

POLLS PREDICTED A NAIL-BITER

Almost all of the polls predicted a close race, with the NDP dominating in Edmonton and the UCP winning easily outside of the big cities, making Calgary the battleground and the focus for most of the campaign.

Notley led a pitch that hammered Smith on trust issues, pointing to her recent ethics violation, controversial statements by her candidates, and comments she made before becoming premier encouraging more private health care and out-of-pocket payments to access it.

The NDP said Smith and the UCP were not capable of fixing a "crisis" of long emergency room wait times and surgery lineups, alleging comments Smith made against vaccine mandates and in support of COVID-19 rule breakers were driving doctors away.

Smith and her candidates slammed Notley for bringing in a carbon tax as premier and her plans to both raise taxes on big businesses and back a federal Liberal target of creating a net-zero power grid by 2035.

The UCP promised to focus on the economy, with Smith offering a tax break on the first day of the campaign. Smith also argued that the former NDP government "failed" with policies that hiked taxes and "killed jobs."

The UCP and NDP were the only parties to run a full slate of 87 candidates.

The Green Party had the third most with 41 and the Alberta Party and Liberals, which each won a seat in 2015, ran just 19 and 15 candidates, respectively.