CALGARY - The new leader of
Alberta's Wildrose Alliance says she suspects many people are hovering
between her party and the governing Conservatives and she plans to give
voters a good reason to move her way.

Danielle Smith won the
Wildrose leadership on the weekend and is taking the helm at a time
when polls suggest the party is surging in popularity at the expense of
the Tories. Wildrose is a right-of-centre party which, among others
things, espouses more grassroots involvement in decision-making.

Smith
says she gets the sense that many people have bought memberships to
both parties and are watching closely to see what happens next.

That
could be the reason why the Wildrose won a byelection last month in
which it snagged its sole seat in a Calgary constituency that had been
held by the Tories for four decades, she suggested Monday.

"I
think that people have been shaken loose from their traditional voting
habits, and we just have to earn their trust and give them a reason to
vote for us again," she said. "What we're going to say is we want to
see the Alberta advantage back and that is going to be a message that
resonates with Albertans."

Smith downplayed suggestions that as
many as 10 Tory members could cross the floor to her party. The
Conservatives hold 70 of Alberta's 83 seats.

She said she's not
counting on anyone jumping ship, but is instead focusing on running a
full slate of Wildrose candidates in the next election. The party has
set up associations in about half of the province's ridings.

When
asked Monday how he views Smith as a political opponent, Premier Ed
Stelmach replied he'd make a decision once her party rolls out its
policies.

"It's a new party," he said. "I'll just say congratulations and see what happens from here."

The
premier seemed a little amused that Smith used her victory speech to
say, "Ed Stelmach, you haven't even begun to imagine what's about to
hit you." He told reporters in Edmonton that "usually when you get into
a hockey game or something you get all pumped for it."

Stelmach said his Progressive Conservatives still have a sizable majority.

"People gave us a strong mandate to do what's right for all Albertans and we're continuing to do that."

Talk about Stelmach's own future is growing as the premier gets ready to face a leadership review next month.

Three
years ago, Stelmach's predecessor, Ralph Klein, stepped down after
getting 55 per cent support in a secret vote held every other year.

Klein told The Canadian Press recently that Stelmach should resign if he gets less than 70 per cent support.

He said Monday at an event in Calgary that he stands by that number, adding it was the benchmark he set for himself.

While
he said he rarely follows politics anymore and won't be participating
in the leadership review, he said he understood how Stelmach might be
feeling.

"I suspect he's going through much the same as I went through ... It was uncomfortable."

He wouldn't weigh in on the rise of the Wildrose, but said Smith is a nice person who supported him during the 2004 election.

"She was a hard worker and she liked my brand of politics, obviously."

Smith refused to say Monday what kind of support Stelmach needs to survive.

"The
fact that the premier might or might not get a ringing endorsement on
Nov. 7 from his party is irrelevant to our party members and it's
irrelevant to me.

"He needs a ringing endorsement from Albertans right now, and he isn't getting it."

Smith
said she hopes to run in the next election in the Calgary riding where
she lives, but would consider seeking a seat elsewhere if there were an
earlier byelection.

She acknowledged that the majority of her
party's support is concentrated in southern and central Alberta. She
plans to soon tour the rest of the province to sell her message.

Smith
insisted the Wildrose Alliance is a big-tent party that can attract
Albertans from all walks of life, not just fiscal and social
conservatives. She plans to meet with the executive in the coming weeks
to hammer out policy objectives for an announcement in November.

She
also faced criticism Monday from the provincial NDP, which challenged
her to release the names of people who contributed the $250,000 raised
during her leadership campaign.

"The new leader of the Wildrose
Alliance has come out and said she believes oil companies should pay
Albertans less for our resources," member of the legislature Rachel
Notley told reporters in Edmonton.

"I think Albertans have a
right to know whether those same oil companies that would profit from
that position have donated to her campaign."

Notley said the same line of logic can be applied to private health care providers that may have donated to Smith's campaign.

Smith
refused to provide the names. She said Monday that some donors fear
retribution from the Tories if their contributions were known and she
had promised them from the start of her campaign she would not reveal
them.

-With files from Jim Macdonald in Edmonton