United Conservative Party leader Danielle Smith makes an election campaign announcement in Calgary on Monday, May 1, 2023.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Candidates for both the United Conservative Party and New Democrats have been campaigning over the last four weeks for their party to form the next Alberta government. Election day is Monday.
Here are some memorable quotes from the campaign:
“(The NDP) devastated the Alberta economy. They created policies that drove investment out, drove jobs out, and we had to reverse all of that,” UCP Leader Danielle Smith said on May 1, the day the writ was dropped. “The choice in this election couldn’t be clearer. It’s a choice between a UCP government that will cut your taxes and make life more affordable or an NDP government that will make you pay more across the board.”
“Over the past four years, our health care has been thrown into chaos by the UCP,” NDP Leader Rachel Notley said during the first week of the campaign. “They’ll tell you they fixed it, but Albertans aren’t feeling it and they’re not buying it … our (emergency rooms) are still full, our ambulances are still delayed and many (patients) are waiting months and months for critical tests and surgeries.”
“I am satisfied Mr. Pawlowski intended to incite the audience to continue the blockade — intended to incite protesters to commit mischief,” Justice Gordon Krinke said in Lethbridge, Alta., on May 2, when he found Calgary pastor Artur Pawlowski guilty of charges related to his role in protests against COVID-19 public health measures. In a leaked phone call between Smith and Pawlowski, before his trial, Smith told Pawlowski the charges against him were politically motivated and she would make inquiries on his behalf and report back.
“(Smith) has a policy of not speaking publicly on matters before the courts, except when she’s talking to the person who’s before the courts about how she’s going to interfere with the matter before the courts,” Notley said when asked to comment on Smith’s no comment on the Pawlowski case. “That is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard from her. OK, maybe it’s not the most ridiculous, because there’s a lot of ridiculous.”
“COVID was a really difficult and frustrating time for everyone, including me, and I don’t think that there is a single one of us that wasn’t deeply impacted in some way,” Smith said on May 9, after past comments surfaced in which she equated those vaccinated against COVID-19 to Nazi supporters and said she would not wear a Remembrance Day poppy out of disgust for pandemic restrictions imposed by political leaders. “Sometimes I let my frustrations get to me during that time. I clearly shouldn’t have.”
“That little bit of poop is what wrecks it … it does not matter that we’re in the top three per cent in the world,'” said Jennifer Johnson, UCP candidate for Lacombe-Ponoka. In a tape from September, she said Alberta’s high-ranking education system counts for little when set against the issue of transgender students and compared their presence to a batch of cookies laced with feces.
“(Judicial independence) is a fundamental pillar of our democracy. The premier breached this principle by discussing the accused’s case,” ethics commissioner Marguerite Trussler said in her report released May 18 into Smith’s actions as premier when she called her justice minister about Pawlowski’s case.
“I’ve asked the ethics commissioner to give advice,” Smith said May 19. “I am a non-lawyer. As premier, I do need to be able to get advice from my top official, my top legal adviser. If she has recommendations on how to do that better next time, I will absolutely accept them.”
“More and more conservatives are coming to me saying, ‘I’m a lifelong conservative voter, but what I see in Danielle Smith and this new UCP is not my values,'” Notley said on May 23.”They often say that they’re going to lend us their vote, and I say that’s just great. Because, quite frankly, I think all Albertans should always only ever lend their vote because leadership has to earn it.”
“(The phone call) was always about the charges, from the very beginning. I had nothing really else to say,” Pawlowski told reporters at the legislature in the final week of the campaign. “This phone call was always about the same thing: when are you going to introduce what you promised, the amnesty bill for people like me and thousands of other Albertans.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 28, 2023.
CBC News retracts report alleging email interference by Alberta premier’s office
Alberta Premier Danielle Smith responds to a question during a news conference after a meeting of western premiers, in Whistler, B.C., on Tuesday, June 27, 2023. CBC News is retracting a report from January alleging someone in Premier Danielle Smith’s office emailed prosecutors to question the handling of cases involving a COVID-19 protest at a U.S. bordering crossing. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
By Dean Bennett in Edmonton
CBC News is retracting a report alleging someone in Premier Danielle Smith’s office emailed Crown prosecutors to question and challenge the handling of cases involving COVID-19 protests in Alberta that blocked traffic at a U.S. border crossing for more than two weeks.
CBC made the announcement Wednesday in an unsigned editor’s note atop an amended online version of the original Jan. 19 story.
“Our sources have insisted that Crown prosecutors felt political pressure regarding the Coutts, (Alta.), cases, but they are not able to confirm that the emails they originally described were sent directly from the premier’s office to the Crown,” said the editor’s note.
“As such, we have updated this story and related pieces, removing references to direct contact between the premier’s office and prosecutors — which the premier has vehemently denied.
“CBC News regrets reporting direct contact by email.”
The story, along with public comments made by Smith around that time, sparked months of controversy, accusations, investigations and threats of lawsuits that culminated in an investigation and subsequent May 18 report by ethics commissioner Marguerite Trussler.
In that report, Trussler found no evidence of such emails but, based on other information, concluded Smith broke ethics rules and sought to undermine the rule of law by trying to persuade her then-justice minister to make a COVID-19-related criminal prosecution “go away.”
Smith had challenged the veracity of the CBC email claims from the start, noting officials could find no evidence of such correspondence and that CBC News itself had stated it had not seen the emails in question.
CBC stood by its reporting for months, but in Wednesday’s note stated Trussler’s finding of no evidence to support the existence of the emails prompted it to review the matter anew and reach a new conclusion.
Smith’s office has threatened to sue the CBC for defamation for months over the story, but has yet to formally launch a claim. Smith recently said she wanted to sit down with CBC officials to explore the matter.
Smith stood in the chamber of the legislature last month and formally apologized for her Jan. 6 phone call to then-justice minister Tyler Shandro in which she sought to have him abandon the criminal prosecution of COVID protester Artur Pawlowski.
Shandro refused to intervene and Pawlowski was eventually found guilty of mischief.
Smith has since asked new Justice Minister Mickey Amery to give her guidelines on how she is to interact with him on legal matters.
Smith has said she will also act on Trussler’s recommendation to have new members to the legislature receive briefings on how the separation of powers works in Canada’s democracy.
Her office declined Wednesday to comment on the CBC retraction, state whether the meeting with CBC officials took place, say if Smith still planned to sue or say whether the updated guidelines from Amery had arrived.
CBC spokesman Chuck Thompson said in a statement that the public broadcaster has not met with Smith.
“The editor’s note was published after reviewing all of our journalism and talking again to sources,” Thompson said.
“As you can appreciate, it’s not our place to speak for the premier on what she may or may not do (regarding a lawsuit).”
The Opposition NDP, meanwhile, asked RCMP in a letter last month to investigate whether Smith’s actions violated Criminal Code provisions surrounding breach of trust and obstructing justice.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 5, 2023.
Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notley mum on political future following election loss
Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notley gives her concession speech in Edmonton on Monday, May 29, 2023. Notley says she has not made a decision on her political future following a second consecutive election loss by her New Democrats. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
By Dean Bennett in Edmonton
Alberta Opposition Leader Rachel Notley says she has not made a decision on her political future following a second consecutive election loss by her New Democrats.
Notley said she will think about her role as the party analyzes what went right and wrong in the campaign, and added there is no timeline for a decision.
“When I’ve made a decision, when I’ve reached a conclusion, I will be sure to let Albertans know,” Notley told reporters outside the legislature Tuesday.
“As of now, my No. 1 priority is to do the work Albertans have asked of us and nothing less. That is our intention as a caucus, and that is what my plan is as leader.”
It was the first time Notley spoke with reporters since the May 29 election.
Notley’s NDP won 38 seats in the 87-seat legislature, becoming the largest official Opposition in Alberta history, but failed to win back government from Premier Danielle Smith’s United Conservative Party.
Notley said while the result was disappointing, her party made tremendous strides.
“More than 740,000 Albertans gave us their vote,” said Notley.
“Of 1.7 million votes, about 2,600 actually decided this election. It was that close.”
The 2,600 votes refer to close losses in key ridings that could have put the NDP over the top.
“I’ve been leader in this party when it had four seats, when it had 54 seats, 24, and now 38,” Notley said. “In every single election, our vote has gone up. It went up in nearly every rural riding, whereas UCP (vote) did not.”
The NDP swept the UCP in the 20 seats in Edmonton, won 14 of the 26 seats in Calgary, but were dominated outside the major centres by the UCP, which won 49 seats to form government.
“We captured ridings we’ve never held before. We defeated several high-profile UCP (cabinet) ministers and, frankly, we very nearly overturned the government,” Notley said.
She said her caucus is to meet in the coming days to hash out critic roles and responsibilities
The policy goals, Notley said, will be to push Smith’s government to reduce long waits for care and lab testing, for smaller class sizes in schools and to address the shortage in affordable housing.
She said they will also continue to oppose the government’s promise to explore abandoning the Canada Pension Plan in favour of an Alberta model and its pursuit of a provincial police force to replace the RCMP.
She said they will also be watching new Health Minster Adriana LaGrange does not impose restrictions on existing access to abortions given LaGrange’s anti-abortion beliefs.
Smith has already promised there will be no changes to a woman’s right to choose.
Notley declined to discuss the election campaign in detail or explore what led to the NDP loss.
She wouldn’t respond to a suggestion that a promised corporate tax hike, seized on as a wedge issue by the UCP, was a factor.
She defended attacking Smith’s recent record on the campaign trail, particularly Smith’s recent comments urging more direct pay in health care and Smith being found to have broken ethics laws by trying to get a COVID-19 protester’s criminal court case tossed out.
“We had a premier who was found to have broken the law in the course of interfering with the administration of justice,” said Notley.
“We had a premier who had advocated repeatedly in multiple forums for the privatization of our much-cherished public health care.
“These were issues that needed to be fully discussed and canvassed.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 13, 2023.
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