December 10, 2023

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Smith’s discrimination comments being used as recruiting tool in Ontario

Comments by Alberta Premier Danielle Smith about unvaccinated people receiving the worst discrimination of any group in her lifetime has led to a critical article in an international publication, an out of province recruitment effort targeted at Alberta healthcare workers, and the Opposition saying she’s made the province an international embarassment.

Smith hasn’t apologized for the comments, but has since said she did not mean to trivialize discrimination faced by minority communities and other persecuted groups.

Following the comments, the CEO of CHEO, a pediatric health-care and research centre in Ottawa, took to Twitter in an attempt to attract any disaffected healthcare workers in Alberta looking for a new opportunity elsewhere.

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Danielle Smith addresses comments about unvaccinated being ‘most discriminated against group’

“Good morning Alberta healthcare workers,” Alex Munter tweeted.

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“We think racism is bad, immunization is good, and we love occupational health and safety,” the tweet continued. “Come join us.”

“Come on down, we’ve got a job for you,” Munter said in an interview with Global News Thursday afternoon.

“Even a handful of new recruits out of a tweet is a pretty good return on investment.”

The comments also got coverage in the U.S.-based Forbes magazine, which is published in various editions around the world. The author called the comments dangerous, not just for public health policy but for marginalized people.

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‘Most discriminated against group’: Alberta premier pledges to protect unvaccinated

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“It demeans people who have been suffering a lot of injustice, it makes it seem like it’s not a big deal,” senior Forbes contributor Bruce Y. Lee told Global News. Lee is also a professor of health policy management at the City University of New York.

“This is a story about Alberta in one of the world’s most well-read economic publications,” Opposition leader Rachel Notley said in a press conference Thursday morning.

“It is a story that hurts Alberta’s reputation, and we will now have to spend months undoing it.”

Click to play video: 'Premier Smith’s comments draw criticism of ‘Alberta Calling’ campaign'

Premier Smith’s comments draw criticism of ‘Alberta Calling’ campaign

Notley is calling on Premier Smith to withdraw the comments and apologize in an effort to begin to repair the harm she’s done to marginalized Albertans, and the province’s reputation.

“Over the last 48 hours, I’ve been overwhelmed by thousands and thousands of folks reaching out to me who feel deeply hurt and frankly a little fearful as a result of the comments coming from our new premier,” the Alberta NDP leader said Thursday.

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“We understand that hundreds of thousands of Albertans face discrimination each and every day because of characteristics over which they have no choice.”

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Smith’s decision to not hold byelection in Calgary-Elbow raising questions

Alberta is currently running an advertising campaign in both Ontario and British Columbia titled Alberta is Calling. It encourages people in those provinces to move to Alberta for a jobs with higher wages, and communities with a lower cost of living.

David Soberman, a marketing professor with the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, says it is a very effective ad campaign and he doesn’t believe Smith’s comments this week will do lasting harm to the Alberta brand.

“Politicians, certainly in the first few days of their mandate, it’s not uncommon to make missteps,” Soberman said.

“At the time, it was pretty outrageous, but there’s a lot of news every day, and within a couple of days I think this will be in the past.”

Click to play video: 'Alberta nurses, NDP concerned about Premier Danielle Smith’s plans for health care'

Alberta nurses, NDP concerned about Premier Danielle Smith’s plans for health care

Smith’s office did not immediately respond to a Canadian Press request for comment Thursday.

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Smith won the leadership of Alberta’s governing UCP last week to become the new premier on a promise of no more vaccine mandates or health restrictions that violate personal liberties.

A former journalist, Smith stated in early 2021: “My entire adult life and career has been spent questioning authority and institutions and conventional wisdom.”

In a May 2003 column for the Calgary Herald newspaper, she questioned whether smoking is harmful to one’s health. “The evidence shows moderate cigarette consumption can reduce traditional risks of disease by 75 per cent or more,” she wrote.

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In October 2012, as leader of the Opposition Wildrose Party, Smith said those in poverty should be fed beef tainted with E.coli, so the unsellable product didn’t go to waste.

“We all know meat can be safely eaten if cooked properly,” Smith tweeted.

As a radio talk show host in 2020, she retweeted — and later apologized for doing so — a false claim that the drug hydroxychloroquine could defeat COVID-19. A year later, she backed ivermectin, a livestock anti-parasite medication, which was touted and later debunked as a possible COVID-19 cure.

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This past July, during the UCP leadership campaign, Smith released a video of her interview with a naturopath in which Smith says responsibility for early-stage cancer is within a person’s control. Patients and health professionals called the comment profoundly misinformed and cruel.

Smith’s leadership opponents criticized her, including one who had lost his son to cancer, and she apologized for the hurt she had caused.

She said she had expressed herself “awkwardly” and meant to say preventive health measures are just one more way to combat early-stage cancer.

–with files from Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press

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