Alberta Premier Danielle Smith has apologized for comments she made about the Russia-Ukraine war before winning the UCP leadership contest.
The apology came just over 48 hours after Smith accused the Opposition NDP of an “attempted politicization” of the war, and it came the day after she tried to downplay statements from her past.
In a statement issued Tuesday, Smith admitted she made some “ill-informed comments on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.”
“My knowledge and opinion of this matter have drastically evolved since that time, and I apologize for those previous comments,” the premier said.
Some of those “ill-informed comments” were made earlier this year during a live-streamed question-and-answer session on a social media site in which she suggested the only way for the war to end was if Ukraine remained “neutral.”
“I think the only answer for Ukraine is neutrality,” Smith said in April. “There are thriving nations that have managed with neutrality.”
On Sunday, Smith accused the Alberta NDP of trying to politicize the Russian invasion by criticizing her comments, something she called “offensive and inappropriate.” She claimed her Ukrainian great-grandfather “fled communism” and immigrated to Canada after the First World War – claims Global News has not been able to verify.
In a Monday morning interview with Shaye Ganam on Corus Radio, Smith noted she has been in public life for decades.
“I suppose we could kind of relitigate every statement that I have made in the past and with the different hats that I’ve worn,” she said.
Smith intimated members of the public are more forgiving of her acknowledging she could have improved wording of a phrase. The former radio talk show host and newspaper columnist also accused “the media” of only seeking “the maximum number of clicks and maximum amount of outrage” on Monday.
Also on Monday, Orysia Boychuk, president of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress’ Alberta provincial council, said she was disappointed in Smith’s comments about the Ukraine-Russia war.
According to the 2016 census, Alberta was home to more than 27 per cent of Canada’s 1.36 million Ukrainian-Canadians, behind only Ontario.
According to data compiled by Global News chief political correspondent David Akin using the 2016 census, 12 federal election ridings in Alberta have more than 10 per cent Ukrainian ethnic heritage.
Lakeland, which includes Bonnyville, St. Paul and Lloydminster in eastern Alberta, counted 21 per cent of its population as having Ukrainian heritage that year.
On Tuesday, Smith “categorically condemned” the invasion of Russian forces, and repeated a commitment to learn what can be done to assist Ukrainian refugees coming to Alberta. She disabled replies on Twitter to her statement.
The NDP’s deputy leader said the apology was a “positive step” after Smith spent “several days justifying her appalling remarks.”
“But we look forward to what else will be done to address the damage caused both to Alberta communities and to our province’s image on the world stage,” Sarah Hoffman posted on social media.
Hoffman claimed Smith’s Ukraine comments caused “great pain to Ukrainian-Albertans and great damage to Alberta’s reputation.”
This is not the first time Smith has issued a statement following comments that were met with public criticism.
On Oct. 12, Smith issued a statement to clarify her claim that people who have refused COVID-19 vaccination “have been the most discriminated-against group that I’ve ever witnessed in my lifetime.” She made the comment during her first news conference as premier.
Smith said she “did not to intend to trivialize” discrimination of “minority communities,” but stopped short of an apology.
–with files from Paula Tran, Global News