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No Alberta vaccine discrimination bill a pivot for Premier Smith: Analyst

Click to play video: 'No vaccine discrimination bill to be tabled in fall sitting of the Alberta legislature'
No vaccine discrimination bill to be tabled in fall sitting of the Alberta legislature
Premier Danielle Smith is making direct calls to businesses and organizations that still have vaccine mandates for COVID-19 in place, asking them to reconsider those measures. Morgan Black reports – Nov 29, 2022

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith is making direct calls to businesses and organizations that still have vaccine mandates for COVID-19 in place, asking them to reconsider those measures.

Amending the Alberta Human Rights Act was a campaign promise for the premier, but Smith said Monday during a news conference about re-indexing Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH) that it proved more complex.

“We realized it had to be a much broader review of legislation and much broader changes,” she said. “The issues was [that] changing one piece of one act was not going to solve the problem.”

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That means no bill will be tabled during the fall session, which began Tuesday.

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“This is a pretty remarkable pivot,” said University of Calgary political science professor Lisa Young. “Now, she isn’t backing away from the idea that this is something that needs to be done — but she’s backing away from the legislation.”

Young said the move speaks to the broader political challenge Smith faces.

“Which is to keep her supporters — who got her the leadership — reasonably content on the one hand, but to pivot to the broader Alberta electorate on the other hand.”

Smith said despite a lack of forthcoming legislation, she is still focused on protecting the rights of people who aren’t vaccinated against COVID-19.

“The Arctic Winter Games wanted $1.2 million from us to support their effort and they were discriminating against the athletes, telling them they had to be vaccinated,” Smith said.

“We asked them if they would reconsider — and they did.”

Click to play video: 'Alberta Premier Smith says unvaccinated bill would need ‘broader changes,’ sparking delay'
Alberta Premier Smith says unvaccinated bill would need ‘broader changes,’ sparking delay

The Arctic Winter Games International Committee revoked its COVID-19 vaccine mandate on Nov. 18, according to a news release.

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The premier said she doesn’t want to have discrimination in Alberta for any cause.

“I am quite prepared to make those phone calls and my ministers make those calls if there are other examples,” she said.

Smith noted the majority of Alberta businesses have removed vaccination requirements.

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Young said polling shows there isn’t a lot of support among the broader electorate for some of Smith’s more “extreme” stances.

“Typically, when a political party gets a new leader, there’s sort of a bounce in support for that party,” Young said.

“Instead, what we’ve seen is that Smith has been a bit of a drag on the party’s support. She started her premiership making some fairly controversial statements and some other information has come out about things that she said on social media.”

Earning the trust of Albertans will be a challenge for Smith, Young said, explaining the conservative stances Smith took to get elected as leader may not be the ones she will maintain going forward as a premier who may need to take a more moderate approach in the months leading up to the May 2023 election.

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“So the question then is, if you want a centrist politician, can you trust Danielle Smith to continue down this path? Or will she revert to the policy stances that she talked about when she was running for the leadership or in her past life?”

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The NDP’s justice critic Irfan Sabir said the move to make phone calls reads more like a threat.

“That’s a recipe to chase investment and business away from this province,” he said Monday.

The NDP wants an independent science advisory panel that can analyze data and evidence to recommend future public health measures.

Smith said she believes her supporters will understand why she’s moving away from her promise of immediate legislative change.

She said she is now looking ahead for a way to impact a future pandemic response.

Click to play video: 'Sovereignty act, affordability to define Fall legislative session in Alberta'
Sovereignty act, affordability to define Fall legislative session in Alberta

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