David Staples: Danielle Smith roasts AHS management of COVID

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Can Danielle Smith ever be uninteresting?

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Can’t Smith say things that will get her supporters cheering loudly as she gets spit and foam from the mouths of her opponents?

I do not think so.

Smith has a unique combination of openness to new ideas, passionate advocacy, opinion expression and strong communication skills.

She ruthlessly grabs the limelight. This weekend, for example, she lit the first major bonfire of the United Conservative leadership campaign and made headlines across Canada when she urged that Alberta openly oppose the federal government on matters where Ottawa is pursuing policies perceived as im Contrary to the interests of Albertans.

Her criticism of Alberta Health Services’ handling of the pandemic is equally inflammatory.

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AHS has failed to provide enough ICU beds, Smith told me in an interview.

This shortage prompted Premier Jason Kenney to introduce numerous restrictions on liberty to control the spread of COVID.

When COVID first surfaced in March 2020, AHS pledged that the province could create and staff 1,081 ICU beds to treat critically ill patients if things got bad enough. But the most Alberta ever got was about 370 beds.

“I would like to know why Alberta Health Services defied the Prime Minister,” Smith said. “He gave them direct orders to increase ICU beds by (up to 1,081)… I thought they were working on that. And instead they reduced the number of beds in the intensive care unit.”

And then Smith unleashed a rhetorical bombshell on AHS: “I don’t know if that’s incompetence or if they’re intentionally sabotaging the government, but it’s unacceptable.”

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The shortage of intensive care unit beds also prompted Kenney to introduce vaccination cards, a measure Smith said she never introduced. “I’m pro-choice and I’m pro-choice in all things including medical choices.”

Of course, some Smith will return fire at Smith for her implied suggestion that it would have been prudent to have far more COVID patients in the ICU. It’s important to remember that the pandemic has been a balancing act between two evils. Numerous health experts, such as Edmonton physician Ari Joffe, have pointed out the brutal costs to human health and well-being caused by isolation, family breakdown, loss of learning and inflationary spending.

Lockdown damage needs to be measured carefully now so we can better know how to deal with future pandemics, Smith said.

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Referring to her pledge to introduce an Alberta Sovereignty Act as the first act as prime minister, Smith said there is precedent for this in Canada, where Indigenous peoples, Quebec and other provinces are pushing to be nations within a nation. “We have that kind of flexibility in the Confederacy and we just have to enforce it,” Smith said of Alberta.

Better that Alberta force Ottawa back into its own lane than have another explosion of separatism in Alberta, Smith said.

“I think Eastern Canada is living in some kind of dream world if they think that somehow we’re going to continue to essentially let them dictate how our economy is going to develop, kiboshen our resource development and put the brakes on us, it’s not going to be any kind of.” have reaction. There will be a reaction.”

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UCP leadership candidate Danielle Smith.
UCP leadership candidate Danielle Smith. Photo by Azin Ghaffari /mail media, file

On the Energy Act, more Albertan sovereignty would see the province — which Smith says will soon be Canada’s second-largest economy — following the European Union’s lead in defining natural gas and nuclear power as renewable energy and thus qualifying for green finance.

Alberta can find a number of financing mechanisms to fund and insure its own projects. “I very much doubt that Quebec will sit back and cower, intimidated and wondering if the federal government is going to step in and scrap any of their projects,” Smith said. “Why should that be us? We should assert ourselves similarly.”

I’ve been associated with Smith for years when she hosted the Wildrose Party, but it’s evident that her nearly six years hosting her own national radio show has transformed her. Still firmly in her own ideas, she seems more open to a wider variety of perspectives.

As a hostess, she has etched herself into Alberta’s collective consciousness like no other in recent times.

“I don’t think there’s a single Albertan with an interesting political idea that I haven’t spoken to,” she said.

Does all this make Smith a strong leader of the United Conservatives?

There’s no doubt Smith would be a compelling high-wire act as Alberta’s prime minister.

It would shake up Canada, a complacent and inefficient nation in need of a shake up. But we’ll see if that’s what people here look for in a leader.

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