EDMONTON — Alberta’s Opposition says Premier Danielle Smith must cancel the invitation for advice from Dr. Paul Alexander, a high-profile critic of mainstream COVID-19 science who has referred to the pandemic vaccine in interviews and online posts as a “bioweapon.”
NDP health critic David Shepherd said Smith also needs to also reveal the names of the medical team she says is now providing her public health advice.
“Paul Alexander is a discredited conspiracy theorist, someone who openly encouraged adults and children to catch COVID-19, promoted the herd immunity theory (and) labelled the COVID-19 vaccine a bioweapon," Shepherd said in an interview Tuesday.
“I’m calling on her to rescind that invitation. If she has not, let’s hear her clearly say so. Because if she doesn’t share these views, she needs to be very clear about that with Albertans.”
Pandemic response came up at a candidates debate last Thursday for the Brooks-Medicine Hat byelection, where Smith hopes to clinch a legislature seat Tuesday night.
She told the debate: "I’ve got a group of doctors advising me and I know that they’ve already reached out to Dr. Paul Alexander, so I’m interested in hearing what he has to say."
Alexander is a one-time professor at McMaster University and medical adviser to former U.S. president Donald Trump.
He is an outspoken critic of the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines and the usefulness of health restrictions while expounding on herd immunity to handle the pandemic.
In an online post Monday, talking about excess risk for death from heart attacks during the pandemic, Alexander wrote: "It’s the COVID gene injection bioweapon, stupid! Not the virus!"
Alexander did not return a request for comment.
Smith’s office did not immediately return a request for comment on Shepherd’s statements.
Smith's office, asked over the weekend about who was advising Smith and why she wanted to hear from Alexander, declined to answer those questions directly and also said — contrary to Smith’s assertion that she already has a team of doctors advising her — that a team of advisers is still being assembled.
"The premier is in the process of consulting with Health Minister Jason Copping on putting together a qualified and diverse group of medical experts to advise the government on a range of health issues," Becca Polak, Smith’s spokesperson, said in a Saturday statement.
"This group of health advisers will be announced before the end of the year after the necessary vetting and selection process is complete."
Smith has promised major changes to how public health is handled in Alberta.
She has announced that Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the chief medical officer of health, would soon be moved out of that job and be replaced by a team of advisers reporting to Smith.
She also reaffirmed she takes her COVID-19 response cues from documents such as the Great Barrington Declaration, the advice of Edmonton pediatric care and infectious disease specialist Dr. Ari Joffe, and the experience of jurisdictions like Sweden, Florida and South Dakota.
The Barrington Declaration is a 2020 open letter from a group of health specialists that encourages shielding the vulnerable but otherwise letting COVID-19 run unchecked to create herd immunity and reduce long-term harmful side-effects from isolation, such as mental health problems.
Hinshaw has called the declaration scientifically flawed and logistically unworkable. Her views echoed other academics and the World Health Organization.
Joffe has criticized the lockdown approach to COVID-19 and rejected the cookie-cutter restrictions to a disease that skews toward the frail and elderly, saying the long-term consequences of isolation on mental health are far worse.
Joffe did not immediately return a request for comment.
Sweden, South Dakota and Florida took laissez-faire approaches to COVID-19 restrictions, keeping those societies running normally in comparison, but at the expense of higher COVID-19 case and death rates.
Smith, in her role as a podcast journalist last year, spotlighted Dr. Roger Hodkinson and former heart surgeon Dr. Dennis Modry, both of whom have sharply criticized COVID-19 health restrictions as heavy-handed and the cause of far worse mental health and societal outcomes.
As premier, Smith has promised to explore making amends — such as pardons, and perhaps compensation — to those fined for COVID-19 violations or unable to work due to vaccine mandates.
She has promised health restrictions and vaccine mandates will have no role in any future COVID-19 response in Alberta.
She has said her government would bring in changes this fall to the Human Rights Act to prohibit discrimination against anyone for their decision to not get vaccinated for COVID-19. Smith has called the COVID unvaccinated the most discriminated group she has seen in her lifetime.
She has promised legislative changes, if necessary, to prevent a return to mask mandates in schools.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 8, 2022.
Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press