EDMONTON — Alberta’s Opposition leader says Premier Danielle Smith consulting a medical adviser of former U.S. president Donald Trump on COVID-19 who calls vaccines “bioweapons” exacerbates worries she runs a government not guided by science.
“(Dr. Paul Alexander) is a conspiracy theorist whose ideas have been discredited by all reasonable folks in the scientific and medical community,” NDP Leader Rachel Notley said Wednesday after delivering a speech to the Rural Municipalities of Alberta convention.
“The very act of suggesting that she will be consulting with him is going to destabilize our health-care system.
“It’s going to make folks on the front line worry even more that they cannot count on this government to make the kinds of science-based decisions that we need to start restoring health-care services to so many Alberta families.”
Notley’s NDP is calling for Smith to revoke the invitation to Alexander and reveal the names of the medical people Smith says are now advising her on public health policy.
Smith’s office has declined for five days to explain why and what advice she is seeking to learn from Alexander or who is on her health advisory team.
Smith did not make herself available to reporters Tuesday night after winning a seat in the legislature in a byelection in Brooks-Medicine Hat. She also declined to speak to reporters after a speech in Medicine Hat on Wednesday morning.
Her office did not immediately return a request for comment Wednesday.
The Alexander issue made headlines after Smith announced it during a discussion about COVID-19 response in a byelection candidates’ debate last Thursday.
Smith told the audience, “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 a medical adviser to 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. He has also referred to COVID-19 vaccines as bioweapons.
The NDP says the Alexander invitation is part of a concerning pattern of anti-science from Smith that can have profound ramifications on a health system Smith has promised to radically reorganize by mid-January.
Smith has been sharply critical of COVID-19 health restrictions and vaccine mandates, and has promised Alberta will not pursue such measures again. Last year she pushed for ivermectin to be used as a COVID-19 cure, a treatment since debunked.
Last month she reiterated that she is guided on COVID-19 policy by the Great Barrington Declaration and the experiences of Sweden, Florida and South Dakota.
Those sources urged protecting the old and frail but otherwise letting COVID-19 run free in society to develop herd immunity and prevent deleterious consequences of lockdowns that include isolation, joblessness, domestic assault and drug abuse. It came at the expense of comparatively higher COVID case and death rates.
Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, has called the Barrington Declaration scientifically flawed and logistically unworkable, echoing similar assessments of academics and the World Health Organization.
On her first day as premier on Oct. 11, Smith announced Hinshaw would be removed from her post and replaced by a team of advisers reporting to Smith.
Smith has also promised to reorganize the governance structure of Alberta Health Services by mid-January, blaming it for forcing its workers to get COVID-19 vaccines and for failing Albertans when the health system came close to collapse during multiple waves of the pandemic.
Both Notley and Smith are pitching reforms to the health system ahead of the provincial election in May.
Smith, in her byelection victory speech Tuesday, promised to add more staff to the front lines and reduce management bureaucracy to fix a system floundering with a shortage of family doctors, ambulance bottlenecks and emergency wait times in the hourly double-digits.
Notley, in her speech to the Rural Municipalities Association, said her party would start a massive recruitment strategy for health professionals, with details released in the coming weeks.
Paul McLauchlin, president of the association, said the suffering in emergency wards needs to be addressed first.
“I’ve had folks show up at the hospital in Red Deer (and sitting) for 17 hours. Can you imagine sitting for 17 hours?” McLauchlin said.
“I’ve heard of people sitting for six hours with acute appendicitis. I’ve known people that had ruptured gallbladders in a waiting room in hospital.
“That front end — we need to be better.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 9, 2022.
Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press