Alberta Premier Danielle Smith, looking for all the world as if she might be clarifying something.
Alberta Premier Danielle Smith, looking for all the world as if she might be clarifying something. Credit: Alberta Newsroom / Flickr

As predicted in this space, Alberta Premier Danielle Smith has now clarified her statement of the day before about contacting Crown prosecutors “on a regular basis” to ask if they thought COVID-related public health prosecutions were in the public interest and if they had a chance of resulting in convictions.

Since Smith’s negative views of efforts by public health officials to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic are well known, it would be hard for prosecutors to interpret that as anything but a request that they stop. 

But it turns out she didn’t contact them after all – or so she now says. 

“I had discussions with the Attorney General and the Deputy Attorney General and asked them to look into what options were available with respect to outstanding COVID-related cases,” Premier Smith clarified in Friday’s clarification.

“They advised me the Crown prosecutors would independently make their decisions on whether or not to carry on with COVID-related cases based on their assessment of whether there was a reasonable chance of conviction and whether it was in the public interest,” she clarified further. (Is it possible she didn’t know this?) 

“I respect that independent process,” she went on, with determined clarity. “While my language may have been imprecise in these instances, I was referring to the process and the discussions above and the advice I received from the Attorney General and the Deputy Attorney General.” 

Ah, imprecisionCarry on, prosecutors! 

“At no time have I communicated with Crown prosecutors,” Smith’s statement concluded definitively. 

This is all very well to say, of course, because as many people were pointing out last night, whether or not she communicated with the prosecutors, they heard her loud and clear, and what they heard was that the premier of Alberta unequivocally does not want them prosecuting anyone for any offence against public health rules, at least where COVID-19 is concerned.

Nor was it the only time Smith has said this. Just before Christmas she told the proprietor of a right-wing video blog the same thing, in even greater detail.

Smith said then: “The questions that I can ask and have asked and continue to ask is: Is it in the public interest and is there a reasonable likelihood of conviction?”

“I’ve put it to the prosecutors, and I have asked them to do a review of the cases with those two things in mind, and I’m hopeful that we’ll see a true turning of the page,” she added.

So what’s going on? It’s pretty clear what Opposition Leader and former premier Rachel Notley makes of this.

“She is either lying now or she was lying then,” Notley told Journalists in Calgary Friday. “Clearly lying is happening. There is a lot of lying going on.” 

As I said in my last post on this topic, Smith’s very public gaffe on Thursday morning was “the latest in what is getting to be a fairly long list of statements requiring clarifications – clarifications that may soon require their own clarifications.”

Yesterday’s clarification is exactly that, a statement that does not settle the objection to her original comment and further seems to confirm that she has an extremely casual relationship with the truth. 

Indeed, we are a point now that she has called into doubt just about everything else she has ever said about anything.

David J. Climenhaga

David J. Climenhaga

David Climenhaga is a journalist and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. He left journalism after the strike...