Alberta Premier Danielle Smith Adds New Restrictions on Journalists’ Questions

On Saturday, Alberta Premier Danielle Smith expanded her new Restricted Media Questions Policy to limit not only questions from reporters, but the media as well.

Smith told her Corus call-in radio show that not only are individual reporters now limited to one question at press conferences – as announced on Friday – but that she will not accept more than one question in total from the part of a single media during an event.

Smith reiterated that she needed to limit the questions in order to provide more answers.

“Each outlet will be getting one question instead of two while we’re in this campaign period because I just have to make sure we reach as many people as possible,” Smith said on Your Province Your Premier in response to a lead question and two follow-up questions from the show’s host.

“[This way] we can access more media because as we get into the campaign trail there will be a lot more interest. »

Smith’s chief adviser, Rob Anderson, confirmed the change in a statement on Twitter, saying the change would give more media the opportunity to ask questions during the upcoming election period.

Election scheduled for May 29

The writ is set to be filed May 1 for an Election Day on May 29, but politicians on both sides are already effectively on the hustings, knocking on doors, making promises and criticizing each other.

Opposition Leader Rachel Notley’s NDP has promised to answer as many questions as possible, including follow-ups. Notley says if Smith won’t answer questions, she shouldn’t be prime minister.

Reporters at major news outlets often have more than one reporter calling in or attending Smith’s press conferences to ask questions about various topics unique to their beats or unique to the stories they are working on.

They have traditionally been given a main question and a follow-up.

Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notley speaks to the Calgary Chamber of Commerce in Calgary on December 15, 2022. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

Follow-up questions are considered crucial to allow journalists to clarify the first answer if necessary and to hold politicians and officials to account if they do not answer the first question but instead deliver tangentially related talking points. .

Smith used the one-question no-follow technique with reporters on Friday and again with listeners to his radio show on Saturday.

Smith asked about pastor support

On Friday, Smith was asked to reconcile conflicting comments in which she speaks favorably of Calgary street pastor Art Pawlowski, but also backs down from his “extremist views.” Pawlowski has made headlines protesting COVID restrictions and comments related to the LGBTQ community.

Smith says she denounces all forms of intolerance. There was no follow-up.

Smith was asked what role the center-right populist group Take Back Alberta will play in his campaign. Take Back Alberta has a growing influence within the party, supporting half of the party’s board members and getting involved in constituency councils and candidate nominations.

Smith replied that the UCP has an open “one member, one vote” party where everyone has a say. No tracking.

A man looks at a woman who speaks into the microphone to his left.
Danielle Smith, right, while leading the Wildrose Alliance, speaks to reporters, as then-MP Rob Anderson looks on in Calgary in 2011. (The Canadian Press)

On his Saturday show, a caller named Jeff, who describes himself as a longtime UCP supporter, asked Smith to reconcile conflicting health policy statements.

In response, Smith accused the NDP of trying to cloud the issue and reminded Jeff that his government was working to help create health spending accounts for uninsured services like dentists and therapists.

Callers on the show don’t traditionally receive follow-up questions, but a caller on Saturday asking about electricity costs was squeezed into a lead question and two follow-ups.

Smith has faced questions about her position on health after announcing this week that her government would not allow out-of-pocket payments for care despite Smith advocating in a 2021 guidance document for a new model that includes payment for a family doctor, co-country surgery and possibly private hospitals.

Another listener in a text message asked Smith emphatically if she still stood by her 2021 views on health.

“I don’t believe that a leopard changes its spots, so let me ask you directly: do you now categorically reject what you have written in this [policy] paper? Yes or no? Please don’t provide a smoke-and-mirror type response,” the text message, read aloud by the host, said.

Smith did not answer yes or no, but instead pointed to health spending accounts.

More comments on the ethics probe: Prime Minister

In addition to limiting questions, Smith also announced this week that she would not comment at all on an ongoing investigation by the provincial ethics commissioner.

Smith’s office said Ethics Commissioner Marguerite Trussler was trying to determine whether Smith interfered with the administration of justice by talking to the defendant about his case before his criminal trial.

WATCH | Alberta premier says ethics commissioner is investigating her:

Alberta premier says ethics commissioner is investigating her

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith says the Ethics Commissioner is investigating allegations that she tried to interfere with the court’s handling of a pastor’s charges related to a restriction blockade COVID-19.

In that call, Smith is heard offering to investigate on behalf of the defendant while telling him the charges against him were politically motivated, adding that she shares his concerns about how Crown prosecutors conduct cases related to COVID-19 measures.

The Prime Minister also told listeners that Saturday’s broadcast would be the last until after the May election.

“We’ve made the decision, and the station also has that this will be the last show,” she said. “So maybe I’ll just be a guest and the other parties can too.”

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