What was expected to be a conventional United Conservative Party campaign announcement on May 11 rapidly descended into chaos when healthcare protesters stormed the event space just prior to the question period commencing.
While there has been some interesting action beyond policy announcements at a few Alberta election campaign stops — usually consisting of the NDP ejecting journalists from events or refusing to answer questions — the campaign trail has largely been free from unplanned interruptions from protesters.
That all changed on Thursday morning when a group of four individuals burst into an underwhelming UCP policy presser highlighting plans to provide seniors with a 25% discount on registry and camping services.
They were ostensibly upset at Premier Smith’s plans to “sell hospitals,” and carried signs stating that the nearby Calgary South Health Campus was not for sale. The group reluctantly left upon being informed that the police would be called if they refused, and the question period resumed shortly thereafter.
While ideologues bursting into a political event and making fools of themselves is not entirely uncommon, there are a few concerning elements of this story that extend beyond holding signs and shouting slogans.
Firstly, a large man rushed the premier of Alberta in an effort to silence her message in favour of his own. Physical intimidation, particularly of a woman, is never ok.
Secondly, the media question period was set to begin when the disruption occurred. Though the question and answer period did eventually take place, there was a very real potential that these radicals intruding could have resulted in the event wrapping up without this crucial media availability.
It seems that the while the NDP is busy excluding journalists from their events, NDP supporters are hard at work disrupting events for parties that actually grant media access to candidates.
Finally, and by far most troublingly, there is the truly shocking fact that among the disruptors were labour activist Aaron Doncaster and 2021 federal NDP candidate Pat King. While the NDP did issue a condemnation of their actions, it fails to acknowledge the protesters' ties to the NDP and fails to address the fact that a former NDP candidate was clearly spouting recent NDP talking points.
Premier Smith seemed emboldened following the disruption and was arguably more engaging, and certainly more directly critical of the NDP than we have seen at other events to date. She fielded a series of questions ranging from the NDP's personal attacks to Gondek’s backtracking on efforts to restore law and order in Alberta.
I also spoke with our very own Alex Dhaliwal about his experience covering the Alberta election for Rebel News and got his opinion as to which party has been more open to media, and which has been largely hiding.
To ensure you don’t miss any of our truly independent coverage of the 2023 Alberta election, be sure to check in regularly at AlbertaDecides.com. While you are there, consider chipping to keep our gas tanks full as we follow these campaign events across the province.