The NDP is calling on Premier Danielle Smith to apologize over "cold and cruel" comments made about the Russia-Ukraine conflict in February and March of this year.
The comments in question are Smith's posts on Locals.com, where she muses about whether or not parts of Ukraine should break away to join Russia, as well as whether or not NATO and Ukraine escalated the conflict, instead of Russia.
"The comments that we heard from the premier just a few months ago that came to light over the weekend really highlight just how cold and cruel she's being to blame Ukraine, which was under attack by the evils of Vladimir Putin. To say that it is Ukraine's fault or the fault of Ukrainians for not being neutral when they are fighting for their lives and trying to defend themselves is completely tone deaf, irresponsible, and cruel to so many Albertans who share their ancestry, but Albertans at large who watched the news and know what's happening In the world," NDP Deputy Leader Sarah Hoffman said.
"When they heard those comments I think it made them re-question exactly what motives the Premier has and why she won't apologize and side with people who are defending themselves from an evil terrorist."
Hoffman added these remarks are recent, so it's not a situation where old comments are pulled out of context to misconstrue what she said.
"At the time she made those remarks, Kyiv was being attacked and bombs were raining down on the capital city of Ukraine. The remarks that she made are completely cruel and tone deaf and blame those who are defending themselves."
Hoffman and the NDP are not only concerned about the social damage her comments caused but the potential economic damage that could come with it. NDP Economic Critic Deron Bilous said comments like this could damage Alberta's international reputation, which in turn would result in less investment, partnerships, and exports.
"We know that countries in Europe are looking for secure sources of energy, they're looking to get out from underneath Russia's thumb. And Alberta has a role to play in being a global energy supplier, so comments like those that Miss Smith made can potentially damage Alberta's international reputation," he said.
Bilous added Alberta's economy is export based, and to create a thriving economy the province has to capitalize on international relationships, especially with our oil and gas.
"We have incredible opportunities to export LNG (liquified natural gas) and other forms of energy. Those international investors are looking for stability. I think the concerns that we have are that some of these comments may have already caused some damage to Alberta's reputation, but I do believe that can be repaired. That's part of the reason why we're calling on the Premier to apologize for her comments and to walk them back."
A troubling trend
The NDP also said this isn't an isolated incident of potentially reputation damaging remarks, as her comments regarding the unvaccinated population being the most discriminated group she's seen in her lifetime have directly led to other provinces recruiting Albertan healthcare workers to leave the province.
"That's (her comments) being used against us to attract vaccinated healthcare workers to leave Alberta and go to other provinces. CHEO was using the Premier's exact quotes to say to Alberta healthcare workers: 'we've got a place for you here. We'll keep you safe at work. We believe in your safety and your well-being so you can focus on your job.' She is causing deep harm to us already, and it's been less than a week," Hoffman said.
Furthermore, Hoffman believes Smith's response to her comments about Ukraine and the unvaccinated people could be a troubling trend.
"She's not saying that she has learned or that she apologizes. She is telling people to try to forget everything that she's done and said, even just a few short months ago. She doesn't seem willing to take responsibility for the harmful things she does and says. And that is a very scary quality in a leader."
On October 16, Smith tweeted a statement regarding her comments on Ukraine, where she explains her great-grandfather was Ukrainian, and "Achieving peace is my greatest concern for Ukraine."
She added she hopes all world leaders "Will do everything possible to de-escalate and spare millions of Ukrainian lives." She said she is looking for ways Alberta can continue to support Ukrainians, which could include expediting work visas with the Federal Government. She also said now is not the time to turn the war into a political topic.
"I would request the NDP and their allies find within themselves the decency to not politicize such a painful and terrible tragedy. It is extremely unbecoming," the statement read.
In response, the NDP said Smith herself politicized the issue when she told Ukrainians who were being bombed at the time that they should be neutral.
"I have and will always stand with the Ukrainian people," Smith concluded.