EDMONTON—Alberta Premier Danielle Smith says she won't be using Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw for advice, and will instead seek a new team of public health advisers.
Smith made the comments in her first press conference as premier on Tuesday afternoon, just hours after being sworn-in as Alberta’s 19th premier.
In response to a question about whether she’ll keep Hinshaw as her primary public health adviser, Smith said "no."
“I appreciate the work that Dr. Deena Hinshaw has done, but I think that we’re in a new phase where we are now talking about treating coronavirus as endemic, as we do influenza,” she said at the Alberta Legislature.
"[I will be] developing a new team of public health advisers."
In response to a clarification question on whether Hinshaw would be fired, Smith’s press secretary Rebecca Polak reiterated Smith’s comments about developing a new team of public health advisers.
'Most Discriminated-Against'Smith has been a vocal critic of former premier Jason Kenney’s pandemic policy, including while she was a radio host before running for the United Conservative Party leadership.
During the leadership race, Smith promised to overhaul Alberta Health Services and to change management within the department. She has also pledged to amend and strengthen legislation so Albertans can’t be "discriminated-against" on the basis of medical decisions.
Smith said in her press conference that the unvaccinated were discriminated-against during the COVID-19 pandemic and those who refused the COVID-19 vaccine faced the most restrictions on their freedoms in the last year. The premier said she has never experienced a situation in her life when a group was treated with such discrimination.
“They have been the most discriminated-against group that I’ve ever witnessed in my lifetime,” she said.
“I don’t think I’ve ever experienced a situation in my lifetime where a person was fired from their job, or not allowed to watch their kids play hockey, or are not allowed to go visit a loved one in long-term care or hospital, or not allowed to go get on a plane to either go across the country to see family or even travel across the border.”
She added that "we are not going to create a segregated society on the basis of a medical choice.”
Smith also announced that she has appointed herself the UCP candidate for the Brooks-Medicine Hat byelection to seek a seat in the Alberta Legislature.