Alberta UCP leader Danielle Smith vows mandatory drug treatment recovery plan if elected

By Alejandro Melgar, Shilpa Downton, and Courtney Theriault

United Conservative Party (UCP) leader Danielle Smith expanded on her “Safe Streets action plan” announced last week, saying the party would pass the “Compassionate Intervention Act” if elected.

In an announcement Monday, Smith was joined by First Nations elders, recovering addicts, and parents of recovering addicts on a stage in Calgary, outlining plans to improve public safety by addressing Alberta’s mental health and addiction crisis.

“Far too often, this addiction crisis has led to social disorder and out-of-control violence. It is the number one job of a government to ensure people are safe when they walk down the street. They shouldn’t have to look over their shoulders in their own communities,” she said.

“People have a right not to be randomly grabbed, kicked, spit upon, or heaven forbid, stabbed.”

The act would allow for a family member, doctor, psychologist, or police officer to make a petition to a specially appointed non-criminal judge to issue a treatment order.

The order would require a person to engage in treatment for their addiction and drug use to save their life and protect the safety of the community.

Smith elaborated on the controversial plans, saying a court would be able to divert someone suffering from an addiction who is in “imminent danger of causing harm to themselves or others” to engage in treatment instead of jail.

She said this would be a last resort to save lives.

In addition, her plans to address the “lack of inpatient support” for mental illness include building five new mental wellness centres, which would provide 375 new inpatient mental health beds.

She says the UCP would build over 700 new publicly-funded treatment beds across 11 new treatment centres called “recovery communities.”

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Four of the recovery communities would be in four First Nations, which are the Kainai, Enoch Cree, Siksika, and Tsuut’ina Nations.

Meanwhile, NDP Leader Rachel Notley said Smith’s proposal to invest in recovery was good but adds the plan is flawed.

“Overall, forced recovery is not successful,” Notley told reporters in Calgary.

“You have to have a whole-person response and approach. You need to be looking at far broader forms of therapy and support at the front end and a lot more transitional support at the other end.”

Smith points finger at NDP for crime increase

In response to a question on her video comments about arresting RCMP officers who enforced health orders, Smith said this is the Alberta NDP bringing up “old, grainy videos,” saying videos are to distract what Notley has done in the past.

“I know that the NDP is going to be constantly bringing up grainy videos of things that I’ve said in the past or other candidates have said, and the reason they are doing that is because Rachel Notley was the worst premier this province has ever had,” she told reporters.

She says the NDP cost the province 183,000 jobs and that people, jobs, and investments left in “droves.”

In addition, she also lays the blame for recent crime and disorder on Notley and says the downtowns of both Edmonton and Calgary were “emptied out” of jobs and opportunities.

Smith says Notley will keep digging up old videos of things she said in the past and that, instead, she will focus on moving Alberta forward and not going back.

The NDP leader, meanwhile, says she has “robust community agreements” with people involved with safe supply and says the UCP is making up its allegations on what the NDP has done or will do.

“Well, these kinds of allegations are just sort of a continuation of Danielle Smith’s inclination to essentially lie about things that we stand for or will do,” Notley said.

The video in question is one where Smith, interviewed by Vincent Byfield in a Facebook Live two weeks before she won the UCP leadership, suggests police officers could be charged for arresting pastors and says the military, not doctors, should lead the next pandemic.

Byfield was an organizer with Take Back Alberta, which has taken credit for taking down former premier Jason Kenney and getting Smith the UCP leadership.

“Many people [were] sending me criminal code sections, ‘you are not allowed under the criminal code to disrupt service. That’s a criminal code violation.’ So I have to wonder if some of the officers are the ones who broke the law when doing so,” Smith said.

“The idea now, especially as we see a revolving door of really bad dudes who are getting let out and committing heinous crimes, and they decided to keep pastors in jail, and in solitary confinement for four or five weeks … this is just punitive.”

At that point, Smith said medical doctors should never be in charge of a medical emergency again.

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“This is why she cannot be trusted to lead our province,” Notley said when asked about the video. “It’s why she cannot be trusted to provide stable, capable, reasonable government.”

“The idea that you would call into question police officers who are enforcing the law and that they would somehow be at risk of being accused as criminals by the premier for doing their job is exactly the kind of threat to the rule of law that Danielle Smith represents,” Notley continued.

Weeks before, a video surfaced of Smith comparing people vaccinated against COVID-19 to Nazis, and she responded to a resurfaced video of her talking about selling hospitals to private contractors.

She is currently under investigation by the province’s ethics commission for whether she “interfered with the administration of justice” regarding COVID-19 prosecutions.

This follows a leaked 11-minute phone call on video, made public by the Alberta NDP and first reported by CBC, showing her speaking with controversial Calgary street pastor Artur Pawlowski.

Pawlowski was convicted of mischief for his role in protests against COVID-19 public health measures on May 2.

He was also found guilty of breaching a release order following a trial in a Lethbridge courtroom.

-With files from Lauryn Heintz

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