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Danielle Smith and Gary Davidson

Task Force or Task Farce? Premier Smith’s Secret COVID Crew!

Despite promises of openness, Danielle Smith's government prefers to operate behind closed doors, often at the expense of factual accuracy and public welfare

What’s the deal with Danielle Smith’s government and openness and facts?

After announcing a 7-month moratorium on renewables projects last August, Smith claimed, “the Alberta Electric System Operator [AESO] asked for us to do a pause.”

It turns out the opposite was true. Rather than the AESO asking the government for the pause, the government asked the AESO to write a letter in support of the policy. 

Smith’s government is gaining a reputation for concealing information and evidence from the public while using public funds to advance its own interests.

The latest?

The Globe and Mail revealed that Danielle Smith set up a task force to review Alberta’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic not long after becoming Premier.

Only after the newspaper published its investigation did people outside the government know about the task force. 

The Secret Task Force 

It’s one thing to have a secret task force; it’s another entirely to hire a task force lead who challenges scientifically-accepted vaccine mandates.

The province hired Dr. Gary Davidson to lead the task force and gave him a $2 million budget.

Davidson is an ER doctor at Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre.

In September 2021, Dr. Davidson claimed that the government had exaggerated the severity of the COVID-19 crisis in hospitals. However, Alberta Health Services (AHS) quickly refuted his assertion. 

AHS data at the time indicated that Alberta was overwhelmed by the fourth wave of the pandemic, with rising deaths and illnesses causing intensive care units to struggle under the heavy patient load.

In a statement for CBC News at the time, AHS spokesperson Kerry Williamson said Davidson’s claims were harmful and disappointing. 

“This physician’s opinions do not accurately reflect the COVID-19 pandemic, the AHS pandemic response, or the situation at Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre,” Williamson said.

Dr. Gary Davidson
Dr. Gary Davidson | Red Deer Express

Stacking the Deck?

Danielle Smith said Dr. Gary Davidson was selected because “I needed somebody who was going to look at everything that happened with some fresh eyes and maybe with a little bit of a contrarian perspective because we’ve only ever been given one perspective.”

But given his previous criticism of AHS, did Smith’s appointee really have “fresh eyes”?

The other controversial appointees revealed the secret task force’s purpose. Joining Davidson on the UCP task force were other health professionals who have expressed opinions counter to mainstream medical consensus around vaccines, public health restrictions, and other facets of the pandemic. 

Did the stacked deck of COVID contrarians on the task force increase the ‘diversity of perspectives’ or just play to anti-covid mandate voters who are an influential part of Smith’s base?

According to the Globe and Mail, “Four people stepped away from the task force, including two doctors who hold more conventional views regarding the pandemic.”

“I believe the Earth is round, and I don’t think that the people of Alberta should be paying for people who believe it’s flat to be engaging in the conversation,” said NDP Opposition Leader Rachel Notley in a CBC report.

The government could have recruited someone with real research credentials, like Dr. Dana Olstead or Dr. William Ghali from the University of Calgary’s Cumming School of Medicine, to lead the task force. 

Instead, they chose a discredited doctor with views in alignment with Smith’s own COVID-19 views.

“This is, of course, entirely on brand for Smith, who as a right-wing talk radio host before her return to politics enthusiastically boosted COVID conspiracy theories and advocated quack cures like the now notorious veterinary deworming drug known as Ivermectin,” wrote David Cleminhaga in a Tyee opinion piece.

The task force is expected to release its findings this month.

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