Alberta Premier Danielle Smith broadened her new media-question restriction policy Saturday to limit not only questions from reporters but also from media outlets.
Smith told her Corus call-in radio show that not only are individual reporters now limited to one question at news conferences — as announced Friday — she will also accept no more than one question in total from any single news outlet at an event.
Smith reiterated she needs to put limits on questions in order to provide more answers.
“Each media outlet will get one question instead of getting two while we’re in this period of the campaign because I just need to make sure that we’re getting to as many people as possible,” Smith said on Your Province Your Premier in response to one main question and two follow-up questions from the show’s host.
“[This way] we can get to more media outlets because as we get into the election campaign, there’s going to be far more interest.”
Smith’s chief adviser Rob Anderson confirmed the change in a statement on Twitter, saying the change would give more news outlets the chance to ask questions during the upcoming election period.
More intentionally misleading headlines – she is taking 1 question per media outlet per press conference for 6 weeks so she can get to more outlets during the upcoming election period. Albertans should prepare themselves for continuous mainstream media bias for the next 6 weeks. https://t.co/WIvzJY5kcP
Election expected May 29
The writ is scheduled to be dropped on May 1 for a May 29 polling day, but politicians from both sides are already effectively on the hustings, knocking on doors, making promises and criticizing one other.
Opposition Leader Rachel Notley’s NDP has promised to take as many questions as possible, including follow-ups. Notley says if Smith doesn’t want to answer questions, she shouldn’t be premier.
Reporters from larger news outlets often have more than one reporter call in or attend Smith’s news conferences to ask questions on diverse topics unique to their beats or unique to stories they are working on.
They have traditionally been given a main question and a follow-up.
Follow-up questions are considered crucial to allow reporters to clarify the first answer if necessary and to hold politicians and public officials to account if they don’t answer the first question but instead deliver tangentially related talking points.
Smith employed the one-question no-follow technique with reporters Friday and again with listeners on her radio show Saturday.
Smith questioned over support for pastor
On Friday, Smith was asked to reconcile conflicting comments in which she speaks favourably of Calgary street pastor Art Pawlowski but also renounces his “extremist views.” Pawlowski has made headlines for protest against COVID restrictions and comments related to the LGBTQ community.
Smith said she denounces all forms of intolerance. There was no follow up.
Smith was asked what role the right-centre populist group Take Back Alberta will have on her campaign. Take Back Alberta is a growing influence within the party, backing half the members on the party board and getting involved in constituency boards and candidate nominations.
Smith replied the UCP has an open, “one member, one vote” party where everyone gets a say. No follow up.
On her Saturday show, a caller named Jeff, who described himself as a longtime UCP supporter, asked Smith to reconcile conflicting statements on health policy.
Smith in response accused the NDP of trying to muddy the issue and reminded Jeff her government is working to help create health spending accounts for non-insured services like dentists and therapists.
Callers to the show traditionally don’t get follow-up questions, but a caller Saturday asking about electricity costs squeezed in a main question and two follow-ups.
Smith has faced questions on where she stands on health after she announced this week that her government will not allow out-of-pocket payments for care despite Smith advocating in a 2021 policy paper for a new model including paying for a family doctor, surgery co-pays and perhaps private hospitals.
Another listener in a text message asked Smith categorically if she still stands by her 2021 views on health.
“I don’t believe a leopard changes its spots, so let me ask you directly: Do you now categorically reject what you wrote in that [policy] paper? Yes or no? Please do not provide a smoke and mirrors type of answer,” said the text message, read aloud by the host.
Smith did not answer yes or no but pointed instead to the health spending accounts.
No more comments on ethics probe: premier
Along with limiting questions, Smith also announced this week she will not comment at all on an ongoing investigation by the provincial ethics commissioner.
Smith’s office said Ethics Commissioner Marguerite Trussler is trying to determine whether Smith interfered in the administration of justice by talking with the accused about his case before his criminal trial.
In that call, Smith is heard offering to make inquiries on behalf of the accused while telling him the charges against him were politically motivated, adding she shares his concerns with how Crown prosecutors are conducting cases related to COVID-19 measures.
The premier also told listeners that Saturday’s show will be the final one until after the election in May.
“We’ve made the decision, and the station has too that this will be the last show,” she said. “Then maybe I’ll be just on as a guest and the other parties can too.”