'She has a lot of work to do': Smith suggests door still open for controversial UCP candidate
The day after Danielle Smith disavowed a candidate for comparing transgender children to "feces in food," the UCP leader now says if elected, Jennifer Johnson could find her way back into caucus with "a lot of work."
In an interview the day after the leaders' debate, Smith told CTV Morning Live Calgary the candidate for Lacombe-Ponoka could still find her way back into the party.
"(Johnson) does seem to think that she would be able to work her way back into caucus if you win," Jefferson Humphreys asked Smith on Friday morning. "I guess we'll get you on the record now, if that does happen – is that possible?"
"She has a lot of work to do," Smith said.
"I believe in redemption. I do believe people have the ability to have second chances. She's got a lot of proving to do."
The statement comes the day after Smith called Johnson's language "offensive" and a "vile analogy."
She also said Thursday that Johnson would not sit as a member of the UCP in the event she wins on May 29. Smith also suggested the candidate should reach out to affected groups to "inform herself" about the issues.
"I encourage all candidates from all parties not to use this or any other election to provoke distrust, anxiety and hate between people for political purposes. It is time to move forward," Smith said in the statement.
A UCP spokesperson confirmed late Friday afternoon that the UCP has cut off all support including access to funds, staff/volunteers and databases containing voter contact information for Johnson.
Johnson admitted she made the comments in September 2022 and apologized this week, saying she was "embarrassed" she "caused hurt in this way."
"If elected as an MLA, I will seek advice and counsel on how to best communicate my views and discuss these issues meaningfully moving forward," Johnson said in her apology.
Nevertheless, many candidates from all political parties condemned what she said.
Smith said Friday she hadn't heard about the concerns until recently and wanted to investigate personally.
"I'd only heard about it in the last couple of days and I wanted to understand what she had said," Smith said.
"Hearing her comments, (they were) completely unacceptable."
She continued by saying we're living in a time where there "is a lot of concern with our kids."
"We have to be able to be sure that we talk about these issues in a respectful way," she said.
"We have to make sure that every child feels supported by their government, no matter who that is."
CTV News has reached out to Johnson's office for further comment on this issue.
Anna Murphy, a community leader and advocate for the 2SLGBTQLA+ community, said the comments from Johnson are an echo from another Alberta election, around 2012.
"If the candidate for Lacombe-Ponoka is incapable of doing the right and honourable thing by way of withdrawing her candidacy, and if Danielle Smith lacks the political will to hold the candidates of her party accountable for their words and actions, this should give those still undecided insight into how Danielle Smith and the UCP will govern," Murphy said.
"Danielle Smith has asked for us to judge her based upon her action(s)," she added, "Or in this case the lack thereof. In fact this being the Danielle Smith we know from her previous inability to stand up (in 2012) and be bold in her leadership when then a Wildrose candidate mused about how 2SLGBTQIA+ individuals should burn in a lake of fire."
"They say when someone shows you who they are the first time, believe them, and for Danielle Smith and the UCP there is a record and history of behaviour which is dangerous and destructive.
"How can we trust Danielle Smith to do the right thing as the premier of our province?" she asked.
"How can we have faith in her ability to serve all Albertans, when she lacked the ability then and lacks the ability to do the right thing now?"
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