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Health: GUNTER: Premier Danielle Smith wise to back down from championing the rights of anti-vaxxers

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Premier Danielle Smith has decided not to carve out specific human rights protection for Albertans who refuse vaccines. That’s smart for two reasons – and neither of those reasons has anything to do with prevention of the spread of COVID.

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith. © Provided by Edmonton Sun Alberta Premier Danielle Smith.

One is political.

Only about nine per cent of Alberta adults are unvaccinated against the coronavirus. Obviously, that means 91 per cent either willingly accepted the vaccines and boosters when offered, or at least grudgingly rolled up their sleeves.

That means there are likely many more voters who resent all the attention Smith has paid to the unvaccinated, as in “We got shots, what’s the matter with them?”

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Or they are severely normal Albertans who just want the fuss over masks and jabs to fade into the background. Let people decide for themselves. Stop reviving the debate and shoving it in our faces.

So there are probably more votes to be lost from being the champion of nine per cent of the population.

The second reason is the threat to other vaccines and diseases.

Do you really want the liver disease hepatitis B from your manicurist? Because hepatitis is transmittable through small amounts of blood, lots of nail parlours insist their employees have the shot.

Do you really want the Alberta Human Rights Act to be amended to stop that?

Or meningitis shots in schools? Or measles, mumps and rubella?

And how about flu vaxes for the people who look after your mom or dad in extended care?

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Thankfully, Smith seems to have recognized how complex the consequences are for vaccine refusal and has decided to back down. Protected status for anti-vaxxers is not on her agenda, released Monday.

Her government can still pledge no vax passports or mask mandates imposed by the province. But they are wise not to codify the right to do as you please and go where you want where the health of others is involved.

When the throne speech is read Tuesday by Lt.-Gov. Salma Lakhani, the UCP government is expected to focus on blunting the effects of inflation on ordinary families, supporting the most vulnerable Albertans, and fighting for better treatment of Alberta in Confederation.

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In other words, the focus of this legislative term will be governing, not grandstanding.

And the UCP caucus, so far, seems to be more united behind Smith than they were behind former leader Jason Kenney.

That should give the governing party two legs up over their performances in the past two years.

Most voters will likely welcome a return to the normal bickering between the UCP and NDP over policy, rather than the internal quarrelling among UCP MLAs and their own party’s cabinet.

It will be good (and in keeping with a focus on affordability) if the UCP reindexes provincial income tax to the rate of inflation (so taxpayers don’t lose money to the government every time the consumer price index jumps). And it will be generous without being fiscally foolhardy to reindex monthly supports for seniors and the disabled.

And while we are all waiting patiently for details on Smith’s sovereignty act, she seems to have accepted criticism that defying federal laws is unconstitutional by changing the name of the bill before it is even introduced to the Alberta Sovereignty Within a United Canada Act.

Recently the province has told Ottawa it will not participate in new federal gun bans. And it will not pay for the RCMP (who are the provincially funded local police in much of Alberta) to enforce the Trudeau Liberals’ useless, draconian seizure of private firearms.

That’s perfectly constitutional and exactly the sort of thing a Smith government should be doing frequently.

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