Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley says it’s appropriate for her to continue campaigning as wildfires rage on in the province’s north because Alberta is in an election period.
Notley’s comments came at a campaign stop in Calgary North East on Monday afternoon where she pitched increasing home care for seniors by $100 million.
United Conservative Party leader Danielle Smith has not made any campaign announcements for the past three days. She attended a UCP fundraiser in Calgary on Saturday, but has otherwise put her campaigning on hold to respond to the fires.
When asked if she considered suspending her campaign, Notley said it’s a “difficult time” for Albertans displaced by the fires but political parties must continue with their pitch to voters.
“As long as we keep a very close eye on where things are at, and ensure the safety and security of those 30,000 Albertans and the communities within which they live is not in any way compromised by the fact that we’re in an election campaign, then I think we also need to continue our conversation with Albertans.”
Notley also said both she and Smith are continuing to work on the campaign amid the crisis.
“Indeed, we’ve seen both of us do that,” she said in response to a question from True North. “And so, that’s what we’re doing.”
Notley did not answer a question from True North about whether it was wrong for the premier to receive criticism for attending a UCP fundraiser over the weekend considering that she’s continued her campaign.
Mount Royal University political science professor and frequent legacy media columnist Duanne Bratt said it was a “really bad look” for Smith to attend the fundraiser between two press conferences about the wildfires.
“Symbols matter,” he wrote on Twitter.
“Especially in the midst of a natural disaster crisis. The campaign event really took away from the otherwise strong performance on Friday and Saturday.”
At the time of the NDP press conference on Monday afternoon, there were 98 active wildfires in the province, including 27 marked as “out of control.”
On Monday morning, the Town of Drayton Valley announced on Facebook that four homes have been lost in the wildfires. Parts of the town have been under an evacuation order since Thursday, with the order expanding throughout Friday.
The UCP did not host any campaign events on Monday. Smith hosted a press conference as premier — not UCP leader — Monday afternoon.
She has a campaign announcement scheduled for Tuesday in Edmonton.
The Alberta election has a set date of May 29.