Rachel Notley: Alberta's most threatened premier
'It's one of the tragedies of what's happening now in public discourse. There's more personal attack'
By Kim Trynacity, CBC News Posted: Feb 14, 2017 12:00 PM MT Last Updated: Feb 14, 2017 5:46 PM MT
From deflecting an unrelenting torrent of social media attacks to seeing her face on a golf tournament target, Rachel Notley holds the distinction of being the most threatened premier in Alberta history.
Statistics released by Alberta Justice show Notley was subject to 412 incidents of what's termed inappropriate contact and communication between Jan. 26, 2016 — when tracking of such incidents began — to Dec. 19, 2016.
Twenty-six files were forwarded to police for review and possible investigation, according to Alberta Justice.
Alberta Justice began tracking comments and posts in response to the increasing prevalence and popularity of social media, spokesperson Jason van Rassel said in an email.
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Other information provided by Alberta Justice shows that Alberta premiers faced a total of 55 non-social media threats from 2003 until the end of 2015.
That includes threats made against Notley and former premiers Ralph Klein, Ed Stelmach, Alison Redford and Jim Prentice.
Of the total, 19 threats were against Notley, 16 were against Redford, 14 against Stelmach, and three each against Prentice and Klein.
Threats to Notley more serious
Most of the threats directed to the premiers were considered "low" threat levels but some directed at Notley, Redford and Stelmach were classified as "medium."
During the politically charged Bill 6 debate at the end of 2015, Notley became the online target of angry social media posts that said she should be shot, stabbed, or even thrown into a tree grinder.
Bill 6 brought Alberta farm and ranch workers under Occupational Health and Safety protection — a right already held by agricultural employees in every other province.
The backlash caused raucous protests around Alberta and in front of the legislature.
Education Minister David Eggen said he's "always concerned" about the premier's safety. Eggen says he first noticed the increased social media attacks the day after the May, 2015 election.
"There's always people who react inappropriately and certainly it's been a concern of ours," he said.
Deputy premier and Health Minister Sarah Hoffman has also seen her share of social media taunts and threats.
Hoffman said she's been called names on social media that have never been uttered to her in person. Social media allows for anonymity or a sense of distance that seems to create a platform for insults, she said.
"So I think people sometimes do things that they wouldn't do to your face. I'm glad they don't do them to your face."
Labour Minister Christina Gray she is confident Notley's security detail is protecting the premier while she is getting out into the public.
"I certainly wouldn't want to see security concerns prevent her from being able to do what is a key part of her job."
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Tom Dombrowsky, who was on the security detail for Ralph Klein, said it was a different time back then in the early 2000s. He said he encountered people from time to time who wanted to "blow off steam," he said.
Dombrowsky said Klein had two security officers in Edmonton and two in Calgary.
He recalled a couple of times where he had to grab some people because they were threatening to punch the premier, but never had to deal with threats on social media.
At a ceremony to unveil his portrait in the legislature Monday, former premier Dave Hancock said he wasn't in the job long enough to incite a political backlash, or get people angry.
"Everybody knew I was going," said Hancock, who served as Alberta's premier for six months in 2014 after Redford's abrupt resignation.
"It's one of the tragedies of what's happening now in public discourse," says Hancock. "There's more personal attack and less approach to policy,"
Notley declined to comment for this story.Articled from the CBC RSS Syndication CBC.ca - RSS Feeds Copyright is that of their respective owners (CBC) Calgary News Releases
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