Alberta Premier Danielle Smith is raising questions about Opposition NDP Leader Rachel Notley’s husband and his role in the upcoming provincial election campaign.

Notley’s husband, Lou Arab, is a communications official for the Canadian Union of Public Employees and sits on the governing board of Notley’s NDP.

In a statement Saturday from her United Conservative party, Smith says she wants to know if it’s legal for CUPE to spend money on attack ads against the UCP given Notley’s relationship to Arab.

The statement didn’t specify what law Smith believes is being violated.

“What the premier would like to ask Ms. Notley, who is married to a communications representative for CUPE, is why is her husband’s union spending massively on third-party attack ads to elect the NDP, and how is it legal?” said the UCP statement.

The statement also questioned Arab in relation to the province’s union advocacy group, the Alberta Federation of Labour.

“Ms. Notley’s husband is actively involved as a union representative (with the AFL). They are working night and day to elect NDP candidates, from door knocking to spending massively on third-party attack ads, to influence the NDP and the electorate.

“Voters should be concerned by how the Alberta Federation of Labour influences Ms. Notley and the NDP.”

AFL president Gil McGowan said while CUPE is part of the AFL, Arab has no official role.

Alberta Premier @ABDanielleSmith questions election role of Opposition leader @RachelNotley's husband. #ABPoli

McGowan said Smith’s comments are an unwarranted personal attack, and said the UCP should not be surprised workers are door-knocking against them after the UCP, in its four years in government, rolled back worker protections and rights while freezing the minimum wage.

One of the UCP's first acts as government was to pass legislation to alter previously signed contracts with unions. It also passed a law allowing it to later cancel its master agreement with physicians through the Alberta Medical Association.

“It's just a personal smear. The UCP should be ashamed of themselves for attacking one of Rachel Notley’s family members,” said McGowan in an interview.

“How would they like it if the New Democrats started attacking the family members of UCP politicians for their involvement?

“(Arab) is doing nothing wrong. He’s breaking no laws. He’s supporting his wife, which is nothing other than laudable.”

Smith made the statement in response to a story in The Globe and Mail that reported Smith attended the wedding last month of David Parker, the head of a third-party advertiser called Take Back Alberta.

Take Back Alberta is a growing force within Smith’s UCP, delivering blocs of members to party events to elect constituency board members, candidates and, to date, half the party’s governing board.

Notley has called for Smith to clarify her ties and allegiances to Take Back Alberta, saying the movement espouses “extremist views.”

Speaking to the Parker event, the UCP said, "The premier was invited to a wedding and attended" and did not elaborate.

The NDP responded in a statement from justice critic Irfan Sabir but declined to speak to Smith’s comments surrounding Arab.

Instead the party focused on Smith attending the Parker wedding.

“Danielle Smith spends her time pandering to extremists. Take Back Alberta is pushing the UCP so far to the extreme fringes that they are no longer in touch with Albertans' priorities,” said Sabir.

“Danielle Smith aligning with this group is another sign of the chaos and instability she has brought to government, and these connections raise concerns about what she would do with another term.”

Smith, asked by reporters two weeks ago what role Take Back Alberta will have on the party policy development, declined to answer directly.

Instead, Smith said at the time, "We are a one-member, one-vote party. Anyone can come to our events, participate in our nomination contests, participate in leadership contests, (and) participate in discussions around policy."

Parker has described Take Back Alberta as a coalition of people exercising their democratic privileges to advocate for individual rights and freedoms, pushing back against such measures as COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

Take Back Alberta has ties with last year's blockade at the U.S. border crossing at Coutts intended to protest COVID-19 rules.

Parker helped rally support within the UCP last year against then-premier and party leader Jason Kenney over his pandemic-era health restrictions.

As a result, Kenney received just 51 per cent support at a leadership review last May, prompting his resignation.

That paved the way for Smith to become leader last fall.

Smith has rejected COVID-19 health measures and has called those unvaccinated against the virus the most discriminated group she has seen in her lifetime.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 29, 2023.

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