Chelsae Petrovic, an ER nurse and United Conservative Party candidate for Livingstone-Macleod, is refusing media interviews after flirting with “political suicide” by suggesting that heart attack survivors should bear accountability for their poor health.
Petrovic offered her remarks, first reported by Global Edmonton’s Saif Kaisar, during her guest appearance on a podcast episode of The Canadian Story published to YouTube on Feb. 21, roughly three weeks before she swept the UCP’s nomination in Livingstone-Macleod.
Social media response to reports on this issue has been overwhelmingly negative.
Speaking as a hopeful nominee and the mayor of Claresholm, Petrovic also disparaged unions, including her own, and made it plain that she would rather be ejected from the UCP’s legislative caucus if she felt supporting the party line would go against the riding’s best interests.
Petrovic’s campaign responded to Shootin’ the Breeze’s request for comment with a statement saying her remarks about heart attack survivors had been “taken out of context.”
A statement attributed to the candidate reads: “I understand my comment could be offensive when removed from the longer interview, and I should have chosen better language. I believe we should be a province that not only focuses on reactive health for those in need but also one that teaches our kids to practise healthy living, which includes taking care of our physical and mental health.”
“No interviews or additional statements will be made regarding the situation,” her campaign team wrote.
Accountability, dependence and heart attacks
Telling podcast hosts David Parker and Zach Gerber that she’d seen “a lot of similarities” between her roles as a nurse and a small-town mayor, Petrovic started talking about hospital patients.
“Everyone comes in with their problems, and how do you fix it? How do you go about being polite to them when you’re trying to save their lives in a high-stress environment?”
It’s a matter of “balancing saving their life and doing it with a smile on your face as they’re bleeding out,” she told Parker, who founded the right-wing populist movement Take Back Alberta, according to TBA’s website.
Asked where she saw “a lack of accountability and responsibility playing out in our Canadian society right now,” Petrovic told Parker that what she was about to say “might be political suicide … which is fine with me, because it needs to be said.”
Canadians have become “so dependent on being saved” by the government, they no longer take responsibility for themselves, she said.
“And I see it in health care,” she continued, dressing down a hypothetical patient.
“You know, I’m going to say it: Maybe the reason why you had a heart attack was because you haven’t taken care of yourself. You’re extremely overweight. You haven’t managed your congestive heart failure. You haven’t managed your diabetes and there’s no personal accountability.
“But they come into the hospital, and all of a sudden, it’s everyone else’s problem but their own.”
Petrovic went on to say that she wanted to rally behind one of her neighbours she said had recently suffered a heart attack.
“Well, let’s start shovelling his driveway,” she suggested.
Kevin Van Tighem, the NDP’s riding candidate, issued a statement Tuesday calling on Premier Danielle Smith and Petrovic to apologize for Petrovic’s comments “blaming Albertans for cardiac disease.”
“Last year, Danielle Smith said Albertans are responsible for developing cancer. Now her candidate blames Albertans for having a heart attack. This is a pattern of cruel and hurtful language that kicks Albertans when they’re down,” Van Tighem said.
Kevin Todd, the Alberta Party’s riding candidate, wrote in a prepared statement, “People of our constituency shouldn’t be made to feel as though their access to medical care is predicated on whether or not they ‘deserve’ help in one of life’s challenging moments.”
‘All the nurses are going to hate me for that’
On the subject of front-line nursing, Petrovic said during the podcast, “We have the unions who butt in [to the nursing process]. Let’s be honest, the unions only have [their] best interests at heart and how they make money.”
“All the nurses are going to hate me for that,” she went on, adding, “Union reps are going to come after me for that one.”
Livingstone-Macleod above all else
Petrovic went on to say she’d represent the interests of Livingstone-Macleod if they conflicted with her party’s policy agenda.
“I promise that I’ll never cross the floor, but I can’t promise that I will always be a UCP representative,” she said, telling Parker and Gerber that she understood that the UCP, like most parties, would boot her out if she won her riding and then voted against the party as an MLA.
“If that means that … someone says, ‘You have to vote this way, otherwise you’re kicked out,’ and it’s not in Livingstone-Macleod’s best interest — well, I guess I’m no longer a UCP representative.”
Petrovic several times stressed that she valued Claresholm’s “very diverse” council, and that effective leadership meant honing the ability to change one’s mind.
The candidate will face the NDP’s Kevin Van Tighem and the Alberta Party’s Kevin Todd when Albertans head to the polls in May.