Alberta Premier Jason Kenney at yesterday afternoon’s COVID-19 briefing (Photo: Screenshot of Alberta Government video).

One hates to play the skunk at a garden party, but somebody needs to ask the question a lot of Albertans must be thinking.

To wit, if less than a week ago we barely had enough N95 medical masks for Alberta’s hard-pressed nurses, doctors and other front-line health care workers to work for the next 30 days, was the premier wise to give away three-quarters of a million of them to other provinces on the strength of contracts with manufacturers abroad for more? As we have recently seen, some foreign manufacturers will break their contracts if ordered by their national government.

Albert Health Minister Tyler Shandro at the same event (Photo: Screenshot of Alberta Government video).

The wave of COVID-19 infections has not yet peaked in Alberta and front-line health care workers continue to report shortages and rationing of personal protective equipment throughout the province, yet yesterday our premier was acting as if we’ve got the corona virus on the run.

So, is this a generous Easter gift based on Alberta’s good fortune and the massive purchasing power of Alberta Health Services, our single province-wide health authority, or is it a roll of the dice to score political points against Mr. Kenney’s Liberal rivals in Ottawa and pipeline-questioning politicians in other provinces using Albertan lives as stakes?

Using boxes of medical supplies in an Alberta Health Services warehouse as a stagey backdrop for yesterday’s daily COVID-19 briefing, Premier Kenney and Health Minister Tyler Shandro naturally framed the government’s unexpected action as if anyone who questions their timing is a bad person who doesn’t believe in sharing with other Canadians.

But the question remains a fair one in light of what senior AHS officials and UCP politicians were saying days ago, reports from front-line workers in the field, and the fact the premier included in his pitch what sounded like a quid pro quo in the form of a national support for Alberta’s fossil fuel industry.

Yesterday’s briefing was almost entirely concerned with Alberta’s donations of 250,000 N95 respirators, plus surgical masks, gowns, disposable gloves, and 50 ventilators to Ontario, 250,000 N95s and some other supplies to Quebec, and 250,000 N95s to British Columbia. That may explain why there were no physicians there. Mr. Kenney did most of the talking, with Mr. Shandro and AHS procurement head Jitendra Prasad singing backup.

All the participants in the news conference made the point that having a single province-wide health authority gives Alberta reach and purchasing power that other provinces do not have. “It’s one of the benefits of having a provincial, coordinated health care system,” Mr. Shandro said.

Mr. Kenney boasted that Alberta has “really harnessed the enormous purchasing power of the one centralized administration of health care in Alberta. We are the largest single point of purchasing of health care equipment in Canada, and we rank on a global scale in terms of our purchasing power.”

This is unquestionably true, but it will probably come as a shock that Mr. Kenney is saying this to Wildrose Party supporters who dreamed the premier would someday break up AHS, as their former party’s policy proposed.

Alberta Health Services procurement Chief Program Officer Jitendra Prasad (Photo: Screenshot of Alberta Government video).

It also raises an interesting question: If Mr. Kenney recognizes the advantages of centralized purchasing power when it comes to medical supplies, why does he want Alberta to be able to opt out of a national pharmacare program?

Regardless, Messrs. Kenney and Shandro insisted they are confident there are adequate supplies on hand — indeed, Mr. Kenney indicated he started contemplating such donations 10 days ago.

“I assure Albertans that we will have ample supply,” Mr. Shandro said. “We are in a position both to keep Albertans safe and to help ensure that Canadian health care systems from coast to coast to coast are equipped to take on the challenges ahead.”

Said Mr. Kenney: “We are absolutely confident that these contributions will in no way undermine our capacity to provide critical protective equipment and ventilators to Alberta’s medical professionals, to other associated front line workers, and to care for those in need of it. We would not contribute if it would in any way impair our ability to provide for our own health care needs.”

Nevertheless, the premier pitched the donation as the right thing to do, citing with characteristic piety the Biblical Golden Rule and including a seasonal shout-out to all the major monotheistic religions.

“We are all in this together,” Mr. Kenney said. “And let me refer back to how I began, by talking about the Golden Rule: ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’ …”

“I, for one, as an Albertan, and as a Canadian, could not in conscience, watch us stockpile massive amounts of surplus equipment while we see many of our fellow Canadians in some provinces within days of running out of some of these supplies,” he said.

Just the same, Mr. Kenney also made a point of noting “the uniquely deep economic adversity that Alberta is facing, not only because of the coronavirus recession, but also because of the meltdown in energy prices and the way that it will inflict even greater economic adversity on our province after five years of economic challenges.”

In response to a softball question from a reporter, he added: “I obviously hope that our fellow Canadians will recognize in this contribution the generous role that Albertans have always played across the country.

“This is one practical expression of that at a time of need, but we Albertans contribute $20 billion more to the rest of Canada than we get back in benefits every year,” he continued, tendentiously. “That helps to fund their hospital system, their health care systems, their schools and social services.

“So I hope that one of the lessons to be learned from this crisis is that we are all in this together. I hope there will be a renewed sense of national solidarity.

“And I think part of that should mean that we’re all in this together not only when it comes to a health emergency, but also when it comes to generating wealth through the responsible development of resources so that we can have the money that pays for world class health care to get us through times like this.”

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  1. Continuing on our AB gov’ts path of expanding oilsands production and thus increasing climate impacts is evidence that evolution really did hard-wire short-termism into our species, and the focus on short-term winning in our politics reflects that: ‘ …the responsible development of resources so that we can have the money that pays for world class health care to get us through times like this.”’

    If there are historians still functioning a few decades hence, they’ll note the civilizational-destructive valorization of expanding oilsands with little effective concern for climate catastrophe. And my AB NDP will be on that list of governments that mostly acquiesced to Big Oil.

  2. As soon as Kenney piously mentions the ‘Golden Rule’ one can expect to see him come around, cap in hand, demanding that his generosity be returned a thousand fold. This level of grifting has not been seen by Canadian politician since Brian Mulroney. But at least Mulroney was, on occasion, not inclined to make a big deal out of a gift or show of support. His support of Nelson Mandela and the anti-Apartheid movement was out of step with his fellow travellers, Reagan and Thatcher; but you knew that if he was willing to challenge those two, you knew he was a true believer in the cause.

    Kenney is like that neighbour who offers to lend you his lawn mower, though you already have one, but holds you to a debt, nonetheless. And if you don’t deliver, you calls by-law the moment you make the slightest infraction.

    I’m sure the premiers will receive these items, shake their heads, and say to themselves, “What’s up with this guy?”

  3. He’s been warned by the people he listens to – not the Preston Manning crowd, but the real pros – that he’s out on a limb with nowhere but down if he doesn’t pivot back to being at least superficially reasonable with other jurisdictions. Remember that Maclean’s cover from only a year ago? The Resistance? All the others have crawled back to good relations with the federal Liberals and Andrew Scheer is out of a job. Kenney, like many Albertans, can’t read the national room right, and he’s trying to reach out by acting like he’s human. For him, that’s always a stretch.

    1. I spent some time working in a similar environment. It was residential and out of the three dozen rooms, a third had little placards in honour of the Great Calgarians, generally oil and gas or developers, who had donated some money to the establishment of the floor. The pay was less than a day labourer would earn, with the added bonus of violent criminals in the client population. These programs were legislated back in the Lougheed days, but under Klein the various ministries shucked them off onto charities, who do not have the financial resources to provide proper services, and so a portion is stolen off the top and the rest goes to pay pathetic wages to the underqualified or soon-to-be burned out. The Alberta Advantage!

  4. Without the proper equipment, there will be blood. Blood for oil – and most UCP types are so selfish and entitled they do not see the connection made so plainly by their golden boys.

  5. Sounds like Jason is hoping to undo some of the damage he has done to his reputation on the national front, in order to revive his prime ministerial ambitions – at Alberta taxpayers expense, of course.

  6. No strings attached, right?
    Hard not to see the strings connecting AB’s oil industry to its puppet Premier’s floppy limbs and mouth.

    Nauseating piety to prop up thinly veiled pitch for political / financial support for AB’s flailing oil & gas industry. In some circles, they call that bribery.
    A gift given with expectation of return isn’t a gift.
    Is Kenney the premier of Alberta or the don of the oil mafia?

  7. Kenney the comedian: “generating wealth through the responsible development of resources so that we can have the money that pays for world class health care”

    “Generating wealth” at less than $4 per barrel. Oilsands producers are losing money on every barrel. Given the 30% high-cost diluent in a barrel of dilbit, the bitumen in that barrel is worth near or less than zero at today’s prices.

    In 2018-19, AB liquor/cannabis revenues exceeded natural gas royalties. AB gaming/lottery revenues exceeded crude oil royalties.
    AB bitumen royalties 2018-19: $3.2 billion = 6.5% of AB Govt revenues.
    In 2016-17, the AB Govt earned more from gaming and alcohol sales than it did from bitumen royalties.
    AB’s oil industry is at the mercy of global oil markets. AB gets hammered every time the oil price crashes. Massive job losses. Huge holes in AB’s budget and loss of services. Alberta’s dependence on oil is our prime vulnerability, not our strength.

    Oil & gas companies can’t or won’t pay municipal property taxes or clean up. AB’s oil & gas industry has barely started to fund its clean-up liabilities: north of $260 billion.

    Tally externalized environmental, climate change, and health costs. Species extirpation/extinction, loss of ecosystem services, and eventual global ecosystem collapse. The fossil fuel industry destroys health and wealth.

    Wealth that degrades our life-support systems is illusory. The costs of climate change and fossil-fuel pollution are increasingly prohibitive. Hence, the need to shift away from fossil fuels ASAP.

    How many more times shall we sit back and watch AB’s economy collapse?
    Time to get off the oilsands roller coaster.

  8. Kenney: “We Albertans contribute $20 billion more to the rest of Canada than we get back in benefits every year. That helps to fund their hospital system, their health care systems, their schools and social services.”

    More disingenuous spin.
    Most of the wealth generated in Canada that pays for govt programs including transfer payments including equalization does not come from AB. Alberta taxpayers account for 14% of federal revenues. Ontario taxpayers account for 42%.

    Federal general revenue is derived from income and corporate taxes, the GST, and tariffs on imports.
    Canadians pay federal tax at the same incremental rates wherever they live. Wealthy Canadians pay more tax. Most wealthy Canadians live in Ontario and Quebec.
    Most rich Canadians live in Ontario and Quebec. Ontario and Quebec taxpayers contribute 58% of federal tax revenues, which fund equalization. Ontario taxpayers alone contribute c 42% of tax revenues. AB taxpayers contribute 14%. BC taxpayers also contribute 14%.

    If Albertans stopped paying tax tomorrow, federal revenues, including equalization funding, would retain 86 cents on the dollar.
    Suppose Alberta seceded or disappeared tomorrow. 86 cents of every equalization dollar would still flow from (wealthy) Canadian taxpayers to low-income Canadians in have-not provinces.

  9. Congrats to the Premier on doing the right thing and sharing our largesse during this crisis.

    Since he chose to quote scripture, I might add the following from Matt 6: 1-2

    “Be careful not to do your “acts of righteousness” before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.
    So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men”.

    Kenney is playing politics standing in front of cases of supplies. It is so transparently hypocritical.

    And if we are quoting the Golden Rule, perhaps this gov’t could start by apologizing to all the groups that they have arbitrarily stomped on since they were elected, by imposing, without consultation or warning, draconian changes to contracts, pensions, and funding. They should commit to more open, honest, and transparent negotiations, rather than ruling with an iron fist. But I guess you would only do that if you truly believed in treating others as you would like to be.

  10. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you?” Cuts to Alberta social programs harming poor families, children…Alberta’s most vulnerable? Not respecting frontline health care bargaining rights? Cuts to education resulting in 26,000 job losses on a Saturday afternoon? And more cutbacks to come? And Kenney is blathering on mentioning the Golden Rule?
    To be crass, one would wonder if the guy was on crack. Who the hell do the Kenney UCP think they are?! If the paradox here doesn’t register with even the most ideological brain there’s really something wrong. The Kenney UCP think they can do, say and act any which way they want with impunity. And we have to put up with this for another 3 years?
    I guess it means that Alberta frontline health care professionals should be able to use PPE the correct way, i.e.discarding, for example, every mask whether it be surgical or N95 after every single use, and not having to save them when discarded to be reprocessed.
    And what of the long term care facility in Alberta who has had way to many COVID-19 deaths? Have they ‘given’ and topped up PPE supplies there free of charge? And what of dangerously low staffing levels at ‘for profit’ long term care facilities in Alberta? Even the not-for-profit facilities have inadequate staffing levels. Maybe the Kenney UCP should get their priorities straight when it comes to the Golden Rule.

  11. For a striking alternative reality version of Kenney’s gesture, check out Don Braid’s piece in The Calgary Herald:

    “Braid: In striking act of generosity, Alberta donates protective gear worth $41 million to three provinces”
    “Behind all the bickering, Canadian provinces have always been quick to help each other in a crisis.
    “During the great Fort McMurray fire of 2016, for instance, Ontario sent 100 firefighters. B.C provided more than 80. Quebec contributed four water bombers.
    “This is both admirable and routine. It’s what happens in Canada.
    “But there has never, ever, been anything like the UCP government’s donation of vast amounts of protective equipment to B.C., Ontario and Quebec as they face dangerous shortfalls.
    “… The importance of the donations cannot be exaggerated. Nothing would lead to a panic collapse of COVID-19 care more quickly than running out of protective gear for health workers.
    “In fact, Kenney says Alberta could help more provinces if they have a need.
    “‘I for one, as an Albertan and as a Canadian, could not in conscience watch us stockpile massive amounts of surplus equipment while we see many of our fellow Canadians, some provinces within days of running out of some of these supplies.
    “‘Albertans should be very proud that we are able to extend a helping hand to our Canadian brothers and sisters in this time of need.’
    “If we can set aside partisan poison for just one day, this can only be seen as a humane and generous gesture that people in other provinces will long remember.
    “…Kenney’s people say the decision was all medical and humanitarian, not political, but there are undeniable benefits.
    “The first is goodwill, which Alberta will definitely need as Canada emerges from the pandemic and usual issues, like pipelines, reappear.
    “Also, the Trudeau government keeps throwing out hints about invoking the federal Emergencies Act, which would give Ottawa power to redistribute supplies to areas of greatest need.
    “Kenney just showed the country that federal intervention isn’t necessary. This is both humane and very, very smart.”

    Braid carefully omits all of Kenney’s allusions to AB’s oil industry and quid pro quo machinations.

    1. The difference is easy to explain. Don Braid is a courageous journalist, willing to do the right thing and stand up for the oil industry no matter what criticism he has to face. Dave is a bought and paid for propagandist for the unions. Or something like that, anyway.

  12. I am again reminded of your words David. Pompous piety or was it pious pomposity? I was always wondering when the real reason behind this generous donation reveal itself.
    Not to begrudge it if we have excess supplies and other provinces are experiencing shortages. However, when you do a heartfelt good deed, you rarely expect anything back in return. But when you, surreptitiously, expect something back in return, does that still count as a good deed or is it calculated manipulation?
    Are we being gaslighted?

  13. You don’t want to look a gift horse in the mouth…usually, but I look at this “gift” as it was announced by Kenney as nothing but a self serving, measured political act.

    In other words, just do what many other states, provinces and countries are doing. Send the equipment without ceremony.

  14. How is it possible that this province manifested a surplus of several hundred thousand N-95 Dreamcatchers in the span of five days, in a global milieu of such severe shortage that the United States was invoking war-time restrictions on the export of such devices? Everything we are told by the mainstream media and government, about every aspect of this phenomenon, is a distortion.
    How can Tailgunner Jay, or St. Deena, or anybody who is not a spoon-bending mystic, predict when “Lockdownland” can be dismantled, given that in a full month of testing in Alberta, a grand total of 72 000 people have been tested, with slightly under 2% testing positive? As of today 1569 people out of 4.4 million have tested positive for the bug. No vaccine is coming any time soon, and that 2% positive rate seems to be holding steady, regardless of numbers tested. Which means that it will take years for half the population to get infected and develop immunity. By mid-May, at this rate, we can anticipate that 3000 people will have tested positive for the bug, leaving a cool 99.99987% of the population that will not have tested positive, and there will be no logical reason to believe that this massive pool of virus growth media will not be susceptible to the virus. Now of course, the real rate of infection is completely uknown because everyone, everywhere, is lying about it or being told to lie about it.
    US physicians are being told to list the Covids as cause of death with no scientific evidence to support such claims. So the death rate is a big ol’ fat lie, from Wuahn to Lombardy to New York City. There is no way to determine how many are actually dying from the bug. There is also no way to determine what portion of the infected die or suffer serious illness because there is no way to know how many people have ever been infected. No possible way to determine the denominator for the expression.
    But in Alberta, we have some information, mercifully provided by our benevolent government. Despite the fact that they will put their hands into and onto anything, 78 people under age ten have tested positive, or just under 5% of the total positives, even though they make up about 10% of the population. There have been 0 hospitalizations and 0 ICU admissions and 0 deaths for this group. In the group over ten but under 20, a staggering 96 total positive tests have occurred. This group makes up about 10% of the population in Alberta, or just under a half million people. In that group there has been one hospitalization and one ICU admission. Out of 20% of the population, a whopping 174 positive tests with one hospital admission. Is it likely that the Chupacabra bug only managed to infect .0198% of that population in a month of the Terror and a two-week pseudo-lock-down? If so, what is to happen when the kids are permitted to climb on the monkey bars again, given that 98% of them haven’t had the bug?
    Likewise in the 20-29 cohort, a single hospitalization, among 15% of the total Alberta population.
    Overall there has been a grand total of 105 hospitalizations across the entire province’s 106 acute-care hospitals. Granted, there are a lot more Chupacabras being spotted in Calgary, but even with 62% of positive tests, it seems likely that 60 or 70-odd admissions could be coped with in a month. Of course, none of this data takes into account how many of the hospitalizations are people who were going to be in the hospital during the endless winter months in Alberta, regardless.
    Miraculously, even though only a tiny portion of the population will have ever tested positive for the Chupacabra, and evidently the vast majority of the population is as susceptible as ever, we can expect to get back to living some time in the late spring. Praise Jesus, and say “baby”, to quote the great Ernest Angley!

    With regard to the oil and gas sector, it has proven in this province to be the equal for anti-democratic influence of that in Iran, or Nigeria, or Saudi Arabia, or Iraq. This province was looted because a tiny fraction of the capital generated by oil and gas was skimmed off in the form of royalties, and used to run a modern western society without taxing the rich. So the resource was given away at the same time a class of hyper-wealthy, hyper-entitled kooks developed who pretend their tremendous “business acumen” made them rich and forty-percent or more of the population poor. And now the whole shootin’ match will be dismantled as the Global Great Deflation is implemented in the last-ditch effort to manage the displacement of the US hegemon by some form of multi-polar system.
    Our system, with capital superior to the state, imperfect tool of democracy as it is, looted and burned across the globe for several hundred years. Unfortunately for us, China managed to not be destroyed and so the “happy time”, to steal the phrase from the Kriegsmarine, is at an end. In order to maintian our elite in the style to which they have become accustomed, all social capital has got to be liquidated and the power of the North American consumer, maintained by twenty years of slave labour producing consumer goods across the global south and in China, will have to be severely limited. The Chinese state will maintain public order by continuing to provide some social benefits, whereas we will enjoy the elimination of such benefits and order will be maintained by the police, as in any colony. Internal colonization is the name of the game, and it’s going to be awesome!

    1. Internal colonization has been the rule of the game for farmers and ranchers in rural Alberta since the oil take over in 1947. Now there is almost nobody left except oil service workers.

  15. This seems uncharacteristically generous of Mr. Kenney. It makes me wonder about his ulterior motives, I think there are at least two.

    First,it could be part of Kenney’s ongoing charm offensive to get Quebec support for something like a pipeline. Unfortunately, although Mr. Kenney does speak French fairly well, the attempted charm does not seem to translate. This leads me to think, either Kenney is not as good at charm as he thinks, or that concern about the environment makes Quebec impervious to Conservative attempts at charm, or perhaps botn.

    The second possible motive is that despite the current situation, perhaps Kenney has not totally given up on Federal political asperations. The Federal Conservatives and the voters seem luke warm on MacKay, so perhaps Kenney still has future hopes.

    However, I have to wonder if this really is the best interests of Alberta now. Unlike BC, cases here may not have peaked yet, so it may be premature to declare victory yet. Cases in Alberta seems set to actually exceed those in BC.

    I suppose we are in the PR phase of things now and Kenney has figured out this goes over better than another trip to the now partly closed airport to “inspect” border security or fighting with doctors more. This is probably true, but I expect the fight with doctors will eventually resume. When being generous is out of character, it will probably not last very long.

  16. Imagine what will happen when Alberta figures out that Kenney treats those in other provinces better than he treats those in his own province.

    I wonder if Alberta will grab a brain, some awareness, and see Kenney grifting for what it is?

    Nope. Never happen. Given up on them a long time ago.

  17. One day, the UCP is building tent hospitals in parking lots because things on the Covid-19 front are so bad. Meanwhile, they’re telling staff masks and other PPE are in such short supply, they’ll have to do without.

    The next day, they’re giving PPE away.

    Just a quick question, if masks are in short supply and patients will be house in parking lots, why ard we giving away medical supplies? Are we supposed to believe what they said yesterday, or the day before that? I don’t know what to believe, because the story changes every day. So were they lying yesterday or the day before yesterday?

  18. Monday April 13, 2020

    Now Jason Kenney is picking up fight with Theresa Tam, Chief Public Health Officer of Canada. It reminds me of the fight Stephen Harper picked with Beverly McLachlin, former Chief Justice of Canada in 2014. Do these people never learn?

    1. I agree totally, Hana. I already feel disgust when I read David Staples writing criticisms of Dr. Tam; when I see Jason Kenney doing the same thing my disgust becomes absolute.

      When this is over there will be lots of opportunity to evaluate the performance of the various players, and it is very possible that Dr. Tam’s performance will be found wanting, but the overall question remains, what can possibly be gained by eroding the public’s confidence in the Chief Public Health Officer in the middle of a pandemic? If Kenney finds her performance so wanting that she should be replaced, he should be working behind the scenes to that end. Jason Kenney (and David Staples) using hindsight to erode public confidence in our experts at this time just encourages others to appoint themselves experts and make up their own rules. Kenney and Staples are being irresponsible in the extreme.

  19. There’s a rumour going around on Twitter that the letter from Kingston that Kenney is bragging about – the one that included a $1,000 cheque – is actually from his aunt and uncle.


  20. Once more for my Albertan brothers and sisters, “Nothing about Kenney is genuine or truthful.”

    He is a devious, calculating evil little man. Until he is gone, Albertans will suffer more than all other Canadians in other provinces under his tyrannical regime.

    You elected a virus a thousand times more deadly than Covid-19.

  21. Just in case anybody doesn’t get the message, the G&M spells it out:

    Remember Alberta’s generosity, because it will need Canada’s help in the months ahead – JOHN IBBITSON

    BTW, there is an Orphan Well Adoption Agency, see the bottom of this article:

  22. The UCP premier is painting a picture using today’s most fashionable medium of medical supplies for the political art market; perhaps it will go to auction.

    The supreme pigment grindings of finest black charcoals, the sunset ochres, sandy washes and white blues, paletted with Da a Vinci-like Mona Lisa smile, rendering royalty as expense in masterful chiaroscuro, etching sharp, thin lines of blinding, silver brilliance to suggest ghostly dark shadows stirring just beyond the frontiers of Morpheus and discernment of mythical conjury.

    It is visionary —and, maybe one day, even revisionary.

    And yet, “Nothing is really so poor and melancholy as art that is interested in itself and not in its subject.” (Santayana)

    Whatever merit this craftsmanship, it’s importance, despite its bitter diluency, is plainly that all of Canada will, as usual, owe the UCP, big time, in the end.

    You can just feel it—which is also the sign of good art.

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