Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro at yesterday morning’s press conference (Photo: Screenshot of Government of Alberta Video).

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney runs a government deeply committed to erasing the obvious connection between government and the services that are essential to the functioning of society.

How else is he going to persuade Albertans to abandon public health care that works for the broken privatization model now destroying our neighbour to the south one COVID-19 infection at a time?

A&W Canada President and CEO Susan Senecal (Photo: A&W Canada).

This is certainly why the idea of using fast-food drive-through windows to distribute 20 million surplus masks that apparently aren’t up to medical snuff and calling it a social distancing measure appealed to Mr. Kenney’s strategic brain trust.

Presumably they had to do something with the masks, and they couldn’t very well give the job of handing them out to physicians. After all, this government’s at war with Alberta’s doctors. God forbid you should ask a doc for medical advice when you’re picking up a mask and give her an excuse for more billing!

What’s more, the UCP wouldn’t want to have an Alberta Health clinic do the job, or even the provincial building in your community, because that would certainly remind some taxpaying Albertans that governments actually do stuff that’s useful. Remember, the UCP is a political party dedicated to the proposition government should be dragged into the bathroom and drowned in the bathtub.*

There’s a Post Office in every community too, but asking Posties to hand them out would mean letting federal civil servants, and unionized ones at that, give the masks to Albertans serious about social distancing, another reminder Ottawa has done most of the heavy lifting in the fight against COVID-19, while Alberta’s financial contribution has been grudging almost every step of the way.

Anyway, letting McDonald’s, A&W and Timmy’s distribute the masks not only reinforces the UCP’s deceptive talking point that the private sector does everything better than the government, it’s a nice deep-fried-squid pro quo to the boys at Restaurants Canada who did so much to help Mr. Kenney’s election in 2019.

Jeff Kroll of McDonalds Canada (Photo: McDonald’s Canada).

Technically, the three fast-food chains have promised not to demand you buy an Egg McMuffin, a Papa Burger or a Boston cream doughnut made from frozen du’oh to get your masks. But, count on it, they’re expecting you to succumb to the temptation to order something after you’ve smelled the grease as you roll up to the order board.

Don’t worry about it if your mask has a slight chemical odour when it comes out of the four-pack. Just air it out for a couple of hours. And if the fit doesn’t seal, you can always write McDonalds in San Bernardino, A&W in Lexington, or Timmy’s, which nowadays is really run out of Rio de Janeiro.

Talk about Canadian public health care at its finest!

What’s next? A nasal swab with those fries?

Oh, and you’ll need to have a car if you want a mask from a fast-food drive-through. Otherwise you’ll have to have to pay up front for protection from the novel coronavirus at a drugstore. (And sorry, if you’re on foot, there will be no masks for you — social distancing, ya’know.)

You might be able to get one on the bus, though. At least that way you’ll be riding on something with an internal-combustion engine using some of Alberta’s fairly ethical and only partly Chinese- and Saudi-owned bitumen to operate.

“I want to thank A&W, McDonald’s Canada, Tim Hortons, and all of the other organizations and municipalities that have come together to help us distribute millions of masks,” Health Minister Tyler Shandro said in the government’s press release. “The collective response from leaders in government, public, and private sectors has been overwhelming and I am incredibly grateful to everyone involved.”

Tim Hortons COO Mike Hancock (Photo:

And those health care workers, the ones who are risking their lives on the front lines to keep you safe from COVID-19? Never mind them! The UCP is at war with the docs already, and they’ll be fighting with the rest of them as soon as union bargaining reopens. So bon appétit, and don’t get any ketchup on your mask!

There are more quotes in the release. Here they are:

Susan Senecal, president and CEO, A&W Canada: “Our restaurants across the province have been quick to step up and help organize the distribution of masks, and are looking forward to welcoming Albertans at our drive-thrus.” (I’ll bet they are!)

Jeff Kroll, COVID-Response Lead (!) for McDonald’s Canada: “We welcome this opportunity to use our drive-thru operations to assist the Alberta government, and do the right thing for Albertans when they need us most.” (Ditto. They certainly don’t need another Big Mac.)

Mike Hancock, chief operating officer of Tim Hortons: “When we were asked by the Alberta government to help distribute masks through our drive-thrus we did not hesitate. We’re proud to … do our part to help Alberta move forward on its relaunch strategy.” (A pattern here, ya think?)

Readers may ask, Why not distribute the masks through drug stores? There’s one in every community and there’s even a medical professional on site whenever they’re open? And they’re places, moreover, where you won’t require an automobile to get service.

Or how about grocery stores? They’re a genuine essential service, many with a pharmacy of their own on site.

For that matter, why not local restaurants, which are actually owned by Albertans?

The answer, in two words, is almost certainly … Restaurants Canada. (This is not what Mr. Shandro told a news conference yesterday. “We chose this method, quite honestly, because these partners have access to these 600 sites, to about 95 per cent of our population,” he said.)

Mr. Kenney’s been at the heart of the fast food industry group’s lobbying strategy since 2014, when as federal employment minister he temporarily upset their applecart when public outrage pushed him to restrict their ability to hire low-cost, easy-to-exploit temporary foreign workers instead of unemployed Canadians.

But this is about more than just that.

In addition to its 600-plus “restaurant partner locations,” the government’s news release did say it will be “working with” First Nations communities, Metis Settlements and local agencies. No details were supplied other than Mr. Shandro’s response to a reporter that the non-fast-food part of the distribution will cost $350,000.

But they must have done even that reluctantly, where no fast-food joint was anywhere within miles. Because this is a government with an ideological aversion to letting government do what it does best for fear of creating demand for more government.

* Credit for this line belongs to creepy Republican operative Grover Norquist, and yes, there really are lots of people in Mr. Kenney’s government who think like that.

Join the Conversation


  1. Judging by the escalating chaos in ‘Murica right now, one wonders if anyone who wants to emulate the anything done in America is in their right mind.

    It’s more than the health care system that’s broken in the US, it’s their entire nation.

    The US is emerging as the world’s latest failed state, who happens to be packing an insanely huge arsenal of weapons of all kinds of destruction.

    While police in US cities are murdering black men live on TV, roving mobs in their thousands are burning down those cities, and the POTUS has decided to bunker himself in the White House and get into a bizarre public p*ssing contest with the social media companies.

    As the death march to the 2020 US Elections continues, the question is will Ken-DOH! take Alberta with him, down the path to certain destruction?

    Much of the UCP evangelical base prays for the End Times and the Final Revelation, so they are likely to get the gift that no one else wants.

  2. I will be curious to see what happens when I bike up to a drive thru window and only ask for a package of masks. As long as the companies are willing to keep their word that no purchase is necessary, I don’t think I have too big a problem with the plan. My guess is that the government can just drop off a load of masks at each company’s distribution centre and the company can use their existing distribution system to get the masks to each outlet.

    The press releases our kind host has provided makes it sound like the companies are doing this distribution for free, which I suspect is not true. I am wondering how the distribution charges, assuming there are some, will work. Specifically, will head office be sharing some of the money they collect with their franchisees? I am getting a mental image of franchisees, fed up with people plugging up their drive-thrus on a no-revenue item, just telling people they have already given away all their masks, while they just put them in the dumpster.

    One weakness in the whole idea, though, is rural Alberta in general, not just First Nations and Metis settlements. In the first part of my career I taught in the County of Flagstaff, fifty some kilometres SE of Camrose. When I left in 1999, the nearest fast food place was in Camrose, which would be an hour’s plus round trip. I just looked superficially on Google Maps; it looks like the A & W in Provost is the only participating restaurant between Camrose and the Saskatchewan border. This is where David’s suggestion of locally owned pharmacies or grocery stores could kick in.

  3. Now I have a list of places to boycott. Thank yoy for that, Tyler Shandro. It is no coincidence thst several UCP MLAs own franchises of some of these operations.

    If the self-isolation of Covid-19 had taught us anything, it is that we don’t need to eat at places like these. We can cook a better hamburger or make a better cup of coffee at home. Invest $250 in a basic espresso machine, and make your own Americanos. It will pay for itself in a few months and provide a superior product. Make your own pretzel rolls ( for hamburgers. And if you’re craving onion rings, try this:

    Hint: Use panko, and fry in a wok, turning part with far less oil.

    But really, do we need all this unhealthy food? We can slow down a little and stop running around so much. Finding our inner foodie is a grand experience, and easier on our wallets.

    Bye, now, Restaurant Brands. I don’t need you any more.

  4. Quite a disgusting plan. And, the health implications of enticing more people to buy the stuff served at these fast-grease (can’t call it food) outlets are also staggering. This all being announced by so-called health minister. The UCP nightmare continues.

  5. Another great blog! Now my question is – how much of our tax dollars are these corporate giants being paid for apparent public largess?

  6. Why should’t Tailgunner Jay and his band of yokel-grifters use this aspect of a psy-op for their own propaganda purposes? Every form of consumer product is being hawked with ad campaigns appealing to everyone doing their part in Covidmania. Lucky Strike has gone to war! I for one am glad that the masks being distributed by Ronald McDonald are in keeping with the rest of the rubbish he peddles. A poor seal means that the Branch Covidians driving around doing Jesse James impressions are less likely to suffer hypoxia and/or hypercapnia behind the wheel.
    It seems that the “front lines” metaphor will be with us until people move on from Covidmania. It was apparent to me in January that we were about to be hit with a psy-op, what with the 150 cases outside China when the WHO declared their emergency, and the ol’ swithcheroo in the media and the political narrative from “lockdown” being a manifestation of wicked Yellow/Red totalitarianism to the state-ordered kookery being the greatest manifestation of the better aspect of human nature.
    If Covidmania in Alberta is a dangerous battle for health-workers, where does seasonal influenza fit in the heroic saga? Covid is Vimy Ridge, then seasonal influenza is an annual Verdun that somehow doesn’t completely alter society and dominate every element of mass media. Curious!

    Covid hospitalization: 307 cases. Ever.
    Seasonal influenza: 1175 cases, 2009-10.
    1222 cases, 2013-14.
    1937 cases, 2014-15.
    1760 cases, 2015-16.
    1721 cases, 2016-17.
    3097 cases, 2017-18.
    1976 cases, 2018-19.
    Remember when influenza overwhelmed the healthecare system in 2017-18 and society collapsed, producing Mad Max times in Alberta? Me neither. Maybe the records were lost in the chaos. Could it be that the ringing in my ears is from all the pot-banging that year?

    But wait, the Chupacabra is more dangerous, and almost overwhelmed the ICUs in Alberta!

    Covid ICU admissions: 55 cases. Ever.
    Seasonal Influenza ICU admissions: 213 cases, 2009-10.
    222 cases, 2013-14.
    274 cases, 2015-16.
    249 cases, 2017-18.
    228 cases, 2018-19.

    How about the killing power of Covid?

    Covid deaths: 144 cases.
    Seasonal influenza deaths: 114 cases, 2014-15.
    93 cases, 201-18.

    Remember when the death toll hit 100 in 2015 and the Chief Medical Officer of Health pleaded with us to work together to stop the killing? Again, memory fails me.

    Of course, it’s quite evident, with almost every death in Alberta taking place among long-term care patients, either left to die in the disgraceful homes, or in some cases, actually transported to hospital, that the panic has caused the death toll. What portion of the “death total” is the result of scaring the shit out of people with dementia, COPD, diabetes, hypertension and heart disease, and abandoning them?

    There literally is no end to the monsoon of ridiculous claims about Chupacabra, but I think that this precious tidbit, warning us about the dangerous and crazy Swedes ignoring the killer plague, is in a class by itself:

    “More Swedes died in April than in any one month since 1993, figures from the Statistics Office showed on Monday, as the outbreak of the novel coronavirus pushed the death toll higher.
    The death tolls in both 1993 and 2000 were high as a result of outbreaks of seasonal influenza, the Statistics Office said.”

    We have to give Covidmania some respect for sheer determination, because it takes a special kind of stubborness to hang on long enough to almost reach the prior toll of seasonal influenza in 1993. Chupacabra couldn’t quite cut the mustard, but as Big Ern says, “that’s still very good.”

    With the claims now that MISC may or may not have appeared in a child in Alberta, let’s see how Chupacabra’s swathe through the children compares to influenza:

    Covid: ICU admission rate of 0 under age 10.
    Seasonal influenza ICU rate for U10: 15 per 100 000.

    If we see less of Deena Hinshaw over the summer, Branch Covidians can always find a used copy of Elron’s works:
    “Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health”

    1. The only fly in your ointment is that Covid is known to be much more contagious and fatal. The mortality rate in the US at the height was 6%. Influenza is averaging 0.1 to 0.3%.

      Did you ever stop to think the reason for the low numbers of Covid deaths is due to the very measures that are being taken globally?

      Another way of looking at it is to look at numbers of influenza deaths globally if no vaccines existed.

      1918 influenza virus killed 50 million + in three years…before a vaccine.

      Asian Influenza (1957-58) Killed upwards of 2 million people. 70,000 in the US. Before Vaccine.

      The 1968 Influenza “Hong Kong Flu” killed half a million people in that city.

      Here is a list of the worst 10 pandemics in history. Most of them before vaccines.

      Many are not influenza per se but illustrate what can happen with no treatments available such as a vaccine or other medicines to combat them.

      Covid 19 is a novel virus and as such we have no natural immunity to it.

    2. Murphy: I was sorry to read in one of your May 28 responses you had caught two types of adenovirus virus which “permanently ravaged your innards.”

      Here is what the CDC has to say: “Adenoviruses are common viruses that typically cause mild cold- or flu-like illness. Adenoviruses can cause illness in people of all ages any time of year.”

      In light of your negative experience with a well-known virus, isn’t it a bit premature to write off Covid 19 (Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2) since it has only been around for a few months?

      What alternatives did public health officials have to deal with a potentially dangerous new infection, especially in the absence of reliable testing and infection tracing? Advice that is fine for Murphy, may not work out well over four million people, just as the CDC advice the adenovirus is not commonly damaging did not work out well for you. Time will tell if public health officials are acting with prudent foresight or are mistaken as you indicate.

    3. The logic of Murphy’s argument escapes me. Did he somehow fail to notice that we shut the economy down to slow the spread of COVID-19 and reduce the casualty rate?
      Murphy compares the impact of influenza WITHOUT shutting the economy down, social distancing, face masks, and focussed medical resources to the impact of COVID-19 WITH all those precautions and more.
      How about them apples — and oranges?
      16,000+ COVID-19 deaths in New York City alone since mid-March. How many dead in NYC due to influenza in that time? How many more dead in NYC without precautions?
      Give me a break.

      1. I’ll just give one reply since the same nonsense pervades all of these responses. I cited case rates, which describe the frequency of the given severe outcomes in people who have influenza or Chupacabra. Influenza produced severe outcomes much more frequently than Chupacabra in Alberta, among infected people. Sorry none of you could grasp the concept. Stockholm was more or less wide open compared to Alberta and in three months about 12 000 people tested positive out of a million. Alberta, after shutting down public life, had 7000-odd cases in 4.4 million. So we could have expected perhaps 30 000 cases if the province had not quarantined. 200 hospitalized on the peak days perhaps 40 in ICUs, maximum, on the peak days. The horror!

  7. For all those inquiring minds who want to know…

    A&W decided to end its “Better Beef” campaign, so they’ll be serving up meat from Cargill and JBS (and others) effective now.

    McDonald’s also uses Cargill meat.

    As for Tim Hortons, they’re making inroads in China with Chinese tech giant Tencent, owner f WeChat.

  8. not sure if this is appropriate to this blog but i think it’s germane seeing as we have a government deeply committed to erasing the obvious connection between government and the services that are essential to the functioning of society.

    it’s been up on my facebook page for the second day known and it’s getting great response

    don’t let the Kenney/UCP wanna be republican thugs turn AB into a shithole province for regular middle class and working folk

    how do !
    i just spent 48 hours as a guest/patient of our still (so far) in place health care system mostly at the rockyview hospital in Calgary

    thought it might interest you . . . or maybe not
    but if yes please do read on

    This past tuesday, may 26 my most excellent daughter delivered me to my 1:15pm appointment with my regular doctor downtown at the teaching clinic in the Sheldon Chumir building

    Have had a really really bad boil in a super awkward place where the sun don’t shine for a couple of weeks already and had been feeling very poorly and quite weak but was finally improving.
    Feeling strong enough to actually go see the doctor instead of the phone consultations we had been doing

    Promptly saw my doctor at the Chumir clinic and subsequently by 2:15 or so my daughter was dropping me off at the emergency entrance of the rockyview hospital with a list of my scripts and relevant paperwork in hand
    i was expected

    by 8:00pm or so, still the same day (not surprisingly my recollection of events get a little more vague at this point hehe) i was being put under general anesthetic for a surgical procedure, by 10:00pm or so still the same day was recovering in a room in the GI ward

    mostly i see my doctor regularly cuz i have a couple of chronic conditions. It’s important i pay attention and i do

    There’s continuity of care / preventative care ongoing
    and the system we have in place here in AB makes it easy
    i don’t have to pay

    if i did have to pay there’s a very big likelihood i’d already be pushing up the daisies
    with regular preventative care not such a big deal but without
    well . . .

    my 1st family doctor of only 2 over all these years at the said same clinic (just different location) delivered my daughter 35 odd years ago.
    that doctor (doctor june bergmann retired and i was given a choice for my new family doctor
    i chose and we met – my new dr had the option to say yay or nay as well
    as a further note
    A few years back my current doctor also agreed to take my adult son on as a regular patient when it was hard to find a regular family doctor.

    i mention all this to give context

    people, the Kenney/UCP wanna be republican thugs will not keep this amazing health care service in place !

    what they believe is – to quote Margaret Thatcher – “there is no such thing as society”
    no common good, no fellow feeling for our fellow man it’s every man for themselves in their world and personal wealth of the monetary variety the goal. i got mine screw everybody else
    perhaps i exaggerate but not by much
    also a lot of socialism for corporations and the wealthy and hardcore bootstrap capitalism for the middle and working class folk
    just had to get my digs in there. hehehe

    standard methodology for these thugs is to starve the service – be it health care or social care or public everything and anything – of tax funds and say
    “see, it doesn’t work”
    let’s privatize and sell our publicly held assets to cover (artificially induced) shortfalls and while we’re at it improve service . . . as if !!
    phone consultations with random doctors and no proper continuity of care
    really !?

    this is the second time in the last few months that i’ve been in the hands of Alberta’s Health Care System/staff and you know what ?

    from the 811 health helpline nurses to the frontline clerical staff, the cleaners, the nurses and nurses assistants, doctors, surgeons, anesthesiologists,
    pretty much every last one of them were hard working and friendly

    yup, i’m friendly and pleasant enough (usually) and try not to be a dick and that certainly helps but during this most recent stay i could hear an older person just down the hall, most likely with some senile dementia going on, complaining loudly
    could hear the staff dealing with it and they were super cool

    don’t let these Kenney/UCP wanna be republican thugs have their way,
    pay attention, vote, agitate, protest, write actual letters to ministers and your MLA (you might or might not know how effective actual letters are but they most definitely are) veRy effective !!

    i’ll say it one more time,
    don’t let them turn AB into a shithole province for regular middle class and working folk

    that’s it, that’s all, that’s what i gots to say
    thanks for taking the time

    1. Well said Karl Roth! Stay with us a while longer and keep speaking what you know to be true.

      “don’t let the Kenney/UCP wanna be republican thugs turn AB into a shithole province for regular middle class and working folk”

  9. So an industry that is responsible for more deaths than covid is going to distribute substandard masks? Giving those that wear them the false sense of security that they are somehow protecting themselves and others. Probably a better way to protect yourself from covid, or at least be better able to fight it if you get it, is to not eat that greasy salt covered burger with a side of salt covered fries washed down with a large cup of high fructose corn syrup. Wow, has the narrative changed from “no you don’t need a mask” to “everyone should wear one”? What is the reason for this change?

    A properly fitted N95 mask, not KN95, certainly will help front line healthcare workers but the knock offs Kenney was duped into buying will not. Is this his plan to get rid of those masks and somehow cover his mistake?

    The really sad thing is those still in the Kenney cult will cheer this and say look he is helping us. No he isn’t this is another dumb PR move brought to you by the people who thought naming their party UCP was a good idea. The problem with Kenney always having to be the smartest one in the room is he is surrounded by idiot yes men and women. There is no one left that will tell him, Mr. Kenney this is idiotic the only thing you are going to accomplish is to kill off our voting base.

    1. To me, this is the $64,000 Question: “Is this his plan to get rid of those masks and somehow cover his mistake?” It seems likely. Why else would the Government of Alberta have 20 million medically unusable masks on hand? Bought for what purpose? (Actually, according to Mr. Shandro in the news conference, there are 40 million of these things, with another 20 million still in transit. Other questions that might be pursued: Who bought them? AHS Procurement? Was there a middle man? If yes, did the middle man have a connection to the government? If not, why aren’t the additional 20 million being returned, as the federal government has done with masks that did not meet promised standards? There is a bigger story here for sure. DJC

      1. If no middle man making big bucks any sensible government would just return them with a note as to why.

        Hope this nonsense doesn’t come here, but then again it did with the boondoggle called The Global Transportation Hub. As if Sask was ever realistically the hub of such a thing.

  10. Judging by the reality that Trump_45 has decided to drop out of sight while US cities burn, we may have an indication of the state of Alberta next year.

    Trump has, one commentator declared, given up. He is the President in name only; he has not interest in his office, its responsibilities, and whatever sense of decorum and reputation his office once held. Instead, he logs into his Twitter account and spews out insults to troubled municipal and community leadership, denounces the “liberals” who have turned his America in a sh*thole, and urges the police to attack and use all their aggressive against the protests. It’s apparent he wants civil war and to watch the America burn.

    Kenney’s relentless zealotry is no different. He is bent on destroying everything and anything that resembles civilization in the name of his fanciful mindset of a world without government and an unfettered free-market. Public education will soon be gutted and no longer serve as a public resource for the public good.

    Kenney trades in nonsense, fantasies, falsehoods, and conspiracies that serve as excuses for every disaster he causes.

    Watch America’s death march to the 2020 Election and see a prediction for the future in Alberta.

  11. Is it just me, or does it seem this government has its own Department of Dumb Ideas, as it seems to come up with so many.

    Now I don’t have an ideological problem with government getting others, even private sector people to hand out masks. After all doctors clinics and pharmacies are technically private businesses. However, it make some sense to have it done by some one with health care or educational knowledge.

    Are the fast food staff trained to answer basic questions like how to properly wear them, when to wear them or answer questions someone might have about symtoms? Probably not.

    It is as if the Alberta govermnent was trying to quickly and quietly unload a bunch of substandard masks in a way that would get the least questions from the public. If so, I suppose it is a politically to clever way to go about, but it will actually seem quite stupid if people catch on.

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