Stuff UCPers Say!
Epidemiologists and other scientific types may not like it very much when Alberta Premier Jason Kenney equates COVID-19 with influenza, but at least Fox News seems to be on side.
Last Wednesday in the Legislature in a prepared speech arguing for the government’s understandable desire to get the province’s economy cranked up again, Mr. Kenney referred half a dozen times to influenza, sometimes in ways that clearly tried to blur the distinction between the two respiratory diseases.
Calling COVID-19 “an influenza of this nature” or observing that it is “an influenza that does not generally threaten life apart from the most elderly” certainly suggests a conscious effort to leave the impression the disease is less serious than the experts think it is.
Even Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the provincial Chief Medical Officer of Health who rarely challenges Mr. Kenney’s assertions, observed in one of her COVID-19 briefings that “while this is often compared to influenza, our current COVID-19 death toll of 142 in Alberta is one and a half times higher than the highest annual influenza death number in the last five years. And we have never taken such measures to prevent influenza from circulating.”
Worse, despite pleading he’d been misunderstood and misinterpreted, Mr. Kenney suffered a lot of slings and arrows for his observation in the same speech that “the average age of death from COVID in Alberta is 83, and I’ll remind the House the average life expectancy in the province is 82.” Most of the deaths occurred in old folks’ homes anyway, he said.
Well, hey! OK then! At least he didn’t call it a cold.
Other than the premier’s most enthusiastic cheerleaders, the usually supportive local press corps was not its normal helpful self. More than one commentator pointed out that May’s Angus Reid Institute poll of Canadian premiers’ public support showed Mr. Kenney only one point out of last place.
More seriously, some of those commentators pointed to the stuff Mr. Kenney says as the explanation for why he only got a 1-per-cent bump in popularity from the province’s COVID-19 response, unlike the big jumps posted by premiers like Doug Ford of Ontario and John Horgan in B.C., according to Angus Reid.
Too much of that kind of commentary and the voters might start to think there’s something to it. And this on the heels of the mocking international reaction to Energy Minister Sonya Savage’s observation that a global pandemic is a terrific time to be building a pipeline, seeing as only 15 people can protest at a time.
So Mr. Kenney must be pleased that Fox News, the Trump Republican Party’s answer to Pravda, seems to have come down onside. Perhaps the UCP can discreetly put this in a fund-raising email that, hopefully, not many of Mr. Kenney’s political foes will see.
Respectfully calling the premier “a top official in Canada” and an “Alberta lawmaker,” Fox did quote Mr. Kenney saying that “for most Albertans, the risk of death from other pathogens, accidents and traffic fatalities is actually higher than it is for COVID.” But while this may have gotten a sharp reaction at home, it sounded as if Fox agreed.
The network republished a tweet by former New York Times reporter Alex Berenson praising the premier “for being the first political leader to tell the truth about #SARSCoV2.” Mr. Berenson, who has now turned to churning out turgid espionage potboilers, believes the novel coronavirus is being used as an excuse for sinister overreach by the U.S. government.
This might not be particularly helpful in some circles, but surely it will please the UCP’s conspiracy minded base.
Meanwhile, Ed Ammar, founding chairperson of the UCP, appears to have deleted his Twitter account last night after he took a particularly intemperate shot at federal Families, Children and Social Development Minister Ahmed Hussen for making the obvious observation that racism doesn’t stop at the Canadian border.
Alas for Mr. Ammar, tout le monde Alberta Twitter seemed to have taken a screen shot of the offending comment during the huge ratio his riposte prompted.
NOTE: While Mr. Ammar’s comment has not reappeared, his Twitter account was back this morning, with an explanation. It seems the Twittersphere misunderstood what he was trying to say, and he regrets that it did.