We now know with reasonable certainty it’s the United Conservative Party Government that’s been responsible for blocking Albertans from having access to the federal COVID Alert smartphone app.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made it clear in a radio interview in Edmonton yesterday morning that Ottawa views Alberta’s UCP Government as the barrier to getting the COVID-19 tracking application operating in Alberta.
The COVID Alert app “will be a lot more useful when the province decides to give people the ability to plug in the codes,” Mr. Trudeau told 630 CHED’s morning show hosts yesterday morning.
This is pretty much what most Albertans who have been paying attention had already concluded when they heard UCP House Leader Jason Nixon was dismissing the federal app, which alerts users to potential exposures to the coronavirus by other COVID Alert users, as “the Trudeau tracing app” in the Legislature on Tuesday.
Some local media, always happy to carry water for the UCP, tried to turn this into an Ottawa-says/Edmonton-says story. Postmedia’s reporter alleged that the prime minister was merely making an allegation.
But that dog won’t hunt. Mr. Trudeau, sounding remarkably like an adult compared with his Alberta counterparts, went on directly to plead with the province to do the right thing and let Albertans access the app.
He noted that he knows the provincial cabinet is looking at the possibility. “That’s all that’s missing, and we really hope that people will take on every tool we possibly can to fight COVID-19,” he said.
The app’s already useful, Mr. Trudeau noted, because of its interprovincial tracking capabilities. “It’ll just be a lot more useful” when the UCP decides to let Albertans use it in Alberta.
Regardless of Mr. Trudeau’s unpopularity among Conservative partisans in Alberta, this is not the action of a person making an unfounded allegation to score political points.
Meanwhile, notwithstanding Mr. Nixon’s catcalls, the UCP is sticking with its story that what’s delaying implementation of the app is the somehow urgent need to plug the relatively small number of Albertans who signed up for the province’s flawed ABTraceTogether app, which didn’t work on Apple devices, into the federal government’s app.
As noted here on Thursday, this makes no sense because it only takes seconds to download a new smartphone app.
Health Minister Tyler Shandro announced on Aug. 9 that Alberta was abandoning ABTraceTogether and would sign onto the federal app. But the province has been dragging its feet ever since, presumably because powerful voices in cabinet don’t believe in giving any credit to anything associated with the Trudeau Government, even if would help.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, typically, was nowhere to be found when reporters tried to track him down to respond to Mr. Trudeau’s comment. Well, he is said to be in self-isolation after another member of his cabinet came down with coronavirus disease, but the phones still work.
For his part, Mr. Trudeau urged Albertans to sign up for the COVID Alert app “right now.”
“I encourage Albertans to download the COVID Alert app because it starts working right away,” he said. “If it comes on line in the coming weeks, you’ll have that much more protection.”
The prime minister didn’t say this as his hosts tried to hurry him off the line, if you can imagine, but Albertans should do what he suggests even though they’ll only get a message stating “no reporting yet in your area” because it will give the federal government evidence to press the UCP to start co-operating in the national effort to protect Canadians’ health.
Failing that, Ottawa should act unilaterally, activate the app, and let the province take them to court to try to deprive us of this tool for protecting ourselves from COVID-19.
Alberta reported a dramatic rise in new COVID-19 cases yesterday — 622 new cases in the previous 24 hours. This does not bode well for Albertans with our UCP Government still reluctant to consider aggressive efforts to combat the spread of the pandemic.
The new case numbers in Alberta, population 4.4 million, compared unfavourably with those in NDP-run British Columbia, population 5.1 million, where there were 272 new cases reported the same day. Ontario, with 14.6 million people, reported 896 new cases.
For what it’s worth, China (population 1.4 billion) reported 33 new cases, up from 25 the day before.
Have a safe, happy and socially isolated Halloween. It’s scary, but in Alberta it’s not the ghosts and goblins that should worry you.