Alberta Politics
Premier Jason Kenney and Municipal Affairs Minister Tracy Allard on Oct. 15 in Airdrie (Photo: Government of Alberta/Flickr).

Premier Jason Kenney, in isolation, blows off criticism of the lackadaisical UCP approach to COVID-19 restrictions as ‘political pressure’

Posted on October 23, 2020, 1:51 am
7 mins

It’s not very reassuring to learn Alberta Premier Jason Kenney treats calls for stricter measures to control resurgent COVID-19 infections as “political pressure.”

But yesterday, after Alberta on Wednesday surpassed 400 new cases in a single day for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began, Mr. Kenney did just that.

Banff-Kananaskis UCP MLA Miranda Rosin (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

The soaring COVID-19 caseload does not come as a complete surprise. Coming off the “near-normal” school reopening Mr. Kenney’s United Conservative Party Government blithely pressed ahead with last month and a Thanksgiving weekend free of mandatory social distancing rules just under two weeks ago, the big bump in case numbers is right on schedule.

COVID-19 has been with us long enough now that we don’t all have to be epidemiologists to know how the disease works. And yesterday, new cases in Alberta rose again from 406 the day before to 427.

It seems likely there will be even more records broken in the days ahead. There are now 3,519 reported active cases in the province, which almost certainly means there are plenty more.

But asked what he was going to do about it, the premier answered, in effect, not much.

“We cannot completely exclude the possibility of targeted, limited restrictions in the future if we determine the case load could begin to jeopardize the health-care system,” Mr. Kenney said from home, where he is in isolation after being at events with Municipal Affairs Minister Tracy Allard, who has tested positive for the virus.

“But if we do that it will be based, not on a hunch, not on political pressure, but on data,” the premier insisted. (Emphasis added.)

Readers can be comfortable betting Premier Kenney’s interpretation of data is never going to contradict his heartfelt conviction that economic health is more important than the physical health of individual human beings.

Even the hospitality industry is safe from mandatory restrictions, he indicated, citing public opinion polling that suggests Albertans don’t like lockdowns — who does? — and are skeptical that they work, which is another matter entirely.

“I think intuition of Albertans who are skeptical about lockdowns is pretty correct,” he said, letting us know where he stands on that question. To wit: he’s data skeptical.

If this doesn’t tell you where the UCP is going with this, consider Banff-Kananaskis MLA Miranda Rosin, whose cringeworthy response to a constituent’s social media plea for the government to “STOP the COVID concentration camps” had eyes bugging out all over the province.

“If the rumours are true, those are being set up by the federal government, not us,” Ms. Rosin chirped in her social media response. “Rest assured we would never create such a thing.”

It’s highly unlikely Ms. Rosen meant to say Ottawa is planning internment camps for people with COVID-19, any more than the provincial government intends to use its temporary clinic at Calgary’s Peter Lougheed Hospital for such a purpose. And it’s a little harsh to suggest she intended to spread a “hardcore conspiracy theory,” as one of the people interviewed by the CBC reporter seemed to say.

But the twentysomething MLA is clearly not one of the sharper implements in the UCP toolshed, and her remarks do hint that a decision has been made in the government’s caucus not to antagonize the kind of supporters attracted to QAnon nuttery, of which there are many in the UCP base.

In other words, Ms. Rosen was only guilty of doing a poor job of channelling her boss’s messaging, as when he accuses critics of the government’s lackadaisical response to the coronavirus of political chicanery.

Meanwhile, what should be a health care scandal is lost in the distraction

If there’s good news for the UCP in the daily updates to the coronavirus story, it’s the way it’s pushed the nasty plan to create a loophole to force hospitalized patients to pay for many of their clinical medicines off the front page.

It certainly goes against the spirit of the Canada Health Act and the whole idea of public health care, but the UCP seems to have put some thought into carving out exceptions that will let them dump the high cost of medications onto cancer victims, seniors in long-term care, and even patients in palliative care.

The scam seems to be to have as much treatment as possible take place just outside hospitals, in outpatient clinics, ambulatory care settings and all the other bureaucratic euphemisms that can be invented to suggest the patient is on the wrong side of a hospital threshold.

Obviously this is a major step backward for public health care, and potentially a huge hardship for families and individuals who have the bad luck to lack an employer drug plan. In addition, the savings to the health care system will be insignificant.

So this should be a major scandal. Thanks to the distraction caused by COVID-19, however, the UCP seems to be getting away with it.

24 Comments to: Premier Jason Kenney, in isolation, blows off criticism of the lackadaisical UCP approach to COVID-19 restrictions as ‘political pressure’

  1. Dave

    October 23rd, 2020

    Our Premier Kenney is a stuborn one, with a dangerous mix of ideological conviction and over confidence. He reminds me a bit of the legend of King Canute, trying by force of will trying to command the tides to receed, but instead getting his feet wet.

    Unfortunately, instead of harmless water, it seems to be COVID he has convinced himself he can make recede by sheer conviction, but not much action.

    I would like to think his own brush with COVID lately might lead him to take it more seriously, but there appears to be no sign of that so far. He still seems to equivocate on masks or restrictions, I think in part because of potential feared or real push back from supporters.

    I realize fatigue has set in as the epidemic grinds on and there has been no easy victory despite all our hard efforts. However, it seems to me like the Premier and his supporters are succuming to defeatism. Let me put it in a way that even they might understand – imagine a year and a half or so into the war, Churchill said this is so hard, lets just let up a bit on the fighting.

    Alberta has had decades of fairly easy wealth, which probably has not us left us well prepared psychologically for the difficult times and battles we now face. A real leader now would help us with this – a clever career politician would be tempted to give in to the weariness and cynical scepticism out there.

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      October 23rd, 2020

      In defence of King Canute, he is said to have been making the point to his demanding counselors and unrealistic retainers that there are some things even a king can’t change. He could always have said, like Donald Trump, “I have a feeling a change in the tide is coming soon.” DJC

      Reply
  2. ronmac

    October 23rd, 2020

    With all due respect social distancing protocols were kind of blown out of the water last spring by the BLM rallies which saw thousands pouring into the street, often with the encouragement of politicians who were previously telling people to stay home and lockdown.

    Reply
    • tom

      October 24th, 2020

      The BLM protesters were masked–unlike the revellers in the Rose Garden who fuelled a super-spreader event in honour of Amy Coney Barrett. See a pattern, Ronmac?

      Reply
  3. anon

    October 23rd, 2020

    The UCP are making terminal patients pay for their own medication. Back to the good old days of Victorian England where you could walk down the street in the poor sections of town and hear the terminally ill screaming in pain. Dickens, and even Orwell made careers of reporting on that sort of business created depravity.

    If the UCP is truly a democratic representation of the people of Alberta, I’m done with democracy.

    Reply
  4. Abs

    October 23rd, 2020

    Of course the UCPb (typo, decided to leave it) is skirting around the Canada Health Act, because care outside hospitals is not covered under the act.

    So while they have plans solidified at their party convention to dismantle public health care and replace it with a two-tier, American-style, pay-for-service health care system, they claim nothing will be done until the next election. People who can see The Emperor’s New Clothes see that the dismantling of the current system has begun. What do you call the constant attacks on doctors, the layoffs of 11,000 hospital workers, the promised layoffs of nurses? Sure enough, Myron Thompson’s hospital will be one of the first to go. The base in Sundre will surely be happy to follow the pied piper down the path to his American roots.

    The UCP knows it has tied the hands of the federal government by shifting services outside of hospitals, where the Canada Health Act cannot reach. Sure, privatization is mean-spirited and goes against the wishes of the majority of Albertans, but this is how authoritarian governments work. Kenney wants to destroy more than just health care, though. He’s just getting started. He doesn’t have Covid, so there’s nothing to stop him.

    Reply
    • DAVIDCODE

      October 24th, 2020

      Agreed. Kenney is the most neoliberal of all Western Democracy leaders. For those who do not know what neoliberslism means, Google it.
      We are being taken on a path to create a two tier society of UCP elites along with big business , then the rest of us. This applies, not only to health care, but every aspect of society. Alberta is already the most unequal in Canada and this is being actively promoted by Kenney. Fairly soon we will be complied to purchase not only health services, but all public services including water, sewer, and anything else we expect from our government. Attacking unions, our publc education system, telling us we have to pay more while earning less, all part of the grand UCP scheme. His constant gaslighting us with us vs them has created intolerance and selfishness among many Albertans. My question has always been, why do high salary Albertans feel they do not have to pay their share of Federal income tax. Every other Canadian with a high salary does not complain as vehemently as we do .

      Reply
  5. Bob Raynard

    October 23rd, 2020

    One wonders if the Angry Midget (thanks, Just Me) has done a cost analysis on how much money his lack of action on shutdowns will cost the health care system looking after the increased number of Covid cases.

    Reply
  6. Bob Raynard

    October 23rd, 2020

    I got the quote from Jason Kenney below from your CBC link:

    “I think it’s important to acknowledge that the virus is here to stay,… we have to cope with it and we have to carry on with life.”

    Jason Kenney is correct. We do have to cope, and carry on with life, but part of that involves acknowledging that we cannot do everything like we have been. This includes accepting that any enterprises whose business model require people being put at substantial risk of catching Covid need to be reconsidered.

    An extreme example would be in the exotic dance subsector. Part of the exotic dance business model involves the dancers offering patrons ‘private dances’, aka lap dances. In order to fulfil this business model a stranger sits on the patron’s lap facing him, for several minutes. If the business is successful she will be on the lap of several strangers during the course of the evening. This is obviously a business model that needs to be discontinued during Covid.

    For the health of the hospitality industry, limitations need to be placed on bars. The music needs to be turned down low enough so people can place their orders without shouting in the face of the servers. Patrons also need to be kept sober enough that they do not lose their inhibitions to keep appropriate distances. If that cannot be done the bar will fall into the category of Coviud-incompatible business model.

    Jason Kenney has yet to impose any fines on large gatherings, and we are seeing the consequences of that. Clearly emphasizing personal responsibility has not been sufficient.

    Reply
  7. Bret Larson

    October 23rd, 2020

    Kinda interesting covid is now on the front burner here. We are currently in a pandemic and are a good part of a year in. Populations are feeling restriction stress.

    And as a twist of irony, there is concern about how to pay for the healthcare we need. Well, you pay for these things by having economic activity.

    So it seems, the Kenney government is taking a measured calm approach.

    After all, we just had thanksgiving and one of the main vectors of the disease is family gatherings(should I complete the dots on this one?).

    As to “covid camps”, seems to me its like an progressive dream come true. Re-education camps for the masses, they get to look like they are doing something about the pandemic and teach them the history they need to inculcate to be released.

    Reply
  8. Just Me

    October 23rd, 2020

    Having met Miranda Rosin a few times, before and after her election, left me with the belief that she is definitely not the sharpest knife in the drawer. No doubt harvesting all the wisdom found in the likes of Breitbart, Halturner Radio, Infowars, and a host of bizarro alt-right portals, she proves that she is right at home spewing the conspiracy theories her constituents know and salivate over. I guess being a kookburger scores high in her circles.

    As for the Angry Midget’s tone-deaf response to the exploding Covid outbreaks, I am waiting for him to denounce masks and go full Karen on the matter.

    Reply
  9. Jim

    October 23rd, 2020

    It is fairly easy to see how some have extrapolated the wording of section 30 and beyond of the Alberta Public Health Act to conclude that covid detention camps are something that will be used. One doesn’t have to be a conspiracy theorist to see if the government wanted to they could legally do it. The scary part is how governments on all levels have taken a very authoritarian approach, the mask came off.
    Remember Kenney was part of a government who pushed through a law allowing banks to seize customer bank deposits with no public outcry, Economic Action Plan 2013. If it advances his political agenda he will do it, of course the Alberta camps will have to be some sort of P3 with generous kickbacks.

    Reply
  10. Murphy

    October 23rd, 2020

    I remain sadly amused and bemused by the language used on this blog in reference to the SARS CoV-2 phenomenon. The notion that cases are “soaring”, when the official projection, with lock-downs, contact tracing, etc., was 800 000 infections in Alberta by mid-May, with a potential elevated scenario producing 1 060 000, and a do-nothing possible scenario with 1 600 000 infections in that time frame, seems counterintuitive at best and frankly, quite diingenuous. Given that this projection was a twelve thousand percent overestimation of the actual total, I find it likewise counterintuitive that the blogger refers to people who don’t accept the narrative, as “cranks”.
    Further, the claim is still on the Alberta Health Services website that Covid is five to ten times as deadly as influenza, when the case fatality rate for Covid, which includes over one hundred deaths in long-term care homes, deaths that would not even merit a test in other years, is lower than the case rate for influenza deaths in hospital seen in many of the last ten years in Alberta.
    How can you continue to hold a position that SARS CoV-2 poses a categorically different threat in Alberta than seasonal influenza? Literally every single aspect of the characterization of the Covid phenomenon in Alberta has been massively wrong, and yet the people who continue to accept this absurd characterization are rational and those who dare to point out the comprehensively false nature of the depiction are somehow mentaly unsound? Every single justification and reference to the virulence and infectiousness of SARS CoV-2 that I have seen on this blog has been a logical fallacy. Italy was putting people in tents and turning patients away during the 2017-18 influenza season, while nothing remotely resembling this occured in Alberta, and yet somehow we’re at risk of an Italian-style inundation of the healthcare system? Ridiculous doesn’t even begin to describe that invalid argument. Likewise the fear-mongering about the US chaos manifesting here. On both coasts, in San Diego and New York City, tents were used in the 2017-18 influenza season because their crappy neoliberal healthcare system slammed into their fat, sick population. While nothing like that occurred in Alberta.
    As the ball tumbled down the Covidmania Pachinko machine, from the silly claim that no immunity for SARS CoV-2 existed in people, to the likely occurrence of thousands of deaths in Alberta, to the false claims that the clotting and resultant multi-organ complications were somehow highly prevalent and unique to Covid among respiratory viruses, to the truly bizarre flip-flop on the use of masks, nothing has proven to be too silly to be accepted by people who want to believe, and not a single disproven claim the media and health authorities in any way dissuades people from their faith.

    Reply
    • Bret Larson

      October 23rd, 2020

      If you check out the CBC story from the 20th , https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/calgary-wedding-covid-19-1.5768814, you can see where the fear mongering is coming from:

      Dr. Craig Jenne, an infectious disease expert with the University of Calgary, said based on the high transmission numbers, he would consider this event a “superspreader.”

      “Although 49 cases may not seem like a huge number, we have to keep in mind that these people have perhaps had continual contact with others after the wedding … if each person passes [COVID-19] on to two, three, four other people, we may be looking at an event that has now led to 200, 300 or more cases in the community. And again, each of those cases has the potential to spread it further,” he said.

      From a math sense the difference between two and four people getting the disease from each infected person is the difference between the numbers we are seeing and the numbers the models predicted. Maybe doctors should stop talking about the disease and have mathematicians start.

      Its got to be much better than lawyers, here Tim is weighing in on politicizing the pandemic: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/ucp-mla-covid-concentration-camps-disinformation-1.5773291.

      One has to wonder what his bias’s is?

      Reply
    • tom

      October 23rd, 2020

      Are you postulating that the covid 19 virus is just another flu,or no worse than the flu.Seriously?

      Reply
    • jerrymacgp

      October 24th, 2020

      Let’s talk about COVID-19 & influenza. Clinically, there is a great deal of overlap in the signs & symptoms of each condition — as, indeed, there is amongst a wide variety of what communicable disease professionals call “influenza-like illnesses”, or ILI — caused by a dozen or more widely circulating viruses. In fact, some of the viruses causing the “common cold” are, technically, coronaviruses, just not the novel coronavirus known as SARS-CoV-2 that causes COVID.

      However, Sir, you are wrong about the severity and deaths attributable to COVID-19. As a Registered Nurse, let me explain. In the 2019 Alberta flu season, there were 41 deaths (52 the year before), and just under 1,600 hospitalizations for lab-confirmed influenza: https://www.alberta.ca/influenza-the-flu.aspx.

      Remember, unlike the current mass testing regime for COVID, there is no mass testing for seasonal flu (which is, in fact, a constellation of different flu viruses, both Influenza A & Influenza B, & includes the 2009 pandemic H1N1 strain); instead, only the sickest or highest-risk (for bad outcomes) patients tend to get tested. So, the denominator of that lab-confirmed case fatality rate is likely to be far lower than the prevalence of flu in the population. Meanwhile, we are mass testing for COVID, and the case fatality rate for lab-confirmed COVID is documented to be 1.24% based on today’s stats (morning of Oct 24th, https://www.alberta.ca/covid-19-alberta-data. That’s 12-13 deaths per 1,000 cases.

      Bottom line: seasonal flu only kills a few dozen a year in Alberta. To date, however, COVID-19 has killed an even 300 people in this province, and it isn’t over yet. In rough figures, for every death we normally expect from seasonal flu, 9-10 can be expected to die from COVID-19.

      Reply
  11. Political Ranger

    October 23rd, 2020

    Couple things here …
    First, these people, this premier and his mob of MLA’s are fantastically incompetent. It’s beyond aggravation that the people who are supposed to be looking after things don’t know what the hell they’re doing.
    And they are, the whole lot of ’em, monumentally stupid. or slow-witted or just not there. There is not a shred of comprehension among them of what this disease is or what it’s capable of. “Personal responsibility”? – what the hell is that? For crissake; it’s a virus and it will attack any person it can, any one, any time, any place. There is no place for personal responsibility here, there is no moral failing; it’s built, actually evolved, to take advantage of social groups and social interactions. Are we supposed to go live in a cave? What a maroon!
    There are clear and specific actions that a society can take to avoid the worst of this. At one time we didn’t know that but after 7 months of this we know, that is, it is knowable, exactly what actions a society can take to minimise damage and death. But these incompetent, incomprehensibly ignorant goofs don’t know that.

    Second thing, they do know how to shill for archaic petro-corps. Even for Alberta petro production is an economic dead-end in 2020 as the horse & buggy industry was in 1920. But these incompetent, incomprehensibly ignorant goofs don’t know that.
    They’ll keep prostituting themselves and giving away taxpayer resources until they are swept out with the rest of the trash. That’s all they know; that’s all they are.

    Reply
    • Bret Larson

      October 23rd, 2020

      Yup, only about 10x more competent than the last group. And its hardly surprising you have a hard time with the concept of personal responsibility.

      For some wise words concerning how to protect yourself you should search for Bruce Aylward: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/04/health/coronavirus-china-aylward.html

      What did you do to protect yourself?

      A heap of hand-sanitizer. We wore masks, because it was government policy. We didn’t meet patients or contacts of patients or go into hospital dirty zones.

      And we were socially distant. We sat one per row on the bus. We ate meals in our hotel rooms or else one person per table. In conference rooms, we sat one per table and used microphones or shouted at each other.

      That’s why I’m so hoarse. But I was tested, and I know I don’t have Covid.

      Reply
      • Abs

        October 24th, 2020

        As you may know, W. Bret, Chinese police arrested people who sat outside their own homes in Wuhan in contravention of orders to isolate indoors, and carried them off who knows where. Doors to apartments in highly-infected areas were welded shut, so that the virus and the people carrying it could not escape. Police barricades stopped anyone from entering or leaving Wuhan city. Later on, people returning to China were ordered to quarantine at home. This was enforced by authorities. Groceries could be delivered, but infection control procedures were in place, like spraying doorways with disinfectant after taking delivery. China sprayed disinfectant heavily outdoors, too, obviously taking no chances with aerosolized particles. And yes, masks were compulsory, no exceptions. So the heavy hand of the state helped contain this disease, sometimes horrifically. This was much more than a case of a little hand sanitizer.

        We live in a democracy, but our provincial government is choosing to stand by and do nothing. There are options between doing nothing and crushing freedom with
        authoritarian force . One is ordering mask-wearing in all public places provincially during a pandemic. But I guess you’d have to believe in “society” to understand why.

        I suppose it is futile to remind you that those who do take the virus seriously cannot be held personally responsible for the actions of others. We are all only one sneeze, or one person speaking moistly, away from some anti-masker’s aerosolized excretions.

        With all the blaming of people who get sick, I can’t help but imagine the thrill of the 400 or so UCPers who have decided that four million of us will be forced into private, for-profit health care. Will people who contract Covid be “personally responsible” for being ineligible for private health care down the road, or having to pay extra premiums for their misfortune of getting sick? I think that is exactly why your leader has chosen this term. Heck, one of his cabinet ministers is among the 400 who have a lot to gain from uncontrolled contagion that would force private health premiums sky-high.

        But I am really just talking to the wind, aren’t I? I won’t wish you luck avoiding this virus, because you don’t need it. It’s all in your realm of personal responsibility.

        Reply
      • Kang

        October 25th, 2020

        You citation is from March 2020. That is a very long time ago in the life of a new epidemic. You might want to take a careful read of “jerrymacgp” comment above.

        Reply
    • DAVIDCODE

      October 24th, 2020

      Wonderfully said!

      Reply
  12. Political Ranger

    October 24th, 2020

    me, me me ….

    For someone who doesn’t seem to know a thing, you sure have a lot to say!

    Reply
  13. Just Me

    October 25th, 2020

    Now that the news that the BC NDP has won an overwhelming majority government, crushing the Calgary/UCP favored BC Liberal (Not liberal) Party, there can be no doubt that the screams coming from the Alberta premier’s office are just another one of Kenney’s psychotic tantrums. With the NDP firmly sitting as the government for the next four years, thanks to governing like adults, one wonders what Kenney and his cabal in Calgary are going to manage relations with the Left Coast. Of course, the election in Saskatchewan is waiting to be resolved; but if that one goes completely sideways, things will go from one disaster to another for Kenney.

    Of course, the Angry Midget, being a true-believing zealot, will go to his base and rail about Alberta being surrounded by commie enemies. Is his base stupid enough to buy into another one of his tantrums? But of course, they will because Albertans are the stupidest people alive.

    Amusingly, Erin O’Tool declared at the UCP AGM that Alberta’s response to the Covid Pandemic was more effective than Ottawa’s effort. Considering that O’Tool was addressing a meeting filled with attendees who see him as their last hope to depose PMJT and restore Alberta’s rule over Canada, I believe that he wonders what kind of mess he has got himself into.

    Alberta bought O’Tool’s leadership, so he has a long laundry list and high expectations to deliver on. Otherwise, we can count on O’Tool getting *scheered* soon enough.

    Reply
  14. October 26th, 2020

    Hmm… our prime minister is stubborn as always…

    Reply

Leave a Reply

  • (not be published)