Alberta Politics
A disembodied Premier Jason Kenney, invisible at left, speaks while a virtual Health Minister Tyler Shandro stands politely by and a living sign language translator gestures (Photo: Screenshot of Alberta Government video).

Ignoring worried doctors, Jason Kenney sticks with largely voluntary ‘pause’ to keep lid on COVID-19

Posted on November 13, 2020, 12:24 am
7 mins

The pandemic is bad and quickly getting worse in Alberta with 860 new daily cases reported yesterday, but Premier Jason Kenney remains deeply committed to the please-knock-it-off-guys approach to controlling the spread of COVID-19.

Only, this time, he really means it. Really!

Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

Obviously desperate to be seen by his party’s libertarian wing as having nothing to do with a “lockdown,” the premier’s disembodied voice made it loud and clear to yesterday’s COVID-19 media briefing there’s no way Alberta’s about to consider the “circuit breaker lockdown” urged in a letter earlier in the day from hundreds of Alberta physicians and other health care workers.

“We are at a dangerous juncture in this province,” the premier said from his second 14-day stretch of home isolation after coming in contact with another infected person on Monday, so now there will be a two week “pause” on a few activities, plus some “strong recommendations” about others.

But as for the “strong and decisive mandatory measures” urged by the 430 doctors and their health care colleagues, forget about it.

Nope, the premier said, “we are putting our faith in the good judgment of people.”

But “if Albertans do not respond over the next two weeks,” he warned, “we’re going to have to consider additional targeted measures.

That’s a lot of qualifiers. But Mr. Kenney’s not for turning, as they used to say of a political hero of his, so his United Conservative Party Government must be determined to hunker down and follow the strategy it also applies to collapsing oil prices — praying for things to get better before there’s an election and it’s credibly accused of mismanaging its response.

Well, he certainly seems to have the support of the Chief Medical Officer of Health these days — Dr. Deena Hinshaw urged Albertans yesterday not to let anyone they don’t live with into their homes for two weeks. There will be no enforcement, but anyone who takes issue with the premier’s response to the coronavirus pandemic can expect to be accused by his issues managers of trying to undermine Dr. Hinshaw’s informed opinions.

Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott (Photo: Government of Ontario/Flickr).

Of course, the people doing the undermining yesterday were several hundred doctors, who arguably are also pretty well informed on the same topics.

According to the 430 doctors and their health care allies, “the time for incremental measures has passed, and voluntary measures, requested October 9, have not blunted the rise in cases. We see no other way to break chains of transmission and decrease cases, than to implement a ‘circuit breaker’ of short, strict measures. …

“The evolving evidence suggests that strong, time-limited measures will not only minimize the second wave but could prevent the need for the complete lockdowns that become inevitable when the health system becomes overwhelmed,” the letter continued. “A failure to control COVID-19 spread means we cannot expect our economy to recover quickly or strongly.”

That last point, of course, was directed at Premier Kenney — the only politician in the UCP Government whose opinion really matters.

With 860 cases over the previous 24 hours and 225 people in hospital, including 51 in intensive care, the government declined the shutdown of indoor dining, bars, casinos, religious services, and theatres the docs had urged.

While no one at the press conference said it, the province’s intensive care units are now at 130-per-cent capacity, according to unconfirmed reports, with adults being treated for COVID-19 in pediatric ICUs.

Instead, the government ordered a two-week ban starting today on group fitness classes, some team sport activities and group performance activities in Edmonton, Calgary, Grande Prairie, Lethbridge, Fort McMurray and Red Deer.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Photo: Justin Trudeau/Flickr).

Additional half-hearted “enhanced” measures such as closing pubs at 11 p.m. (last call at 10), limiting religious services to one third of capacity, limiting weddings and funerals to 50 people, and strongly recommending no social gatherings in private homes were also announced for the same communities.

“If these measures are not successful, it will be necessary to implement more restrictive measures,” the government’s news release sternly warned.

Health Minister Tyler Shandro also had a virtual walk-on part at the news conference, urging listeners via video link to please sign up for the province’s under-subscribed and unpopular smartphone app, which it would be irresponsible to call the Kenney tracing app.

One wonders, of course, if Mr. Kenney had the app on his smartphone when he got too close to someone who had tested positive for COVID-19.

Meanwhile, in Ontario yesterday, the Conservative government of Premier Doug Ford also refused to budge from a similar course in the face of projections done for his government that COVID-19 cases could hit 6,500 a day by mid-December.

Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott, however, said the Progressive Conservative Government is not considering changing its thresholds for closing down businesses, which have been criticized by many observers for being too lax.

This led to a buzz yesterday that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau might be about to have his own “just-watch-me” moment and use Ottawa’s emergency powers to impose national measures to get the pandemic under control.

30 Comments to: Ignoring worried doctors, Jason Kenney sticks with largely voluntary ‘pause’ to keep lid on COVID-19

  1. Just Me

    November 13th, 2020

    Considering that, last weekend, the traffic in the malls was should-to-shoulder, masks were impossible to find, and the food courts were a free-for-all, it’s looks like the Angry Midget has decided to get sort of serious about his entreaties for Albertans to “knock it off”. I suspect that the two week pause is meant to serve as a prep in advance of the massive surge in cases that coming over the next few weeks.

    Of course, ICU capacity will the stressed as the serious cases are hauled in. Considering that Shandro has no intention of pausing his war against healthcare, the dark comedy that is this government is becoming less of a comedy. And what’s that? Kenney is back in isolation because he was around another positive case? Karma must be falling in its arse laughing and all of the nonsense of 2020.

    Reply
    • Bret Larson

      November 13th, 2020

      So, you were being a mall rat and are ratting out the other rats? It makes sense.

      And youre quite right, the time to do something about health care costs was 5 years ago, but now will have to do, no matter how inopportune it can be made to look.

      Reply
      • Abs

        November 13th, 2020

        We’re all rats on this sinking ship, RMS Alberta. Head for the lifeboats!

        Reply
      • Just Me

        November 14th, 2020

        Wow.

        Your Spellchecker must be broken, like your cognizance.

        Reply
  2. Dave

    November 13th, 2020

    Finally some action from Kenney on the deteriorating COVID situation in Alberta! However, I agree it is too little and at this point I fear too late also.

    The actions announced today should have been announced more than a month ago. I think BC has had restrictions on bar hours for over a month and a half now .

    The actions should have also been stronger. With even the Alberta government acknowledging many of the cases are now coming from private gatherings, we need mandatory restrictions with fines and enforcement now, not just “strong recommendations”.

    The time for timid half measures has past. I suspect in a week or two this will be clear to even Kenney. The problem is more lives will be unnecessarily lost in the meantime due to all the foot dragging and in the end there will have to be more severe restrictions any ways.

    Lastly, I suspect if Kenney doesn’t act more forcefully, eventually Trudeau will and I am sure Kenney really does not want that. It would be the ultimate rebuke to Kenney’s failing approach of timid half measures.

    Reply
    • Bob Raynard

      November 13th, 2020

      “Lastly, I suspect if Kenney doesn’t act more forcefully, eventually Trudeau will and I am sure Kenney really does not want that.”

      Since Kenney is all about politics, and not about smart government, I wonder if Trudeau wading into Alberta affairs would be a perfect solution for the Angry Midget. It would even further enrage Kenney’s base against the federal government, and it would also produce the solution Jason Kenney must know is necessary, without Kenney having to take any flak for it. Better yet, the end result can be spun to Kenney’s advantage. If things go south anyway, its Trudeau’s fault; if things get better then this whole second wave thing was no big deal and all the economic damage wasn’t necessary.

      Reply
    • Bret Larson

      November 13th, 2020

      I think its a measured response. There is no play book on this stuff, however, I hope these measures are taken from the contract tracking responses.

      Reply
      • Abs

        November 13th, 2020

        You mean the contact tracing that has been largely abandoned by the province? The do-it-yourself scheme which observers now say leads to more than 80 percent “unknown”? Magical thinking based on gaping truck-size holes in the data seems about right for this gong show of a government.

        Reply
        • Bret Larson

          November 14th, 2020

          Have you seen Europe’s numbers? In comparison Alberta is doing really well. And like every dire situation with limited resources good management us about applying the scare resources in appropriate places. Thanjavur for bringing up a real example of the ucp using smart management processes.

          Reply
      • Kang

        November 13th, 2020

        No playbook on containing a new disease? Of course there is. The playbook is more than 140 years old and has worked every time: isolation, tracing, and quarantine. Started with the Cholera pump in London. The livestock industry has been using the same playbook since Rhinder-pest showed up in Africa before 1900. It worked for SARS and MERS a decade ago. If fact it worked so well most Canadians haven’t a clue it even happened. It worked in Viet Nam, Korea, and New Zealand. Fact is the UCP types would not learn from Asia when they had the opportunity.

        You UCP types should just let the doctors and public health professionals deal with this. Instead we have a Cabinet Committee, which is composed of a collection of high school failures, telling the docs what to do. The results speak for themselves.

        Reply
        • Bret Larson

          November 14th, 2020

          I agree, public health decisions need to have a holistic focus. To not apply to heavy a focus on the big squeaky wheel take true leadership. So far so good.

          Reply
      • John T

        November 13th, 2020

        The facts would render your opinion quite wrong.

        Reply
    • Lars

      November 13th, 2020

      Ah, but consider the opportunities that Kenney would have to blame Trudeau for over-reach, imposing the federal government’s will on Albertans, being a dictator, etc. It would be a win-win for him – adequate actions would be taken, but he wouldn’t have to bear the blame, while being able to palm himself off as a defender of Albertans’ freedoms. And he’ll get a chance to bite the hand that feeds him, which he would never pass up.
      It’s a tactic he’s used before during this crisis.

      Reply
    • dan

      November 21st, 2020

      if your waiting for the prime minister good luck . The son of the man to implement the war measures act being pushed to implement the emergency measures act not likely. The news is doing a good job the feds will foot the bill the provinces come up with a plan. the feds will tell everyone what is available from the government so provinces cant blame them for short fall and give stat and there own advise. This one is on the provinces and after blaming Justin’s dad for the last forty years on marshal law all the premiers are tiptoeing. Hypocrite.

      Reply
  3. tom

    November 13th, 2020

    So far Jason has managed to piggyback his precious austerity agenda on the feds’ stimulus measures and never once give credit where credit’s due. If Justin Trudeau introduces emergency measures, Jason can fan the resentment of his base while ultimately taking credit for tamping down the virus. That is, if Albertans let him–but why wouldn’t they?

    Reply
    • Albertan

      November 13th, 2020

      Agreed….these ‘Kenney UCP’ measures could probably be compared to an ineffective fart in a whirlwind. If, and when, Trudeau implements stricter federal measures, Kenney, et al, will, of course, default to the tiresome Trudeau blame game.

      Reply
    • Bret Larson

      November 13th, 2020

      And otherwise known as good management. Why wouldn’t Albertans allow good management?

      Reply
      • Just Me

        November 14th, 2020

        What’s

        Albertans are the stupidest people alive.

        Electing the Angry Midget and his UCP to government is another example of Social-Darwinism in action.

        Reply
        • Bret Larson

          November 14th, 2020

          I agree Kinney and the ucp could be better. However, much better than Notley. Who couldn’t buy an election with 40 billion dollars in bribes. Mathematically, Notley+40billion<Kennedy. Talk about pathetic.

          Reply
    • dan

      November 21st, 2020

      it’s the Alberta way blame the fed for everything government dose not understand peoples needs so the bigger it is the more blame there is . it also helps to have way more local news then national . lived 40 years in Alberta and it was not until I moved that small c meant anything.

      Reply
  4. lungta

    November 13th, 2020

    so
    the crooked derrick bar is closing early
    wink wink nod nod
    unless of course you don’t go home
    then it is business as usual but don’t admit it
    if this works i was right
    if it doesn’t you were wrong

    what i want to know
    is what is the disembodied kenny saying
    that has the signing guy pulling his own finger?

    Reply
  5. Bob Raynard

    November 13th, 2020

    I expect like most people, I am disgusted with the premier’s lack of leadership on this issue. When campaigning he presented himself as someone willing to make tough decisions, but when the tough decisions go beyond picking on civil servants, he hasn’t seemed so tough.

    When I read the CBC story about the restrictions, I found the premier’s comments about worship services and bars most disturbing:

    The province is also asking faith-based organizations in enhanced areas to limit the attendance at any worship or faith services to one-third of the room’s capacity. Kenney said a few organizations have been “flagrantly disregarding” public health guidelines.

    * * *

    The province has seen a growing number of violations where bars and pubs, in particular, have turned into virtual nightclubs, he said.

    “I’ll remind you that nightclubs are one of the few business activities that have been suspended since March, for obvious reasons,” he said. “It’s these growing number of violations that have created the concern and caused today’s restriction.”

    I suppose Mr. Kenney thought he was calling out the organizations involved, but what he was also doing was acknowledging his government was aware of some pretty egregious behaviour, and did nothing about it. I would have felt a lot better if he had also mentioned some sanctions that were placed on the offending organizations.

    Reply
    • Abs

      November 13th, 2020

      Apparently, the City of Calgary can’t enforce sanctions.

      https://globalnews.ca/news/7460780/calgary-covid-19-update-friday-nov-13-2020/

      “The City of Calgary is hoping the provincial government will grant a request to give bylaw and police officers the green light to ticket anyone “flagrantly disregarding” new health restrictions announced Thursday to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

      “As it stands, Mayor Naheed Nenshi said when it comes to enforcing the new measures — which apply to indoor group fitness and team sports, as well as restaurants and bars – the city is essentially powerless.

      “That’s because of a clause in the provincial legislation that Nenshi said has “got to get fixed at some point,” which doesn’t allow bylaw — and, in some cases, police officers — to enforce public health orders.”

      Reply
  6. Abs

    November 13th, 2020

    The Fantastic Four can’t wait for Trudeau to step in, so they can own the Libs and blame them for the coming crisis. These premiers are so tiresome, playing war with our lives. Trump lost; forget the coup and get over yourselves. Nobody will get the last laugh.

    In the meantime, because of the failure to take short-term pain for long-term gain, some of us have decided that we simply won’t go out at all. None of those businesses that contributed to Kenney’s war chest will be getting any money. Only grocery stores will see the benefit from these fools and their foolhardiness, as like-minded people shut down and shut in for the duration.

    And by the way, issues managers, it was very unwise to burn the national TV news by telling them the premier would be making a televised address when he was just a disembodied voice. Forget about it next time, because they’ve blown you off now.

    Reply
  7. Hammer

    November 13th, 2020

    I am starting to wonder what the role of Dr. Hinshaw is. Does she just parrot what JK wants? It must be very difficult for her to stand up there day after day knowing that what she should actually say is not what she is allowed to say. The UCP via AHS has failed the province miserably. My first hint is when they politicized the ” Trudeau App”. Now day after day we get Hinshaw shaking her finger to no effect. She reminds me of the parent who always talks tough then lets the kid get away with anything they want.
    I am tired and fed up with COVID as the next person, but I also realize that if we don’t put the hammer down now, JK’s dream for a provincial recovery is only a pipedream. How can you rebound your economy in an ongoing health crisis. If we have to shut down the joint for two weeks as a circuit breaker suggests, lets do it now prior to the Holiday Season.

    Reply
  8. Keith McClary

    November 13th, 2020

    “the premier said from his second 14-day stretch of home isolation” – Let me guess, on full pay, unlike most Albertans who are isolating (or should be, if they could afford to).
    _________________________

    Corporations have a legal duty to maximize profits for their shareholders. They cannot cut back operations if that impairs profits, unless it is legally required. Kenney knows this, it is the core of his free-market ideology.

    Reply
    • Albertan

      November 13th, 2020

      And yet, us rural property owners are now obligated to subsidize the oil and gas sector by having our property taxes increase, as we have been told by our municipality. The rural municipalities have been shortchanged by about $173 million due to the oil and gas sector defaulting on their taxes and now they are getting a further break. There is also the iffy $1.6 billion directed toward KXL which may not even get built. So much for ‘free market enterprise’ and ‘let the market decide’ that Kenney, et al, and the ultra right wing claim to love so dearly. Free market enterprise, it seems, is selective.

      Reply
      • Bret Larson

        November 14th, 2020

        Sometimes you have to keep the golden goose alive so you can pluck it next spring.

        Reply
  9. Bret Larson

    November 13th, 2020

    130% capacity on ICU beds? No, but you can read CBC if you like: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/alberta-all-about-icus-covid-19-critical-care-1.5723342

    I think the shutdown number is 88 filled in Edmonton, that is of course “unconfirmed” but its from somebody who would know. So they are being proactive. Keep in mind, I think they have found respirators as being less useful then previously understood.

    I assume, progression from the ‘voluntary stage’ would be towards the ‘involuntary stage’. And much like all progressivism, it means a bigger police state and coercion from authority. They of course know best and individuals do not, so they have to send the police to your door to make sure you comply.

    If you cant convince people its a good idea, maybe it isnt.

    Reply

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