Alberta Politics
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney at yesterday’s COVID-19 news briefing (Photo: Screenshot of Government video).

With COVID-19 infections surging, Jason Kenney doubles down on failing voluntary strategy

Posted on November 07, 2020, 2:13 am
8 mins

With Alberta’s COVID-19 infection rates surging toward Red State proportions, Premier Jason Kenney opted yesterday to double down on the strategy that’s already failing.

Using an unusual Friday COVID-19 briefing as his stage, Premier Kenney bragged about how well Alberta used to be doing, then urged Albertans to do their bit to slow the current frightening spike in infections by not having big social gatherings in their homes.

Chief Medical Officer of Health Deena Hinshaw at yesterday’s news conference (Photo: Screenshot of Government video).

And if they won’t co-operate, he sternly warned, why, he might, just might, someday, have to do something about it! But not just yet.

In the meantime, Mr. Kenney said, the government won’t be doing anything much at all. There will be no mandatory restrictions, he vowed.

“We’ve seen other jurisdictions implement sweeping lockdowns, indiscriminately violating people’s rights and destroying livelihoods,” he told the news conference, placing the government’s do-little direction in a convenient libertarian frame. “Nobody wants that to happen here in Alberta.”

Actually, that’s not true. Lots of groups, including plenty of medical professionals, are pleading with the premier to act decisively and implement mandatory rules before we overwhelm the health care system with thousands of new COVID-19 cases.

But while it may be true that household gatherings are a leading source of infections, the premier went on, “we’re not going to be sending out police to monitor this.”

“This is appealing to people to exercise personal and collective responsibility, so that we can avoid having to use more stringent measures,” he explained. In other words, just what we’ve been doing, with decreasing success.

Mr. Kenney and Chief Medical Officer of Health Deena Hinshaw also pushed the line that mandatory restrictions to control COVID-19 have other negative health effects.

Alberta Finance Minister Travis Toews (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

“We know that some of the measures that other jurisdictions have taken of course slowed the spread of COVID-19 but can have other health impacts,” Dr. Hinshaw said. “The advice that I have provided has always been to consider both the impacts of COVID and the impacts of restrictions.”

There’s enough truth to this to encourage a government determined to do as little as possible, but it strains credulity when the premier suggests rising deaths in the ongoing opioid crisis are tied to measures taken to control the pandemic.

So the government’s new policy, which for all intents and purposes is the same as its old policy, is to ask Albertans to please obey the rules and don’t invite more than 15 people over at one time. If they really want to be with 200 people, they can go to a bar — which will still be open. And if they insist on breaking the rules, well, they’re on notice, the government might do something about it someday.

Naturally, this will please core parts of the United Conservative Party base – red-meat libertarians heavily influenced by conspiracy theories from south of the 49th Parallel and the powerful restaurant and bar lobby represented by the premier’s friends at Restaurants Canada, for example.

It seems unlikely do much to get COVID-19 under control, though.

The reality is this is a government not all that concerned about ensuring Alberta is “the freest province in the country,” as the premier put it, when it comes to the right of citizens to protest its policies. This suggests this approach may have as much to do with the UCP’s desire to get on with its legislative agenda while there’s still time left in the electoral cycle.

That project was badly set back by last spring’s lockdown, and another lockdown might well derail it until after the next election, scheduled for March 2023.

From the government’s perspective, it also doesn’t hurt that the pandemic impacts the ability of opponents to organize large demonstrations against its policies.

So at the same moment Mr. Kenney was explaining why he intends to do little to stop the resurgent virus, Finance Minister Travis Toews was announcing the government’s plan to force the civil service to take a 4-per-cent pay cut this year, followed by a three-year pay freeze. With inflation, that’s the equivalent of about a 12-per-cent pay cut over the life of the contract.

The government also wants bigger cuts, styled as “market adjustments,” for some job categories.

Direct employees of the provincial government represented by the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees have already had their wages frozen for two of the previous three years – an arbitrator awarded a 1-per-cent increase for 2019.

Mr. Toews justified this yesterday by pointing to the pay cuts taken by some private sector workers when the oil boom went bust. He didn’t mention the government’s $4.7-billion tax giveaway to corporations.

While at his news conference, Mr. Kenney asked Albertans who want stricter measures to control the pandemic to have more sympathy for business people who are “barely hanging on,” although there wasn’t much sympathy from his government for the 24,000 education workers laid off last spring or the 11,000 front-line health care workers now facing the axe.

Pandemic tips for managing media

The UCP continues to exploit the pandemic call-in format for news conferences to exclude tough questions from reporters considered unfriendly by party issues managers.

So while Premier Kenney always has lots of time for softball questions from Postmedia’s Rick Bell — today’s newser was no exception — the gatekeepers refused again today to take questions from CBC investigative reporters Charles Rusnell and Jennie Russell.

Coincidentally or not, Mr. Kenney also hurriedly exited, stage right, just before the CBC’s Janet French came on the line with a question for him.

23 Comments to: With COVID-19 infections surging, Jason Kenney doubles down on failing voluntary strategy

  1. Dave

    November 7th, 2020

    Kenney’s more desperate pleading, which as you noted is similar to what he said over the past months several times, except perhaps now more pleading and desperate seems to be the political version of an angry parent saying “do what I want or mommy is going to get very, very angry!”. Well that usually doesn’t work that well with kids and I doubt it will work any better with the COVID party rocking flouters.

    It is odd that Conservatives who often assume the worst in people don’t get that real threats and consequences are the only things that will get some people to smarten up, or at least behave more responsibly.

    Now I don’t think restaurants or retail stores are the biggest part of the problem, but the facade of normality with everthing being open may lead some to take COVID less seriously. Having bars open without too much restriction, where alcohol impairs judgement and looses inhibitions is probably not a good idea.

    However, it is a mystery to me why mad mommy Kenney hasn’t put in place mandatory strict size limits on private social gatherings enforceable by stiff fines a long time ago. Really that is the only thing that will get through to the party rocking crowd who have long ago totally tuned out mad mommy Jason, if they ever really paid much notice to him.

    Oh and finally starting to use a national COVID contact tracing app, instead of dismissing it as the Trudeau app, might be helpful too.

    Reply
  2. tom

    November 7th, 2020

    In a nutshell. . . .

    “The reality is this is a government not all that concerned about ensuring Alberta is ‘the freest province in the country,’ as the premier put it, when it comes to the right of citizens to protest its policies. This suggests this approach may have as much to do with the UCP’s desire to get on with its legislative agenda while there’s still time left in the electoral cycle.”

    Reply
  3. !?

    November 7th, 2020

    On Friday Kenney also doubled down on the Alberta app saying it allowed for contact tracing while the Canadian app did not – this was 24 hours after saying Alberta was going to cut contact tracing all Covid positives.

    The dissonance is deafening.

    Reply
  4. Political Ranger

    November 7th, 2020

    What a toad!

    The whole lot of them are an embarrassment to any thinking person. How do they expect to gain any sort of approval of the population with these school-boy antics?

    Reply
  5. Bob Raynard

    November 7th, 2020

    Someday I hope we will hear about the dynamic that currently exists between Dr. Hinshaw and Jason Kenney. On Thursday CBC reported:

    “We are looking closely at what steps we need to recommend to government to protect the health of Albertans,” Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province’s chief medical officer of health, said at a news conference.

    https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/alberta-deena-hinshaw-covid-19-coronavirus-1.5790984

    In other words, she made it sound like additional steps were coming, in spite of knowing how Jason Kenney feels about the issue. I suspect that she has tried talking sense into the UCP and, having failed, she took a baby step towards trying to embarrass the government into taking additional measures. What we saw yesterday was Mr. Kenney putting Dr. Hinshaw back in her place.

    Commenting on David’s previous column, Bill Malcolm raised the issue of Dr. Hinshaw resigning, and I am sure she has considered it, not out of a sense of failure at her job, but rather over protest that the government is refusing to accept her advice. The government’s political strategists must have also considered how embarrassing it would be if Dr. Hinshaw stood up at her next briefing and announced her resignation because she does not want her name attached to the approach the government is taking, and its inevitable consequences. I wonder if they have offered her some huge bonus if she stays.

    Reply
  6. lungta

    November 7th, 2020

    the endless result
    when single skill theatrical political election manipulators
    are asked to manage anything more than coffee
    tho it does explain why advisors as pathetic as the harpers are recruited
    to help dissipate the facts
    and parrot the party line

    Reply
  7. Abs

    November 7th, 2020

    DIY, peeps! Pull yourselves up by your own bootstraps, buffalonians! Never mind Covid in the schools, and hospital outbreaks!

    It’s almost as if this premier wants the Covid numbers to grow. With zoonotic spread and a new mutation of Covid in Denmark, (while flights still go in and out of the country to locations all over the world), that might happen.

    As people pointed out yesterday, he haughtily dismissed the number of dead as percentages, not as people who lived and were loved by their families. Maybe people don’t matter to the premier, who has a strangely aloof way of viewing their utility, but people matter to other people.

    Keystone XL pipeline might be dead (after Joe Biden’s speech last night), so what does he have left in his bag of tricks? Seems the populace of Alberta will have to pay with our lives. Somebody has to be punished for this, and it might as well be us.

    The black and white thinking continues. There can be no compromise, no rolling two-week shutdowns. All or nothing, and by the way, there is only one Covid tracing app in this country, and it is Jason Kenney’s! There can be only one! The quickening is upon us. Okay, Highlander.

    Reply
  8. Albertan

    November 7th, 2020

    In addition, and from Twitter:
    Re: COVID tracing: “Remember when the government laid off 26 IT managers in January?, re: Dr. Hinshaw says they’re still working to fix the online dashboard/status map. Six teams, 20 people working on it. The challenge that connects frontline infrastructure. That’s working well. But needs to fix the pipeline to the analytics systems.”
    And this, also from Twitter: “I legit cannot believe that a head of government would be so callous. Shame on you Mr. Premier, re: Kenney said around 340 people have died from COVID in Alberta, but usually more than 16,000 people die per year, making the disease a ‘tiny proportion of the deaths in our province’ Kenney says.”
    The Kenney UCP? An unreal, inhumane mess, and as Rachel Notley, leader of the AB NDP opposition has said: “stupid.”

    Reply
  9. Jim

    November 7th, 2020

    It might surprise you Dave but it appears the average Albertan isn’t that smart. Regardless of your views on the severity of the virus it is hard to argue that it isn’t very contagious. If we can all agree on that point then perhaps large or even small gatherings might not be a good idea. If commonsense had been employed by Albertans over the summer this thing likely would have died out, as viruses tend to do. In typical Alberta fashion let’s all assume the good times will last forever, who cares about tomorrow I want to do what I want today.
    This whole thing is really starting to piss off those of us that have made sacrifices, limited social interaction, and used logic in making decisions without being ordered to by government. But hey all those people making irresponsible decisions are welcome to taxpayer funded healthcare for now anyway.

    Reply
  10. Bruce Mitschke

    November 7th, 2020

    Hey idiot — thanks for contributing to the divisiveness!!! You make so many bad assumptions in one paragraph that it makes me sick. And you blame the right for causing “the great divide”. Wow !!! With the following statement, you just joined the ranks of the likes of Donald Trump for “stupid statements” based on your opinion vs facts . BE MORE RESPONSIBLE!!

    Your irresponsible quote — “ Naturally, this will please core parts of the United Conservative Party base – red-meat libertarians heavily influenced by conspiracy theories from south of the 49th Parallel and the powerful restaurant and bar lobby represented by the premier’s friends at Restaurants Canada, for example.”

    Reply
    • Abs

      November 8th, 2020

      Tsk, tsk, Bruce. Civility, please. Remember that I am the guardian of excessive punctuation around here, and I will not stand for this.

      Reply
    • Athabascan

      November 8th, 2020

      Obviously kenny knows our COVID infection rates per 100,000 are greater than Ontario and the other provinces.

      Obviously he also knows the chances of getting infected in Alberta are higher than anywhere else in Canada.

      Nonetheless he chooses to do nothing about it. Heck, he won’t even allow the federally funded and developed tracing app to go online to help us.

      If he knows all these things, then why does he proceed on this present path of inactivity? It is an indisputable fact that with restrictions, COVID can be minimized, yet he refuses to do anything. Why?

      The answer is rooted in his psychopathy. This is the man who dedicated his time while in San Francisco to ensure that dying AIDS patients in hospitals could not be visited by their gay partners. Why? What possible satisfaction would anyone get by advocating such a restriction.

      This more than anything gives context to the man Alberta voters gave a majority to in 2019. Albertans voted for such a person (monster really).

      Albertans will continue to suffer greatly as a result of his non-leadership. That’s karma folks. Many fewer Albertans will be around by the time we get another shot at electing a caring, non-sociopathic premier in 2023. I hope I get to live long enough to cast another ballot in the next provincial election.

      Reply
      • Bret Larson

        November 11th, 2020

        Ever hard of Manitoba?

        That said, Albertans are benefiting from his leadership. Leadership is when you avoid being chicken little and concentrate on the overall benefit of society. And yes, its very scary right now and vulnerable population need to be protected. However, life must go on and people must understand that their behaviours are the difference between muting the virus and letting it run amok.

        Its the same thing with global warming. How many people evaluated their behaviours and achieved their one tonne challenge? Most just felt comfortable continuing on as before and expecting “government” to do something about it.

        Reply
    • Death and Gravity

      November 8th, 2020

      Ladies and Gentlemen: I give you the Conservative Party of Canada. And all their shifty little friends in the Provinces.

      Reply
  11. Just Me

    November 7th, 2020

    So, the Angry Midget has decided to go all in on that winning Trumpian playbook and double-down on the stupid that served his master so well.

    Kenney has never struck me as a smart person, let along one who would learn from his mistakes. Rather, he could always count on the protection and the patronage of his protectors, Steve Harpo and Stockyard Day-oh, to fix his screw ups for him. As a result, like his fellow traveller, Trump, he has never had to own up to his disasters. The result is that a man-child was left in charge and everything is going to hell.

    While Trump’s most ardent followers are spreading the most amazing tales of subterfuge committed by the “Satanic-Democrats”, and planning for the “Great Reckoning”, Kenney has to rely on his rabble band of day-drinkers to save his skin. Good luck with that.

    Of course, Kenney continues his pious ways and kneels every night to pray for a monster-size oil boom that is always too late in coming. Maybe as the exodus from Alberta ramps up and more flee the wasteland he created, Kenney will feel the miracle of Moses and see only those left in Alberta are the true believers.

    Reply
  12. Mike in Edmonton

    November 7th, 2020

    Don’t you love Jason’s take on personal freedoms? He claims public-health precautions “indiscriminately violating people’s rights and destroying livelihoods”. Wow.

    “Violating people’s rights,” ‘specially when you do it “indiscriminately,” just sets a good Libertarian’s teeth on edge. Classic RepubliCon blather! It really means, “Don’t you tell me what to do!” Of course, what really gets Jason exercised is the risk that, if he really did close down pubs, somebody’d have to pay the pub owners at least some of their government-locked-down revenue. Can’t count on ol’ Justin to pick up the whole tab this time. Oh, the humanity….

    I guess Jason figures “destroying livelihoods” is worse than destroying lives. Well, livelihoods destroyed cost the provincial government extra for social services. Lives destroyed just costs some insurance company or other the payout on a life-insurance policy.

    Reply
  13. Ruede

    November 8th, 2020

    Kenney won’t enforce any restrictions for fear of alienating his right wing supporters, I think he is scared that they will move over to support Wexit type parties leaving him. Speaking about personal freedoms is a callout to these folks

    Reply
  14. Abs

    November 8th, 2020

    Hey, kids. Here’s a fun activity for notifying people you’ve infected with Covid, during breaks between treatment in your hospital bed. Remember, it’s DIY from here on out. We have an app, the only tracing app in Canada, but even we don’t use it, K? Knock yourselves out!

    https://www.albertahealthservices.ca/topics/Page17199.aspx

    Close Contact Phone Call Notification Script

    We understand it can be scary to call people to tell them they are a close contact of your confirmed case of COVID-19. Here is a script to help you with that conversation.

    Please note: if you do not reach the person when you try to call them, leave a voicemail with all of the below information.

    Hi – this is ___ (name of positive case). I am calling to inform you that I have tested positive for COVID-19. Alberta Health Services recommends that I notify you that you have been exposed to COVID-19.

    I am sorry to have to tell you this. It’s very important that you MUST immediately self-isolate, and go to http://www.ahs.ca/covid, to complete the online assessment and go for COVID-19 testing.

    According to my files, you were exposed to me on ___ (date that this person was in close contact with you). You will need to isolate for 14 days from that date.

    I don’t have any further information I can share, but I can tell you that you can find more information about COVID-19, isolation, symptoms, testing, and getting health care at ahs.ca/InfoforCloseContacts. You can also call 811 if you have questions about your health.

    I will respect your privacy and I ask that you please do the same for me and the other people who you think may be my close contacts.

    Reply
  15. Bob Raynard

    November 8th, 2020

    An acquaintance of mine teaches in a suburban Edmonton school, with a large East Indian population. She told me this morning that a major Hindu event, Diwali, takes place this Saturday, and it very much includes socializing. Between having been Minister of Immigration, and having people of Indian origin in his caucus, Jason Kenney is surely aware of it. I wonder if he does not want to enforce a ban on social gatherings just before this major event, and alienate Hindu voters.

    Reply
  16. fraser

    November 11th, 2020

    What Alberta needs now is a Leader. A Provincial Leader. Being a Leader of a political party is not enough.

    The real question…..will Jason Kenney step up to the challenge or will he hide behind his acolytes in the UCP party???

    Reply
  17. Jim

    November 12th, 2020

    The WHO a couple a weeks ago stated the Southern Hemisphere seasonal flu cases amazingly reduced by 98% and can’t understand why. Can we investigate how many flu cases we are experiencing in Alberta. Unfortunately we are suffering from a PCR TEST PANDEMIC. Cheers!

    Reply
  18. Byron

    November 21st, 2020

    Jason Kenny has taken a page out of Trump’s playbook on the Covid 19 virus and believes if you stick your head in the sand it’ll just go away. He’s more concerned with increasing government revenue so he get support his buddies than the Alberta people.

    Reply

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