Alberta Premier Jason Kenney announces tougher COVID-19 measures at yesterday’s news conference (Photo: Chris Schwarz, Government of Alberta).

Better late than never, the Kenney Government sharply changed course yesterday and announced much tougher lockdown measures that have the potential to slow the spread of COVID-19. 

These will include closing bars, lounges, casinos, hair salons, libraries, and sports studios, restricting restaurants to take-out sales, mandating indoor masking and at-home work for many employers province-wide, and banning all social gatherings, indoors or outside. 

Health Minister Tyler Shandro at the news conference (Photo: Chris Schwarz, Government of Alberta).

The shutdown will last at least four weeks, taking Alberta past the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

This marks a significant change from the government’s past practice of portraying even easy-to-live-with measures like wearing masks in public as an unacceptable assault on the fundamental rights of citizens and Premier Jason Kenney as an uncompromising defender of personal liberty, no matter how risky.

But while genuinely promising, there is at least one important caveat before we celebrate yesterday’s announcement as a victory for common sense and renewed determination to slow the spread of the rampaging coronavirus.

To wit, the stricter rules unveiled at the afternoon COVID-19 briefing by Premier Kenney, Health Minister Tyler Shandro, Jobs, Economy and Innovation Minister Doug Schweitzer, and Chief Medical Officer of Health Deena Hinshaw will have to be enforced.

Can we really depend on Mr. Kenney’s United Conservative Party Government to do that after weeks spent loudly resisting imposing tougher restrictions as COVID-19 infections surged to the highest level among Canada’s provinces?

That remains to be seen. It’s possible. The situation has certainly deteriorated dramatically in the past few weeks, justifying the change and making it clear the government’s previous half-hearted measures were a flop. Having gone this far it would certainly be embarrassing for the UCP to appear to flip-flop again.

It may also help to restore some of Mr. Kenney’s lustre with out of province businesses that he hopes to woo to Alberta and which doubtless have been watching the slow-motion train wreck of the UCP trying to manage the pandemic with growing horror. 

Jobs, Employment and Innovation Minister Doug Schweitzer at the news conference (Photo: Chris Schwarz, Government of Alberta).

It can’t look good to those potential investors that the UCP has let things slide so badly from a promising beginning that the Canadian Armed Forces may have to deploy troops to Alberta to help the province cope. 

On the other hand, unlike Alberta Progressive Conservative governments of old, anti-mask, anti-vaccination sentiment runs deep in the UCP ranks, and we can expect internal dissent and resistance to surface in the party, the caucus and perhaps even the cabinet.

UCP spokespeople, busy for weeks mocking concerns about the pandemic as hysteria and calling out support for tougher measures as incipient totalitarianism, will now have to show they can turn on a dime. This is bound to disappoint and anger some of the party’s most enthusiastic supporters.

Mr. Kenney, understandably, is deeply sensitive to this. Having united Alberta’s divided conservative movement and defeated the NDP that exploited the PC-Wildrose Party split to unexpectedly win the 2015 election, the premier’s historical legacy would crumble if he proceeded to allow his right-wing coalition to fracture once again and create an opening for an NDP restoration. 

Opposition Leader Rachel Notley, the former NDP premier, would be happy to oblige. Recent polling, moreover, suggests she might have an opportunity. 

Though it may have looked like it after its convincing electoral victory in 2019, the UCP is no monolith like the old PCs. 

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw at the news conference (Photo: Chris Schwarz, Government of Alberta).

So what compromises would Mr. Kenney be willing to make to keep his party, which has already driven out the Red Tories who were always part of the PC Party’s bench strength, from further unravelling if libertarians, Wexiters and religious social conservatives break out in hives at the thought of tougher COVID-19 restrictions?

That will be one true test of the measures announced yesterday. The virus itself, which has already proved itself to be a wily and determined foe that pays no heed to the wishes of politicians or their ideologies, will be another.

Will Mr. Kenney yet decide that bodies in reefer trucks pose less of a threat to his coalition than upsetting sensitive Alberta libertarians’ fragile feelings? That remains to be seen. 

One thing that has not changed about the premier’s strategy is his reliance on the arrival and distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine. Vaccines are the silver bullet he imagines will let him end the lockdown as soon and painlessly as possible and return to his agenda of privatizing public services and cutting public service jobs before it’s too late in the electoral cycle. 

If it takes too long, he may be able to inoculate himself against political failure by blaming Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Liberal federal government. He will certainly try. 

Such concerns may explain the four-day delay before some of the new measures go into effect, although the masking mandate or the ban on social gatherings start immediately. 

Certainly Mr. Kenney’s need to keep his religious supporters sweet explains his continued reluctance to shut down worship services for the duration. He’s already promised never to force anyone to have a vaccination. 

Likewise, the need to shore up his coalition explains the uncharacteristic willingness of his supposedly deficit-shy government to provide modest subsidies to keep businesses afloat – if not anything for individual workers impacted by the lockdown. 

So don’t get distracted wondering whether Mr. Shandro and Mr. Schweitzer were starting pandemic beards yesterday, if Mr. Schweitzer was only pretending to apply hand sanitizer when he stepped up to the podium, or what it was Dr. Hinshaw had to tell the cabinet to persuade them to take yesterday’s measures. 

Mr. Kenney is the man to watch now. 

1,727 new cases reported yesterday bring active case total to 20,338

There were 1,727 new COVID-19 cases reported in Alberta yesterday. 

There were 20,388 active cases in the province and 654 people in hospital with the disease, 116 of them in intensive care. Nine more people are known to have died from the disease, bringing the total in Alberta since the start of the pandemic to 640.

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  1. This is quite the dilemma for Kenney, as you have outlined. He has just made a dramatic U turn, or perhaps more accurately, had it forced upon him. A really good politician, and Kenney I believe fancies himself to be that, would likely eagerly embrace his newfound convictions, rush to catch up and even lead the parade now.

    However, a number of Kenney’s more enthusiastic supporters are probably not at all enthusiastic about this turn of events. I think this will now be another Janus moment for Kenney, with one eye on getting the pandemic under control and the other on placating his less enthusiastic supporters. So if the messaging or the leader still seems a bit confused don’t be surprised. It is the Kenney version of Hamlet and I suspect this play will continue on and on.

    I also suspect Kenney will also be waiting for any opportunity to pounce against the Feds, if there are any problems with the vaccine roll out. Heck, he may very well attack them, even if there is no good reason. I suspect his mood is fairly dour right now, even more so than usual.

    I imagine he can feel the electoral window of opportunity beginning to close for him to do all those unpopular things he wants to do as soon as possible, so voters forget in a few years. Despite his best efforts, his plans have often been in suspended animation for a good six to nine months now. I doubt the next several months will go much better for him. If the vaccine roll out goes well, expect much of the credit for that to go to the Feds. If not, well that political window of opportunity for Kenney’s carefully developed austerity plans will probably be totally lost to him.

  2. I think the horse has galloped right out of the pen, and the UCP can’t rein it back in. It’s far too late to rectify what the UCP has done with the mishandling of Covid-19 in Alberta. The UCP are going to be eliminated in 2023.

    1. There’s always another option for these malignant UCPers: they could always make l’l Jason walk the plank, blaming him for everything that went wrong (that shouldn’t be too hard as he always fancied himself a dictator in waiting) and the ever faithful will forget and vote this malignant bunch right back in again. After all, it has been the Alberta way ever thus.

  3. I am wearing a mask as required but I wonder how many of the PCR tests show that a person is infected with Covid when they really just have the flu. In past years many people especially the elderly died from the seasonal flu and there was no reporting the large numbers of deaths, but this year governments seem to be obsessed with making public the number of deaths.

    This is not to minimize the seriousness of the corona virus but it seems that publicizing the numbers of deaths is a priority when it wasn’t in the case of high numbers of deaths from flu.

    So Let’s hear what the flu numbers were in recent years.

    1. David, Covid is a completely different virus from influenza. If you have influenza, you will not test positive for Covid. If you have Covid, you will not test positive for influenza.

      This is not a conspiracy. This is a real disease, a real pandemic. We are fortunate that MERS and SARS (previous corona viruses) didn’t behave like this. Also, there are other corona viruses in circulation, they are a common cause of the common cold. The tests can distinguish between Covid and other corona viruses.

      1. ME, questioning the accuracy of the COVID-19 PCR test does not mean that a person does not accept that there is a very serious disease caused by the SARS-Cov2 virus, and that this is causing a world pandemic. This is very apparent. Questioning the COVID-19 PCR test is critical in understanding the epidemiology of this disease. There is increasing evidence that this test is not accurate and that more peer reviewing is required. For more information on this please read “RT-PCR Test to Detect SARS-CoV-2 Reveals 10 Major Scientific Flaws at the Molecular and Methodological Level: Consequences for False Positive Results” the link is In order to combat this disease (and future disease outbreaks) we have to have accurate information; spurious information leads to bad decisions.

        1. CRIS: you are citing a petition, not a scientific study. The original study was published in Eurosurveillance Volume 25, Issue 3, 23/Jan/2020. The original study was among the first to suggest a method to test for Covid-19 and its publication by Eurosurveillance was unusually hasty (two days from submission to publication). Since then the various Covid tests have been refined and improved. This is a perfectly normal process and it no surprise this took place in the face of a new type of Corona virus outbreak.

          1. CRIS: I gave you the citation of the paper. If you had followed up you would have seen three clarifications had been added to the paper, none of which call into question the validity of the study itself.

            If you want an updated list of peer-reviewed academic publications on testing and all things Covid, there are hundreds freely available from Eurosurveillance which is the open-source peer-reviewed site funded by the EU’s European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) in Stockholm, Sweden. Eurosurveillance does not have any other sources of funding and its disclosure forms show their editors have no conflicts of interest or commercial involvements.

            You might find the following article about the intellectual limits of conspiracy theories useful:

          1. ….and on Media Bias Fact Check:

            The Columbia Journalism Review describes Media Bias/Fact Check as an amateur attempt at categorizing media bias and Van Zandt as an “armchair media analyst.” The Poynter Institute notes, “Media Bias/Fact Check is a widely cited source for news stories and even studies about misinformation, despite the fact that its method is in no way scientific.” Alexandra Kitty, in a 2018 book on journalism, described MBFC as an apparent “amateur/civic outfit” and wrote that its founder’s only qualification was a degree in communications.

            Go figure.

    2. Hey David, or should I say Matt.

      Nice try obfuscating the flu and COVID. Go ahead and contract COVID, then you can tell us all about how similar it was to last year’s flu. Are you willing to volunteer? If not, STFU and listen to the experts with medical degrees.

  4. Thanks for the bit of humour this morning. I really enjoyed it. The Kenney government have not sharply changed course. They have added additional constraints.

    As to any cracks in some sort of coalition. Those cracks are well caulked with the superglue discovered in 2015.

    1. HaHaHa! Characterizing constraints as unconstitutional and then mandating said constraints is changing course. Careful, Mr. Larson, you’ll make yourself dizzy.

          1. DJC, the truth is opposite what Brent claims. The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms filed a suit last Friday claiming Covid-19 restrictions violate their Charter rights. Story is here:


            Quoting from the middle section of the report:

            Eric Adams, a law professor at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, said it’s a “remote possibility at best” that such an application, especially one that casts such a wide net, could succeed.

            “In these kinds of cases, governments have, as you might hope and expect, a wide constitutional mandate to try and prevent a crisis from occurring or to prevent the further escalation of a crisis,” he said.

            Adams said it’s not required that governments have absolute proof that each public health measure is effective or necessary when they are trying to stave off consequences that would dwarf harms caused by the restriction of rights, such as limiting social gatherings or requiring masks to be worn.

            “No amount of pointing to your rights infringements will win a case in a constitutional system which specifically contemplates that rights can be reasonably limited,” he said. [end quote]

            Restated, Professor Adams pointed out that governments have a duty to act in defence of the public interest. If an out-of-control pandemic doesn’t justify such actions, I shudder to think what would.

          2. It comes down to the rational for such restrictions on the right of association.

            Listing a CBC article as a data point is like looking to Pravda for solid journalism on Chernobyl.

  5. While this moron refused to listen to the doctors when they tried to get him to implement this the first of November my friends and I think he has deliberately destroyed Christmas for a lot of our senior friends who may not get to spend another one with their friends and family. Many are 85 to 94 years old.
    Putting it in place the first of November may have made the difference , it was certainly worth a try. Too bad he wouldn’t listen.

      1. They voted for the NDP like I did. All of us are all former Conservatives who saw her as being a lot more like our conservative hero Peter Lougheed and former MLAs from the Lougheed government agreed with us.
        She knew what had to be done to fix the mess we are in by increasing taxes and oil royalties back up to the Lougheed levels .
        You certainly aren’t going to fix anything by increasing tax breaks for your rich friends like this moron Kenney did, and those of us from the world of finance certainly aren’t dumb enough to believe that we don’t have a revenue problem , only a spending problem.

        1. ALAN K.SPILLER: Alan: In the last provincial election, I also voted for the NDP. They are the closest thing Alberta has had to Peter Lougheed’s government. There are still some zealous UCP supporters who believe the UCP are the best thing for Alberta. It might take some time for them to learn that the UCP isn’t good for Alberta.

    1. ALAN K.SPILLER: What the UCP has done is an utter failure. There is no way they are going to avoid repercussions from how badly they are handling matters.

  6. Your stupid Premier forgot to exempt grocery stores. So, between now and Sunday there will be panic buying. Then, afterwards for 4 weeks there will be blocks-long line ups to buy fucking milk.

    To limit capacity to 15% for all retail businesses, including grocery stores, will cause undue hardship on all Albertans.

    Oh, well is this a good time to remind people that they voted for this moron?

    1. ATHABASCAN: I surely didn’t vote for the UCP. There are plenty of Albertans who didn’t vote for the UCP either. The UCP is going to really accelerate problems, like you said. Things will only get worse, from here on out.

    2. Today there was a news story today about hair salons and barber shops expanding their opening hours before they get shut down on Sunday at 12:01 a.m. One promised to hold an all-nighter on Saturday, which is illegal. Mr. Bumbles fumbled his lines, and confused the deadline at his big press conference, so maybe this is his fault. Mr. Bumbles, the shutdown that is (NOT!) a lockdown begins at 12:01 a.m. on Sunday, December 13. Got it? Maybe the 24-hour clock is easier to understand.

      Anyways, seems like a plan to spread as much virus as possible in several days before it all goes sideways. Who NEEDS a last-minute pedicure? Those women wearing flipflops in the snow yesterday, obviously. Groceries? Who cares? Certainly not Mr. Bumbles, although he has posted photos of himself buying booze. Priorities!

  7. And then there was Jason Kenney’s response to the question from journalist Sammy Hudes yesterday. Hudes remarked on how Kenney’s “approach to the second wave of COVID hasn’t worked from a health perspective,” and then asked Kenney if he was willing to take responsibility for the mess, including human deaths, by not doing restrictions sooner. The video of this, and Kenny’s appalling, and for me and others, unchristian response, is easily accessible on Twitter. There was a firestorm of support for Hudes on Twitter. One response, to Kenney’s horrible response, was, “Jesus wept.”
    It’s just another indication that the Kenney UCP, et al, were willing to sacrifice human life to try to protect the economy, which went down in a flaming failure, and to try to retain power. Anything for power…incredible. This was starkly verified by Kenney’s response to Hudes indicating that Hudes’ question resembled something like an NDP smear. Would the Kenney UCP be more than a little nervous at the increasing voter support for the AB NDP? Is there even one cell in any of the UCP’s brains that would be more than a bit uncomfortable with the COVID tsunami of human illness and death in Alberta because restrictions were not done soon enough? Let alone saving Xmas? A monstrous UCP government is what this is about.

    1. Listing comorbidities, stating that people over the age of 82 are past their expiry dates, blaming racialized minorities for the spread of disease — what is all this but “life unworthy of life”?

      They have been caught out. Prepare for the coming storm. They are dangerous people. These are dangerous times.

  8. Dare I say that it not comforting that reservists could be stepping up to the plate in nursing homes?

    Depending on their roles, it could work in theory, as support personnel to caregivers and trained medical staff.

    My concern is with the reservist, a member of the Cadet Instructor Cadre, who urged members of the military to be disruptors in the Covid vaccine rollout. This is the kind of person who will be entrusted with our seniors and their care, and the vaccine rollout in seniors’ facilities? Not okay. How many more are just like him? Not someone I’d trust to look after my loved ones.

    As for Kenney, his place in history is assured. He has shown us what happens when a hot mess of authoritarian, libertarian, right-wing, kleptocratic, top-down, me-first, Ayn Rand-believing, public-trough-feeding, selfish, narcissistic, ignoramus politicians collide with a pandemic. Old people dead? Sure, who cares? Poor people living in homes smashed by the hail storm of a generation getting sick? Sure, why not? Blame them for this Covid pandemic. Better yet, forget about them. Look at him, in his TV makeup (bordering on red-face; is that allowed now?). Clark Griswold ranted better, but you get my point.

    Send in the reefers, and let the bad times roll. This is on Kenney. It’s too late to stop the Covid train wreck. Maybe he’ll make it all better with a subscription to the Jelly of the Month club.

  9. Yes, enforcement will be key and something to keep a close eye on. Especially after the Unholy Trio were patting themselves on the back after their last round of thoroughly unenforceable “restrictions” were announced….how’s that working out now??

    It will be particularly interesting to see if there will be a crackdown on those brain dead anti-mask/anti-vax/anti-reality Covid denier marches that are popping up in Calgary and Edmonton. There really is no excuse at this point, the message needs to be sent that their dumb antisocial behaviour cannot/will not be tolerated any longer. I love how the deniers think they have strength in numbers and that the police can’t arrest all of them. The reality is that they don’t all have to be arrested; haul off a dozen or so, issue a multitude of tickets to others and the rest of the knuckle draggers will disperse.

  10. Asked by a Calgary Herald reporter Sammy Hudes if he takes any personal responsibility for Alberta pandemic situation he responded with
    “That sounds a lot more like an NDP speech than a media question,” Kenney said, speaking to Sammy Hudes, a reporter from the Calgary Herald. “I reject the entire premise of your question.”

    So that is a no…..

  11. I think Jason Kenney realized a number of his supporters are getting really sick and dying from COVID-19, he likely realized to win the next election he better try to keep his ignorant Trump like supporters alive with new COVID-19 measures.

    The Libertarians’ have no where else to go to vote in the next election. They will likely stick to Kenney like glue unless the Alberta Advantage Party rises up. I think the pandemic will be around longer than that party though.

  12. There you have it. Jason “Not-My-Fault” Kenney says the pandemic is our fault. Funny how he’s not arresting all those protesters who are violating Blll 1 by blocking traffic in the critical-infrastructure streets and pedestrians on the critical-infrastructure sidewalks. Oh, wait. These guys vote FOR Jason “NMF” Kenney. Riiiight.

    Any enforcement will come from city cops in Calgary and Edmonton. Just like the mandatory mask bylaws. The provincial mask laws were oh-so-reluctantly “passed” by ol’ NMF. You know, doing something that Don Iveson and Naheed Nenshi had done weeks before.

    I wonder who twisted NMF’s arm? Did Deena Hinshaw threaten to quit? Did restaurant owners tell Kenney, “Lock it down. Or Covid will lock down everything!”

    Kenney’s control of the UCP will be tested but not, I think, severely damaged. Only if a credible challenger appears will Lord Jason need to fear losing his crown. Doug Schweitzer supposedly came across as a decent guy, though I haven’t heard anything positive about his performance as a Cabinet minister. More likely, the most rabidly “I-know-my-rights” crowd will gravitate toward the Wexit Mavericks.

  13. The Angry Midget’s resolve to effectively and logically dealing with this pandemic is on par with Doug Schweitzer’s rather innovative highly theatrical fake application of the hand sanitizer. It’s going to be all flash and gusto, but little in the way of commitment.

    I guess it’s time to start getting the hockey arenas ready to be morgues.

  14. It is a massive FAIL. Is this an indication of how out of touch Kenney, the UCP back room boys and decision makers are from the average Alberta voter?

    No doubt Kenney will be trying to blame anyone and everyone east of the Alberta border. At the very least feds, the media, etc.

    The bottom line is clear. Kenney can duck and dive but at the end of the day he cannot put lipstick on this pig. Albertans are not that stupid.

    There is only one way to describe the last five-six weeks. It has been a massive FAIL in public policy. Everyone knows it. The numbers do not lie. Kenney knows it. The voters know it.

    As for our supposed Health Minister. Mr Shandro has proven himself to nothing but a big zero. A cardboard cutout would have done a better job… the very least not alienating doctors and health care professions across our Province.

    1. Unfortunately many Albertans are that stupid they keep electing these Reform Party losers and keep believing their lies. Sadly many are our fellow seniors who should be smarter but aren’t.
      They can’t seem to get it through their heads that there is a huge difference between a true conservative and a damn Reformer.
      They don’t get the fact that Reformers Stephen Harper, Preston Manning, Brian Jean, Jim Prentice ,Danielle Smith, and Andrew Scheer have one thing in common they were all defeated in elections. In other words people aren’t interested in their lies and privatization policies they keep trying to force upon them and we know Reformer Jason Kenney will be next
      to join this band of losers.

  15. Events have unfolded just as you feared. Anti-maskers march in the streets with impunity, despite violating each & every order of the CMOH. But let a health care union dare hold an information picket or rally, and see what happens …

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