Alberta Politics
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney at yesterday’s COVID-19 daily briefing (Photo: Alberta Government).

With infectious new COVID-19 strains on the march, Alberta Premier caves to business and eases health restrictions

Posted on January 30, 2021, 12:54 am
8 mins

With more infectious new variants of the novel coronavirus now spreading in Western Canada, Premier Jason Kenney chose yesterday to advise Albertans that next Friday the province will ease the restrictions that appear to have been slowing the spread of COVID-19. 

Alberta’s new-infection numbers have been a little better lately and are trending in the right direction thanks to stricter measures very reluctantly imposed by the government in mid-December.

Chief Medical Officer of Health Deena Hinshaw (Photo: Alberta Government).

But no sooner did a few restaurants in small-town Alberta decide to openly defy the ban on indoor public dining earlier this week than the premier caved. 

In a rambling presentation to yesterday’s daily COVID-19 briefing, Mr. Kenney claimed that the government is easing the restrictions on business and social gatherings “carefully, slowly and in a way that’s driven not by opinions but by data.”

It seems much more likely, though, that he’s reacting to defiant hostility to the rules in the United Conservative Party’s rural heartland and deeply entrenched COVID-19 skepticism and outright denial in his own cabinet and caucus. The latter was illustrated by the UCP MLAs who headed for the beaches of Hawaii and Mexico over the December holiday. 

The premier spent a lot of time explaining a complicated new formula for gradual reopening, seemingly more concerned about the people who might think we’re not reopening fast enough than the majority of Albertans still worried about COVID-19. 

No need to trust me on that characterization of majority opinion in Alberta. Mr. Kenney cited polling presumably done by his own party indicating that while 20 per cent of Albertans are opposed to the current restrictions, 40 per cent support keeping them in place as they are and 40 per cent think the rules should be stricter.

In addition, it was only on Tuesday that Health Minister Tyler Shandro was gravely warning that the arrival of the faster-spreading COVID-19 variants could lead to exponential growth of the deadly respiratory disease that would “push our health-care system to the brink.”

A day later, a dozen or so rural restaurants opened for indoor service in defiance of the rules, and so by yesterday the premier was saying restaurants and gyms would be allowed to open.

Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro (Photo: Alberta Government).

But we don’t need to worry, he assured the news conference, because he expects Albertans to behave responsibly. 

We’ve heard this song before from the premier and it hasn’t worked out very well, especially for more than 1,600 Albertans for whom the impact of COVID-19 was fatal. But then, the UCP’s response to the coronavirus has been incoherent from the get-go, and sudden policy flip-flops by Mr. Kenney are not unusual. 

Mr. Kenney was repeating a familiar refrain yesterday, warning that if things start to get worse again, he’ll consider reimposing tougher restrictions. 

In other words, to ensure the new COVID-19 variants don’t take hold in Alberta, we’re once again going to be depending on the goodwill and personal responsibility of people who have proved they are most likely to behave irresponsibly. 

Chief Medical Officer of Health Deena Hinshaw and Health Minister Shandro played their usual supporting roles in yesterday’s briefing, with Dr. Hinshaw spending a few seconds trotting out the daily statistics and Mr. Shandro blaming Ottawa for the worldwide vaccine shortages now being felt in Alberta. 

On the vaccine shortage, Mr. Kenney had some advice for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. He suggested that if the European Union is going to restrict vaccine exports, Mr. Trudeau should somehow make Pfizer Inc. ship its vaccine to Alberta from its Michigan plant. If the company doesn’t want to, perhaps the premier can offer to call Michigan’s governor “brain dead” again. 

The fact the premier’s instinct is to cave to the 20 per cent and ignore 80 per cent of the population’s opinions is a very telling commentary on how the United Conservative Party thinks. 

What business wants in this province, business gets, even if it kills some of us. 

‘Public Inquiry into Anti-Alberta Energy Campaigns’ goes into triple overtime

Yesterday was the Friday before the so-called Public Inquiry into Anti-Alberta Energy Campaigns was supposed to be handed in to Energy Minister Sonya Savage, so what better time for Commissioner Steve Allan to announce that he’s been granted another extension to complete his report?

Alberta “Public Inquiry into Anti-Alberta Energy Campaigns” Commissioner Steve Allan (Photo: AlbertaInquiry.ca).

This will be the third extension of the supposedly public inquiry, which has been conducted entirely in private, sending the long-running tragicomedy into triple overtime. It was originally to have been delivered on July 2, 2020. Its most recent deadline was this Monday. 

Maybe the purpose of the latest extension is to figure out what to do about the threat by Greenpeace to sue the inquiry if anyone so much as mentions the organization’s name. At any rate, Commissioner Allan said in a statement published on the inquiry’s website that “it has always been our intention to engage with persons who may be subject to a finding of misconduct or the subject of a materially adverse factual finding such that they be afforded an opportunity to respond.

“This extension allows us to undertake and complete the Inquiry’s processes in a timely and fair manner,” Mr. Allan said. It won’t result in an increase in the inquiry’s $3.5-million budget, he added. 

His staff seems also to have taken the opportunity to do a little scrubbing of the inquiry’s website, removing three controversial reports commissioned by Mr. Allan. The three reports cost approximately $100,000 combined, and seem to have been commissioned to provide evidence for the conspiracy theory the facts of which the inquiry appears to have been created to prop up. 

Fortunately the three reports were downloaded by many readers and copies are found in many locations, including here, here, and here. 

The inquiry is now due to submit its report to Ms. Savage on May 31, 2021. 

28 Comments to: With infectious new COVID-19 strains on the march, Alberta Premier caves to business and eases health restrictions

  1. Abs

    January 30th, 2021

    If you’re taking requests, I’d like to dedicate a song to the premier and his party. It’s”The Rodeo Song”, a guaranteed hit with 20 percent of Albertans, who know it by heart.

    Reply
  2. Bill Malcolm

    January 30th, 2021

    Lifting Covid restrictions in Alberta too early, Round what? Three, Four?: Dopes in charge acting like dopes in charge. Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow you die, say the 20% of rural intellectuals who apparently power the ideology of the UCP. What a damn right wing circus of fools!

    The EU is upset that Pfizer/BioNTech has been shipping vaccine to the UK, where vaccinations are far ahead in per capita terms than on the Continent, and where, at the south Brussels plant the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine is being manufactured has a “filter problem” reducing output to 25%. But not, of course at the UK plant, which isn’t sending any vaccine back to the EU, but keeping the lot. And not in India, which is the leading vaccine producer in the entire world by far. How Belgium got to be the manufacturing HQ in Europe for both Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines, who the hell knows. India has already produced AstraZeneca vaccine and is exporting it already — heard it on the news and here’s proof:

    https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/1/20/india-pharmacy-of-the-world-starts-exporting-covid-vaccines

    Canada is of course caught in the crossfire of possible EU export Pfizer BioNTech restrictions because of the understandable hate for Boris within the EU — he’s such an idiot. Moderna out of Cambridge Mass seems to want to curry favour with Joltin’ Joe Biden, so Canada is getting less of their vaccine than we bargained for. We’re left sucking the hind teat through no particular fault of the Feds that I can discern. Vaccine nationalism is at work, and not caring about our needs is but a reflection of Canada’s nonentity world status that any of our tourist travellers of the past five decades may well have noticed if they were awake. Perhaps Ford and kenney might reflect on that, as if, har har. Ford wanted to wheel down to Kalamazoo himself to pick up Pfizer vaccine he somehow felt the USA owed us.

    Not now he won’t. It’s so much easier to blame Trudeau. And kenney is always up for that. Anyway, Ford would likely face Trudeau’s new restrictions upon return that he himself lobbied for, including three days at a designated hotel (for $2K) while waiting for PCR test results to come back — I forsee that restrictions for vehicular traffic crossing into Canada will soon reflect the new arrival by air quarantine regime. Why not? Snowbirds currently whiling away their time in Florida’s balmy weather and getting vaccine early will be delighted to learn that their country only wants them back under specific conditions. Allow me to shed a tear for their wealthy plight. And for all the soon about-to-be-heard moaning-minnies whose Spring Break plans have been dashed, poor babies. Maybe it’ll finally dawn on all but kenney that this virus and variants are serious business.

    Reply
    • Keith McClary

      January 30th, 2021

      The EU is demanding that AstraZeneca meet its contractual obligations to the EU, but Pfizer’s contractual obligations to Canada are somehow different.

      Reply
      • jerrymacgp

        February 2nd, 2021

        Except that Pfizer’s contractual obligations to Canada are for a set number of millions of doses by March 31st. So, unless you’ve built a time machine that can travel forward to April Fool’s Day, you can’t argue they’re in breach before then, even if the current flow of product is reduced from what had previously been announced.

        It might look unlikely that they’ll meet their target, but until the benchmark date passes & they haven’t, they’re not legally in breach of their contract.

        Reply
  3. Anonymous

    January 30th, 2021

    Whatever the UCP proposes, ends up in disaster. The UCP doesn’t learn from history, like why trickle down economics is a failure, and rejects experts on matters like Covid-19.
    First of all, I thought the UCP’s corporate tax cuts were supposed to make employment. That’s not the case, is it?

    https://globalnews.ca/news/7606291/cenovus-energy-spending-plan-layoffs/amp/

    Billions of dollars were lost on these corporate tax cuts by the UCP. Where are the jobs?

    With new variants of Covid-19 being found in Alberta, an early February reopening of things is going to backfire on the UCP. Wait and see. It will be akin to someone not eating for several days, then finding a pile of food, gorging on it, and then getting sick. There will be little respect for social distancing, and other protocols, and cases of Covid-19 in Alberta will shoot up, like a rocket to the moon. Then it will be the usual refrain from the UCP. It’s someone else’s fault for why things ended up this way.
    I think the sooner the UCP goes away, the better it will be for Alberta. The damage the UCP is doing won’t be fixed for a long time. That’s the downside.

    Reply
  4. tom

    January 30th, 2021

    Blaming Ottawa for a worldwide vaccine shortage is only logical in a political culture that has for decades been blaming world oil prices on Ottawa. In that respect at least, Jason Kenney is an old stock Albertan through and through.

    Reply
  5. P.Hertel

    January 30th, 2021

    Deena Hinshaw should resign in order to preserve her tattered reputation.

    Reply
    • Neil Lore

      February 1st, 2021

      Too late. Every day she looks more like the Vichy of doctors.

      Reply
  6. Bob Raynard

    January 30th, 2021

    Sadly, this is Round 2 of Jason Kenney caving to defiant businesses. We saw Round 1 a few weeks ago when he similarly caved to hair cutters and tattoo artists.

    Reply
  7. Political Ranger

    January 30th, 2021

    Yup, the whole world, at the thinking part, has been forecasting that the middle of February to March is when the B117 variant will start its raging exponential rise. Perfect time for the slobbering idiots in kkkenneys kabinet to encourage people to get up and about.

    All this blather about vaccines is a distraction from what is useful and important; public health measures that have proven successful for over a hundred years – isolation, testing and tracing.
    Now matter how much you might wish for it, no matter how many assurances your stupid and ignorant MLA may offer, no matter how loudly the stupid, belligerent fools in your community yell – there is no quick and easy fix for this. It requires character, courage, knowledge and perseverance; sorely missing in many Albaturdans and surely all UCP members.

    Reply
  8. January 30th, 2021

    Small grammar typo : A day later, a dozen or so rural restaurants *to* opened for indoor service in defiance of the rules, and so by yesterday the premier was saying restaurants and gyms would be allowed to open.

    Thank you for another good post. A thought occurred to me as I read this one, a conspiracy theory, if you will. Consider: The commissioners of the silly “Public Inquiry into Anti-Alberta Energy Campaigns” are (secretly) reading this very website, learning how their report may be interpreted, and then delaying the release date while they anxiously try to decide what to do. My theory is that the commissioners are right-wing fanatics, and, by definition, cannot competently judge the value of the content of the contributions they are offered; any and every condemnation of environmentalism is valid, and the juicier the better! But, they are self-aware fanatics; they know they have a blind spot. And so (pragmatically) they are using Albertapolitics.ca as a sounding board. You, Dave, are inadvertently guiding them!

    You should get paid for your contributions! : )

    cheers,
    DB

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      January 31st, 2021

      Thanks for the heads up on the typo. Ot’s been fixed. DJC

      Reply
  9. Athabascan

    January 30th, 2021

    This is Alberta.

    The fact that Kenney is our premier is a testament to the effectiveness of right-wing political cheating.

    Sadly, it is also a testament to the stupidity of Albertans when they vote. All the signs were there, yet…

    Now, we must all suffer until this nightmare is over. Cheer up, there’s only two more years to go.

    Reply
  10. tom in Ontario

    January 30th, 2021

    The COVID concerns I get. The “blame Trudeau if a blizzard blows in”, understood.
    But, “it has always been our intention to engage with persons who may be subject to a finding of misconduct or the subject of a materially adverse factual finding such that they be afforded an opportunity to respond.”
    Can you, Mr. Blogger, or any of your well versed Alberta readers explain to this confused easterner what the hell this guy is talking about? In plain English?

    Reply
    • Jason

      January 31st, 2021

      I think what he’s saying is “When we call a person or group treacherous anti-Alberta scum, we want to give them a chance to respond to that.” As David pointed out, Greenpeace intends to respond by suing, and I doubt they’d be the only ones.

      Reply
  11. Keith McClary

    January 30th, 2021

    “It won’t result in an increase in the inquiry’s $3.5-million budget, he added.”

    So, the $1-million that was supposed to buy another three months will be now fund a total of ten months? Something’s fishy there.

    Reply
  12. John

    January 30th, 2021

    Two editorial comments:

    – is there an extra ‘to’ in the ” a day later…” sentence; and
    – is it ‘insure’ or should it be ‘ensure’?

    Premier Kenney has laid the foundation for civil disobedience with his repeated references to Charter Rights.

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      January 31st, 2021

      You are right on both counts. Both have been corrected. This is what comes or deciding to write a post after all close to midnight. As always, I ma grateful to my readers for their editorial services. DJC

      Reply
      • pogo

        February 1st, 2021

        Ima is a traditional mantra and I suppose your Freudian slip.

        Reply
  13. Bruce Turton

    January 30th, 2021

    Soooooo. Those of us who have remained sequestered for so long for various reasons of ill health will have to stay put for a whole lot longer. We get to listen (except that I for one use the MUTE button a lot whenever some politician gets on the airwaves and blathers on and on and on), well, DC and others have to listen for me, to get the ‘details’ of the what and length of our collective plight.
    And so much of what is said and ‘reported’ by all sorts of media have this silly notion that the vaccines will produce herd immunity. This is utterly amazing since none of these vaccines provides ‘immunity’. They all give relief to the severity of symptoms that come with the Covid-19 virus, but offer NO immunity. People who have had the virus can still get it a second time, and those who have had the regimen of shots can still get the virus, still get some symptoms, and can still spread the damn thing[s]. I shall get the shots when and if my turn comes up, but I am in no way convinced that these viruses are going to go away. And if the anti-vaxxers and virus deniers are and will be around still to spread the damn things, I shall be sure to request a booster along with the flu shot. How is it that these people have the right to spread illness and death? Free speach my ass!!! Crippled sense, called non-sense, is what it really is!!

    Reply
  14. John Kolkman

    January 30th, 2021

    Setting the number of hospitalizations as the benchmark for step by step re-openings is progress of a sort. Until now, the UCP has not been willing to set any benchmarks for closings and re-openings.

    Setting the threshold at 600 is disingenuous insofar as the hospitalizations yesterday were at 594 and they are almost guaranteed to go down further next week based on the weekly average of daily new cases. So the restaurant owners who haven’t been able to figure out take-out/delivery, or private gyms that haven’t mastered virtual work-outs, are almost certain to be rewarded.

    The thing I’ll be watching is whether the province is able to meet the thresholds for further openings beyond Step 1, or if Kenney would have the guts to close restaurants for indoor dining and private gyms a third time should new cases begin to spike and hospitalizations due to COVID go above 600.

    Reply
  15. Scotty on Denman

    January 30th, 2021

    JK-20 wisdom-displacement spray is a non-patented industrial-decline chemical surfactant used to make a range of fluid-to- solid petroleums invisible when dispersed into earth’s atmosphere, said to be particularly effective when observed through wild, rose-coloured eyeglasses. Its chemical abstract is, generally, C9 to C14 alkanes mixed with synthetic oils; however, its exact composition is a trade secret locked in a secure vault in the Canadian Energy Centre’s “War Room.”

    JK-20’s original, rocket nose-cone lubricant use was abandoned when the aging Drayton-47 Interconstitutional Missile became obsolete in the mid-1980s; the product has since been repurposed for a large variety of political housekeeping uses, particularly in surrounding and isolating anti-socialist buildup in molecular structures resembling a 3D ring of wagons colloquially called “Kenney Balls.”

    KJ-20 has long been sold to about 20% of the International Climate Change Opinion market. Recently KJ-20 has found a niche in the Corona Virus 19 Opinion market which virtually overlaps the ICCO market, raising concerns of infectious Laager Fever or, potentially, fatal, double-down overdose. Off-label use of JK-20 remains controversial, especially since some political leaders have recommended direct, intravenous injection, allegedly to relieve Creeping Covid Protocols Cooperation and Compliance Syndrome—there is no clinical efficaciousness known for this use. Scientists and public health officials— when allowed—caution citizens to ignore these claims. And then pray they do.

    The Canadian Province of Alberta has stockpiled the world’s largest reserves of JK-20 as an “investment for the future.”

    Please donate to the CCCCS Research Fund: “Safe Anti-Vax Solutions Today.” Please give generously.

    Reply
  16. Dave

    January 31st, 2021

    Like a kid that can not seem to resist touching a hot stove or sticking his tongue to a frozen pole again, Mr. Kenney seems determined to try easing restrictions again. Yes, the same thing that caused him a great deal of political pain and caused almost everyone to question his judgment before. In the war against COVID, he seems eager to declare premature victory and slow to acknowledge setbacks – not a good combination for our Churchill want to be Premier.

    Maybe, this time things will work better, or maybe Kenney is just repeating the definition of insanity – ie. hoping for a different result from doing the same thing over again. On the plus side, perhaps the message has finally gotten through to many of the COVID denier and dismissers, after cases got alarmingly high in December, although, I am not so sure of this. Most likely, large fines and not many places to go has only subdued them for the time being. On the minus side, cases are still around the same level as the highest point in the spring, you know when almost everything was still shut down.

    I do have conflicted feelings about restaurants re-opening. On the one hand, I don’t think it is a major source of COVID spread in itself and I think many restaurants try to behave responsibly. On the other had, I think the more things reopen will lead to a facade of normalcy, which I think will then lead to complacency, which will then lead to more COVID. It seems to be the COVID roller coaster we have been on for the last nine months or so goes something like this. More COVID, more restrictions, reduced COVID, reduced restrictions, back to more COVID and so on.

    Perhaps this time it really will be different, but I doubt it.

    Reply
  17. Just Me

    January 31st, 2021

    What choice does the crying angry midget have?

    He’s frittered away billions of dollars of public money on a pipe dream that will never be; he’s bobbled the public health care system to serve his ideological fetishes; and he’s about to make war on the public service and organized labour just because he feels like it.

    This what happens when the Id becomes a premier.

    Now, with a slight break in the pandemic’s never-ending rate of infections and carnage, Kenney has decided to completely give into a powerful lobby and open for business. I predict that in three weeks, everything will be 100% and Kenney will declare the pandemic over — though the bodycount will continue to rise. There will be no more penalties for not following masks and social-distancing guidelines. Every location will be stuffed to capacity and the provincial pastime of coughing on each other will be reinstated.

    Bring out your dead…bring out your dead.

    Reply
  18. Stephen Hope

    February 11th, 2021

    A few good points made here, but we should really try to avoid politicizing the Covid-19 situation. For some reason the progressive element has placed itself clearly on the side of strong quarantine measures for all of society, probably because Donald Trump downplayed the serious of the disease at an early stage, and we instinctively took the opposite position (which I’ll admit usually works).

    But there is a strong case to be made that lockdown measures penalize the most disadvantaged members of society. Children are receiving compromised education, low-income families in the service sector have lost their livelihood, vulnerable youth don’t having access to support and services due to non-profit agencies shutting down, and young people aren’t able to carry on important activities like finding mates and careers. In less-advantages countries, the problem is even more serious: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/04/coronavirus-worsen-hunger-developing-world/. These are not trivial issues.

    Despite claims to the contrary, Covid-19 is not a particularly dangerous disease for the young – not a single person under 20 has died of it in Alberta, out of almost 25,000 cases: https://www.alberta.ca/stats/covid-19-alberta-statistics.htm. And in the USA, Covid mortality is a very small percentage of total deaths for anyone under 55 years of age: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nvss/vsrr/covid_weekly/index.htm.

    So we have a serious issue of social justice here. Older people (like me), who usually live in large comfortable houses with good careers and lots of money, are asking millions of low-risk youth and low-income families to put up with hardship and place their lives on hold indefinitely, to control a disease which, to be honest, isn’t even all that serious for anyone under 80, let alone 40. That seems extremely selfish to me. Currently there seems to be a desperate virtue-signalling competition among political leaders and Chief Medical Officers to show they’re being tough on Covid. It would be better to realize that declaring lockdowns and quarantines is a hugely serious issue on both sides, requiring an equally serious and nuanced debate before implementing them.

    Reply

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