Alberta Premier Jason Kenney on Wednesday (Photo: Government of Alberta).

Watching the Kenney Government respond to COVID-19 could give you whiplash.

Back on Jan. 26, Health Minister Tyler Shandro was warning us that the arrival of more infectious COVID-19 variants risked pushing our health-care system to the brink. 

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

By Jan. 29, Premier Jason Kenney was saying that might be true, but we’d be easing restrictions anyway.

That’s supposed to happen Monday. 

It’s hard to say, because the United Conservative Party Government is so secretive and opaque, but the decision appeared to have been the result of a combination of falling daily numbers of new cases thanks to the slightly stricter public health measures imposed by the government in mid-December and renewed pressure from the restaurant industry. 

Meanwhile, new cases of the more infectious U.K. and South African variants keep showing up in Alberta.

If you thought this suggests we should be ratcheting things down again to address this new threat, Chief Medical Officer of Health Deena Hinshaw has said no, we’ll be going ahead with the plan to allow sit-down service in restaurants, and gyms and fitness studios to reopen on Monday. 

Last call for alcohol will be at 10 p.m., though, so what could possibly go wrong?

The day before yesterday, media was reporting that Premier Kenney had told business owners during a telephone town hall not to worry, despite more variant infections the relaxed rules would be going ahead regardless.

But, he also warned them, if the variants keep coming on, watch out! Because everything could change again tomorrow.

Albertans won’t need to worry their shaggy little heads about it, though, because after Monday they won’t need to make an appointment to get their hair done. 

“I can’t guarantee you we can keep you open if we go there because of these variants,” he told the business crowd. “If the variants take over, we might have to go back to a harder policy than early December.” Then again, if past performance is anything to go by, we might not. 

Yesterday, Dr. Hinshaw said there were 582 new COVID cases, and 11 new variant cases. There are 68 confirmed cases with the U.K. and South African variants. Seven have no known link to travel, which suggests they are spreading in the community. “We are watching closely,” she warned. “If we need to make changes, we will do so.” Or not.

Yesterday afternoon, media were reporting new cases of the U.K. variant were showing up in Calgary schools. Last night they were reporting it had shown up in a daycare in St. Albert. 

So that means today … who knows? Yesterday, Dr. Hinshaw promised to keep an eye on things. 

It’s like watching a tennis game between two evenly matched opponents: A deadly pandemic and Restaurants Canada! 

Patients? We’ve still got plenty. Patience? Not so much.

Meanwhile, the various conservative party propaganda machines have been trying to wind us all up about vaccine shortages – a genuinely serious problem that can be laid at Ottawa’s doorstep if the shortages persist, which they probably won’t. 

This may not do much to help, but it serves a partisan purpose, so don’t expect it to stop. 

In fact, there are only two things we can be sure of as the 12th month of COVID in Alberta closes in on us: 

  1. No matter how much worse it gets, our government will try not to do anything that might make it better if that involves making business unhappy.
  2. No matter how much better it gets, our government will to blame Ottawa for anything that makes it worse.

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    1. Here’s a link to the article, which does not mention Kenney by name, but certainly references his policies. While the BMJ is a peer reviewed publication, this is an editorial. My view is that the argument overreaches. Personally, I would reject the assertion policies like those of the Kenney Government amount to “social murder.” A better description, I think, would be “social criminal negligence.” Nevertheless, the author is right that penalties should be pursued, and not just in the court of public opinion. DJC

      1. I could not agree more that charges of criminal negligence causing death against Kenney and the rest should be brought. There are already legal precedents for making elected officials criminally liable for the consequences of their policies. The Prime Minister of Iceland and several officials were charged and some jailed over a banking scandal and the acting Prime Minister of Lebanon, and three former Ministers have also been charged over the Beirut explosion to name a couple of examples.
        The impunity enjoyed by elected and appointed officials in Alberta has gone from environmental destruction to actually killing people and nobody has any right to do that.

        1. Do you really believe the UCP gives a crap about any of that?
          Think again – these people are unable to feel anything related to responsibility, empathy or any of those virtues. They fully understand bullying, selfishness and greed.
          So there is only one way to fix this
          GET THEM OUT

          1. Carlos, you are certainly correct about the UCP. We do need to get them out and then straight into court and jail. However, unlike Iceland and other civilized places, Alberta is not a place where the rule of law applies equally and apparently does not apply at all to elected officials or regulatory appointees.

  1. The UCP clearly is devoid of any capabilities to govern, and on so many fronts. Albertans have to be prepared for the future. It’s going to really get bad. Alberta will not recover very easily from this. The UCP won’t be able to blame anyone else. It’s been not quite two years since the UCP took helm. It’s all mayhem.

  2. I thought this was the best line in the piece:

    “It’s like watching a tennis game between two evenly matched opponents: A deadly pandemic and Restaurants Canada!”

    Then I saw this one:

    “Patients? We’ve still got plenty. Patience? Not so much.”

    But I still think I’ll go with number one.

    1. I agree, Tom. But here’s the nuance;

      It’s not so much “… like watching a tennis game between two evenly matched opponents …” as it is watching that same game while being given the colour commentary 30 seconds late.

      I expect a Premier or a Provincial Health Officer, indeed anyone in a ‘Leadership’ position, to be able to make accurate and informed commentary on actual decisions made.
      We can get any news reader from the compliant MSM (indeed, we have) to read what HAS happened. It would be good practice for any aspiring grade 10 student to read out what has happened, with absolutely no loss of fidelity to the drivel coming from this ignorant and obtuse lump calling hisself premier.

  3. In 1986, the Mulroney Conservatives sold off the Connaught Labs that were owned by the federal government because they were he’ll bent on getting a free trade agreement with the US. Thirty four years later no Federal Liberal or Federal Conservative government has moved to correct this mistake. Now Canada is left at the mercy of private pharmaceutical companies which can’t or won’t ship the vaccines that the Federal government bought for Canadians.

    And we call this leadership! Where there is no political will there will be no way things will improve.

    1. Dave in Sk: Seems you are on to something. DW, Germany’s public broadcaster is reporting that the private vaccine manufacturers, in spite of being given billions by the European Union to develop the vaccine and speed up production, have either bungled the assignment or are diverting production elsewhere. The EU’s President even took the extraordinary step of publishing the procurement contracts. This is yet another example of a public-private so-called partnership not working in the public interest.

      Blaming Trudeau for the Mulroney and Harper Cons destroying our government’s ability to develop and produce vaccines and the failure of the private sector to deliver is simply dishonest, which seems all too typical of the UCP/Cons.

      Here is the link to the report dated 05.02.2021, listen to the first six minutes:

  4. You forgot:

    3. Nobody, and I mean nobody, is talking about Keystone XL any more, and the $7.5-billion man wants to keep it this way.

    4. Boris Johnson went for lockdown to fight the British variant, even restricting how far people can go from home on a daily masked walk; offenders were fined. Boris Johnson for premier of Alberta!

    5. Covid doesn’t spread in schools. Cases just appear there. Covid doesn’t like schools. Schools are very safe.

  5. If Covid doesn’t kill us, Kenney certainly will. I guess Albertans need to suffer some more – at least another 2 years, or until Kenney decides to resign.

    Just think, all of this could have been avoided, if only stupid Albertans hadn’t kicked Notley to the curb for this clown.

  6. To use another athletic analogy, I wish the Alberta Government would look at the fight against COVID more as a marathon than a sprint. Unfortunately, a few weeks of more severe restrictions are not going to win the war. If we ease up prematurely, or at a time that is not wise do to the rise of more contagious variants, we will just end up seeing cases rise again. Unfortunately, COVID has not been eliminated, its spread has just been reduced by the current restrictions. Like a smouldering fire, it can quickly roar back the moment we take our attention and effort away from controlling it.

    Interesting that every problem the Alberta government faces seems to have a reflexive blame Ottawa response. I suppose it plays to Kenney’s dismissive view of our PM, who he considers not as smart as him, and plays to his base. Conveniently, but I think unfortunately, it also takes responsibility away from Provincial government from dealing better with the problems we face.

  7. The laws of nature don’t apply in Albertovidland where the public health officer will wait to see “if” there’s an effect before declaring there was a cause, and the premier says “if” that happens, he will proceed to “go back” to Covid strictures of last December —when they were arguably too late and too little, anyway. (Do victims of fatal Covid infection get their lives back too?). To underline his overwrought concern for private businesses, the premiere will meet the increasing menace of the new Covid mutant by reducing restrictions to moderately risky activities like gathering in groups to dine at restaurants, presumably without masks, and have a few drinks which we know puts real and potential carriers off their guard and significantly increases the risk of transmission. Of course Kenney’s go-slow approach—so slow, in fact, it actually goes backwards—is, in Albertovidland, the perfect response to a mutant strain which spreads faster. Get it?—slower/ faster? …

    …it’s a joke…

    …okay, okay: it’s a bad joke…

    …but blaming Trudeau for vaccine shortages while rolling out the red carpet for super-virulent UK and SA Covid strains isn’t funny at all. Sorry, Shandro: you bombed. Hard as you try, you’re just n a natural like Jason.

  8. I have no doubt Kenney will not order another lock-down (such as they are) with the usual round of impotent restrictions. Rather, everything will continue to open, as the province moves rapidly to 100% capacity by spring. Make no mistake about it, Kenney is only thinking about losing votes in his base and his actions reflect that.

    The pandemic will run its course and Alberta will become a charnel house. May as well get ready to turn the hockey arenas and parking lots into morgues, and it’s doubtful there are enough crematoria to dispose of the remains.

    Of course, they will blame Trudeau.

  9. Meanwhile, out on the East Coast, Nova Scotia’s economy is in full recovery mode, with restrictions easing after case counts dwindled to near zero. There are still issues; for example, the federal government extended the ban on those floating Petri dishes known as cruise ships — which are a significant source of tourist revenue for businesses along the Halifax waterfront — to February 2022. But an active case rate of 0.81 per 100,000 population means the risk of reopening is far lower there than here, where the same number is roughly 145 per 100,000.

    Let’s remember too, that until his retirement this past weekend, Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil was one of the most conservative Liberals you’ll ever see — it remains to be seen what his newly named successor Iain Rankin’s ideology will be. So this wasn’t a matter of some ultra-lefty with a hate on for business. No, it was a far more communitarian approach to the pandemic than we’ve seen elsewhere in Canada, which has led to the current positive situation.

    1. Atlantic Canada can do Covid restrictions easier and reopen sooner and faster than the rest of Canada because it is a relatively small, low-pop region with relatively parochial commerce to the outside.

      Taiwan, for example, is a small, warm, island nation whose citizens are relatively compliant compared to us Northern Anglo-Saxmaniacs. They don’t experience cold winters of close-quartered cabin fever that makes Covid more transmissible here and restrictions harder to comply with. Taiwan has very low Covid infections as a result, despite its heavy dependence on foreign commerce.

      Australia and New Zealand are often cited as countries Canada should emulate, but they don’t compare well with us. Southern Anglo-Saxony is comprised of remote island nations with puny foreign commerce and warm weather year round (no indoor crowding) so that, despite its culture being similarly self-indulgent like ours, these other factors made it much easier for them to do a strict lockdown initially, but open up sooner and quicker.

      Canada—outside Atlantic and Arctic regions—has a much more difficult time imposing Covid restrictions: we are a huge, cold-winter country conducting the largest bilateral trade in history with one of the worst Covid-hit countries in the world, and a significant amount of commerce with other nations around the world.

      Not saying Canada isn’t encumbered with some bad attitudes about Covid restrictions, but Alberta stands way out: it is a large, remote, landlocked, cold winter province dependent on foreign export of a single industry’s production (fossil fuels, bitumen and oils) which was suffering from market downturn before Covid hit and made it worse. But, perhaps most of all, Alberta’s culture is defiant and recently ginned into relative uncooperativeness with Covid protocols. Theoretically, it should be one of the worst Covid-hit jurisdictions in Canada. And it is!

      Atlantic Canada isn’t really compatible with the rest of Canada, especially Alberta, when it comes to dealing with Covid—for both economic and cultural reasons.

      I think, outside Atlantic and Arctic Canada, most provinces and the feds are reluctant to impose heavy lockdowns like the Maritimes has—party for commercial reasons, but in no small part because politicians are unsure how negatively citizens will react to restrictions, or how much they will comply with Covid protocols.

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