Edmonton Strathcona MP Heather McPherson during yesterday’s emergency debate on COVID-19 in Alberta (Photo: Screenshot of House of Commons video).

Not only is the Kenney Government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic a spectacular failure, its strategy for suppressing public awareness of just how bad things have become in Alberta dramatically unravelled yesterday.

Having used the wildfire spread of COVID-19 in Alberta as an excuse to unilaterally shut down debate in the Alberta Legislature on Sunday, Premier Jason Kenney’s strategic brain trust adopted a strategy of trying to look busy to distract from the fact Alberta now has the highest COVID infection rate in North America, 534 per 100,000 population, making U.S. hotspots like Michigan and Colorado look tame by comparison.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney at his news conference yesterday (Photo: Screenshot of Alberta Government video).

Obviously hoping to restore confidence in his government’s dismal performance, Premier Kenney hosted daily news conferences this week. They propounded excuses about why Alberta is doing so badly (Monday), announced new short-term infection mitigation restrictions (Tuesday), and declared that, henceforth, every man, woman and child over 12 could sign up for a vaccine shot (yesterday).

Surely, UCP strategists must have concluded, yesterday’s dramatic vaccine announcement would be enough to get people to forget the 2,271 new COVID cases reported the same day, or that it was the sixth anniversary of the election of an NDP government in Alberta, a historical event that’s starting to look pretty good in the rear-view mirror.

No sooner had that happened, though, than Edmonton Strathcona NDP Member of Parliament Heather McPherson persuaded her fellow federal MPs to participate in an emergency debate on Alberta’s COVID-19 crisis.

The Canadian Press could not resist the irony, leading the story that will appear in media across Canada today, “Alberta’s Legislature may have been silenced but its partisan warfare relocated Wednesday to the House of Commons as MPs held an emergency debate on the province’s soaring number of COVID-19 cases.”

“If you want to know why it is so bad in Alberta, why other provinces have withstood the third wave better than my province, the answer is clear,” Ms. McPherson told the House. “It is Jason Kenney.”

“Thanks to the bumbling, stumbling joke that our provincial government has become, we have the single, greatest health crisis that Alberta has ever seen,” she said, excoriating Mr. Kenney personally for his Donald Trump style response to the disease. 

Alberta has failed at both of Mr. Kenney’s claimed priorities, she noted – lives and livelihoods. “We have the worst infection rate, and we have the greatest impact on our economy!”

Calgary Nose Hill MP Michelle Rempel Garner, the Conservative Opposition’s health critic (Photo: Screenshot of House of Commons video).

Ms. McPherson is the only non-Conservative MP from Alberta in the Commons. So some of the remaining 33 were forced to their feet to dream up unpersuasive excuses for Mr. Kenney’s catastrophic performance or to try to make it appear as if this were somehow all Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s fault. 

Well, props to them for gamely talking on this Sisyphean task!

Conservative Health Critic Michelle Rempel Garner, the Oklahoma-based MP for Calgary Nose Hill, tried to blame the state of the provincial economy for Mr. Kenney’s lousy pandemic performance and called the Liberals “bourgeois” for not understanding the pressures on Alberta’s working class. Next, one supposes, federal Conservatives will be hoisting the red banner of the proletariat and singing the Internationale. 

Sherwood Park-Fort Saskatchewan MP Garnet Genuis, no genius, hilariously complained that Parliament should “leave the provincial debates to the provincial legislatures instead of using this seat to attack provincial politicians who aren’t even here to defend themselves.” Apparently he forgot Mr. Kenney wasn’t in the Alberta Legislature to defend himself either – intentionally.

Sherwood Park Fort Saskatchewan MP Garnett Genuis (Photo: Screenshot of House of Commons video).

Given Premier Kenney’s epic failure, Ms. McPherson called on the prime minister to help Albertans. “Alberta needs the federal government to step up to the plate,” she said. “We need this government to work directly with Indigenous communities and Alberta municipalities to deliver the support they need to get through the third wave.”

For his part, Mr. Trudeau said in a statement he called Mr. Kenney today and “offered the federal government’s support to assist Alberta in responding to the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the province, including to help Indigenous communities.”

Most Albertans understand Mr. Kenney is unlikely to accept such an offer from a government headed by a man he considers his arch-foe. 

As for Mr. Kenney’s announcement any Albertan could sign up for a COVID-19 vaccine – after months of claiming there are vaccine shortages and blaming Mr. Trudeau – it is not clear whether the province can deliver on its promise. Albertans should remember that being eligible for a vaccine is not the same as getting one.

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

Some will doubtless suspect Mr. Kenney is intentionally setting them up for disappointment and cancelled appointments so he can blame Ottawa.

Even with his characteristic intense partisanship, though, this seems unlikely. It would not be out of character, however, for the provincial announcement to have been premature, pushed out in a hurry to distract from the week’s frightening statistics.  

In fairness, Alberta’s vaccination effort has gone quite well. The problem is the Kenney Government’s unwillingness to impose adequate COVID suppression measures while vaccinations proceed, keep them in place long enough to have meaningful effect, or enforce the ones we have. 

In addition to the record 2,271 new cases yesterday, Alberta reported 24,156 active cases, 666 hospitalizations, 146 in intensive care, and three more deaths, bringing the total of COVID-19 deaths in the province to 2,102. Labs are so overwhelmed Alberta has stopped testing for variants of concern.

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  1. The UCP just can’t accept blame for their many shortcomings. Very typical. You know, in turbulent times like these, with Alberta being North America’s leader on the per capita rate of persons with Covid-19, the super lab that the NDP were wanting to build for Alberta would have been a good thing. The UCP didn’t want that. The UCP doesn’t want anything that makes sense. Then when things go bad, they run and hide, and blame someone else.

  2. “It would not be out of character, however, for the provincial announcement to have been premature, pushed out in a hurry to distract from the week’s frightening statistics.” Absolutely premature it is (everyone 12 and up in Alta is now “eligible” for vaccine) and as you suggest DJC, it’s just a cynical “good news” announcement to try to override the bad news.

    But I have no doubt that if citizens start realizing that this doesn’t mean they actually get a vaccine jab Mr. Kenney will blame JT. Ya gotta have a backup plan…

  3. “Conservative Health Critic Michelle Rempel Garner, the Oklahoma-based MP for Calgary Nose Hill, tried to blame the state of the provincial economy for Mr. Kenney’s lousy pandemic performance and called the Liberals ‘bourgeois’ for not understanding the pressures on Alberta’s working class.”

    Hahaha! That’s a lot to unpack.

  4. Will the magic bullet win over Darwin and the rapidly evolving Corona 19 virus? Looks like Canada should have gone for zero Covid 19 like the countries being run by grown ups. Thanks UCP and Cons for fulfilling your usual roles of being wreckers and thanks also to the feckless and pathetic Liberals in Ottawa. When do we start looking for herd immunity to Ebola, SARS, and MERS?

  5. Roadside checks to limit non-essential travel begin in BC tonight.
    Better late than never.
    Hwy 1, 3, 5, 99.

    And our case count is way lower & going down.

    Just like obeying traffic lights & stop signs, rational people will accept reasonable limits to their freedom at certain times & places in order to enjoy more real freedom.

  6. The second last paragraph above sums it up nicely. Almost 300,000 combined Pfizer and Moderna doses are arriving in Alberta every week during May. This will increase by a further 50,000 Pfizer doses per week during June. Almost every Alberta teen and adult who wants to will likely be able to get their first dose by early June, allowing us oldsters to get our second dose later in June.

    The biggest threat to a rapid decline in new COVID cases is vaccine hesitancy and rule breaking, not availability. Hesitancy and rule breaking that Kenney himself and his COVID denial caucus have fueled.

  7. Considering that the antics of the UCP have become the focus of international ridicule, not to mention the virulent anti-mask/antivaxx/anti-everything movement in Alberta, one wonders if the whole place is about to be set alight by a white supremacist Tiki torch bonfire?

    With Kenney shuttering the Leg, Ottawa has decided to be the adult in the room and, I believe, effectively taken stewardship of Alberta’s pandemic response. Three weeks of barely a lockdown and nearly zero enforcement is not going to “Stop the Spike” as Kenney’s new signage illustrates. Rather, it’s a harbinger of the mayhem to come.

    Bumbles, indeed.

    1. Jason Kenney and the UCP have laid out the kindling and fanned the flames. It’s almost as if they want a bonfire. Anything for an audience. What will they do if their wish comes true? Unfortunately for the rest of us, it might.

  8. Mr. Kenney ought to have learned in his long career in politics that if you try to shut down discussion in one place, it can pop up somewhere else and that somewhere else can be more problematic.

    So, it is not too surprising Alberta’s bleak COVID situation has now become prominent in national political discussion. Of course, the Federal Conservatives had to offer some perfunctory defence of him, although I suspect any mention of Kenney in Federal Conservative circles these days is as welcome as a skunk at a garden party. They would probably prefer to try avoid him and hope the problem somehow just goes away.

    The Federal Conservatives have been a bit snippy lately, perhaps in part due to their languishing poll numbers, but I suspect even they realize attacking the NDP back here is not good politics for them. However it is hard in this case to try and deflect blame to the Federal Liberals. It is becoming increasingly apparent to Canadians that some provinces are doing better than others in dealing with the latest COVID wave and the ones doing worst have provincial Conservative governments.

    So if Mr. Kenney thought watching CPAC while hunkering down in the Sky Palace bunker might provide a break from all his COVID troubles, he will have to try change the channel again. Unfortunately for him, he can’t shut down debate in Ottawa as easily as here, nor can he easily influence national media coverage.

  9. Don Martin opined we should spare a thought for Jason Kenney’s plight, since he’s got the worst job in Canadian politics, namely governing Oilberduh:

    Commenters familiar with my posts on albertapolitics.ca will understand why I have no sympathy at all for Jason Kenney, the court jester of Calgary’s rich upper crust. I agree much more strongly with Max Fawcett in the National Observer:

    Now to the federal debate. Heather McPherson was exactly right. Kenney made every possible mistake handling the Covid-19 crisis, and he’s not done yet. Her attack on Justin Trudeau was a bit overstated, for obvious (partisan) reasons, since the Feds have given more money to Alberta than most (any?) other provinces. Kenney, true to form, has refused some of it because it came from a Liberal (gasp!!) government.

    Garnett Genius wasn’t living up to his name when he tried to deflect attention from Canada’s worst failure of Covid response back to the federal Liberals. Michelle Rempel Garner actually said “bourgeois contempt for the law” which I thought wuz a furrin’ language. We don’ speak sech thing here in Oilbeduh! I think she meant “redneck.” But her point about “people can’t afford lockdown” is valid. It’s also a provincial responsibility, and another Kenney failure.

    Yeah, Justin Trudeau has been a disappointment to a center-left, socialist, non-bourgeois tree-hugging solar-panel-owning anti-tar-sand pseudo-Commie like me. But he’s still way ahead on points compared to Jason Kenney.

    1. It’s part of her job as an Opposition MP to score points on the governing party. Viewing with alarm, hyperbole, red herrings and straw-man arguments are all part of the partisan playbook.

    2. Stoop schmoop. Heather McPherson asking the federal government to step up for Alberta in the circumstance of Kennedy’s failure isn’t criticism, let alone the ridiculously partisan blaming that Kenney just can’t seem to control. I’m a New Democrat, and I wouldn’t do things the way Trudeau has done. That doesn’t make me like Kenney.

  10. “Fellow workers pay attention to what I’m about to mention
    It is the firm intention of the Workers of the World
    And I hope you’ll all be ready, true-hearted brave and steady
    To gather round our standard when the red flag is unfurled.”

    From the Bourgeois-busting pen of Joe Hill in his “Where the Fraser River Flows.”

    Oklahoma MP from Calgary-based Nose-thumb Hill, look out!

    1. No more deluded by reaction
      On tyrants only we’ll make war
      The soldiers too will take strike action
      They’ll break ranks and fight no more
      And if those cannibals keep trying
      To sacrifice us to their pride
      They soon shall hear the bullets flying
      We’ll shoot the generals on Our Own side.
      — Billy Bragg

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