Alberta Politics
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney at yesterday’s COVID-19 briefing (Photo: Chris Schwarz, Government of Alberta).

The Gaslighters: Premier Kenney gins up an unlikely ‘strange alliance’ of anti-vaxxers and advocates of cautious reopening

Posted on May 28, 2021, 1:45 am
7 mins

It would be hard to find a purer example of gaslighting than Premier Jason Kenney’s straight-faced claim during yesterday’s COVID-19 news conference that the New Democratic Party Opposition and other advocates of a more cautious approach to reopening Alberta have formed a “strange alliance” with anti-vaxxers to undermine public confidence in vaccines.

Gaslighting, an increasingly common term in Canadian political usage since it seems nowadays to make up a key part of the Conservative playbook, is defined as trying to undermine someone’s feelings of sanity by denying obvious facts.

Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw at yesterday’s newser (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

Of course, no one in the Opposition is going to actually doubt their sanity upon hearing Premier Kenney’s nonsense, but the premier’s rhetorical gymnastics nevertheless make you want to give your head a shake. 

Consider the premier’s response to a sympathetic question by Calgary Sun political columnist Rick Bell during the tightly controlled media-questions portion of the news conference with Chief Medical Officer of Health Deena Hinshaw.

Mr. Bell had asked: “What do you say to those people who keep insisting, no matter what you say, no matter what Dr. Hinshaw says, no matter what other people say, keep insisting that this plan is horrible, reckless, and will lead to all sorts of very horrific, uh, you know, a very horrific future?” 

This softball gave the premier exactly what he needed to bloviate at length in his typical run-out-the-clock fashion.

“I’ll just go one step further on this, Rick,” Mr. Kenney said after rambling on for a while. “I find it peculiar as we kind of move to this hopefully last stage of the COVID debate, we see a kind of strange alliance coming together, of those on the two polarities of the debate, the two extremes of the debate. 

“Because they’re both, now, questioning, or doubting, the efficacy of vaccines! 

“Um, we have some, vaccine skeptics who, it’s just their reflected position, and are opposed to the government promoting vaccines. 

Calgary Sun political columnist Rick Bell (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

“And on the other end of the spectrum, with those who support hard lockdowns, they’re essentially telling us that vaccines are not actually a way out of this regardless of the real lived experience in jurisdictions with high levels of population protection. 

“So I would respectfully suggest to those folks that they are undermining public confidence in the protective effect of vaccines.” (Emphasis added.)

Needless to say, this is a gross misrepresentation of what Mr. Kenney’s opponents in the caution camp are saying. 

No one calling for a more cautious reopening is questioning the ability of COVID-19 vaccines to create immunity. They’re saying they need to be used correctly. As in, read the instructions on the bottle! 

The issue is that many experts, although apparently not Dr. Hinshaw, argue that vaccinating 70 per cent of the population with one shot of a two-shot vaccine is not enough to create sufficient immunity to rapidly drop all COVID-mitigation measures, as the premier’s plan proposes.

Indeed, if 70 per cent vaccination is the gold standard for reopening, and full vaccination requires two shots, 70 per cent of the population with one shot amounts to only 35 per cent of the vaccinations that need to be administered.

Former Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. James Talbot (Photo: Screenshot of Global News clip).

The claim that anyone opposing a recklessly fast reopening is undermining public confidence in COVID vaccines is utter pish posh, and Mr. Kenney certainly knows it perfectly well. 

Other than gaslighting, what Mr. Kenney was even doing at the news conference is not entirely clear, unless he felt he had to be on hand to ensure Dr. Hinshaw stuck to her talking points. 

Her defence of the government’s plan, naturally, was the focus of most media coverage of the newser. “My team and I were fully engaged in the development of this plan,” she said, quite possibly a response to a usually cooperative Postmedia columnist’s suggestion the day before she might not have been.

“I believe this plan is a prudent approach to reopening, with Stage 1 prioritizing the easing of low-risk outdoor activities, and only proceeding to the next stage as thresholds are met and the two-week window ends,” Dr. Hinshaw went on, providing Mr. Kenney with the justification he needed. 

While Dr. Hinshaw is certainly properly qualified to weigh in on this debate, that does not mean all experts in her field say the same thing. 

A previous occupant of her job, for example, certainly holds a strikingly different view. 

In an interview with Global News the day before yesterday, former chief medical officer of health James Talbot, who left the job in 2015 and is now co-chair of the Edmonton Zone Medical Staff Association’s COVID-19 committee, characterized the Kenney plan as “aggressive to the point of recklessness.” 

“Virtually every other jurisdiction is doing a much slower, less aggressive reopening,” Dr. Talbot to explained Global’s reporter.

According to Mr. Kenney’s logic, Dr. Talbot can now be lumped in with the anti-vaxxers and the NDP as well.

21 Comments to: The Gaslighters: Premier Kenney gins up an unlikely ‘strange alliance’ of anti-vaxxers and advocates of cautious reopening

  1. Anonymous

    May 28th, 2021

    The UCP has certainly taken arrogance, complacency, ignorance, and stupidity to a whole new level. Give it about 6 weeks, or 8 weeks at the most. Cases of Covid-19 in Alberta will shoot up like a rocket into outer space. The UCP will look extremely bad. They will resort to the usual blame game, make any excuses they can, while Alberta has another big mess in its midst to contend with. Dr. Deena Hinshaw has actually turned into a parrot, or a mouthpiece for the UCP. Even like a robot. She doesn’t have the ability to think for herself anymore. Any credible medical expert would not promote something that would put people’s lives at risk, in this day and age. When this latest crazy and reckless move by the UCP goes down like a sinking ship, people will want heads to roll. Watch for it. Even the most ardent of UCP supporters will have a hard time giving the UCP a pass for this. The columnists at Postmedia, who normally tow the UCP line will not be able to come up with anything pleasant to say about the UCP either. It’s going to get really ugly.

    Reply
    • Alan K. Spiller

      May 28th, 2021

      I was talking to a friend yesterday and she had been talking to her daughter who is a nurse and none of the nurses and doctors she knows are dumb enough to support this new brand of stupidity. I can just hear my B.C. relatives laughing at how stupid Albertans are for electing him.

      It’s a last ditch effort by Kenney to save his ass and who cares about the seniors who haven’t had a second dose, or the young Albertans who are becoming the target for this virus. You can’t blame anyone but Albertans for electing this fool. Even Ralph Klein accused him years ago of spreading lies and stealing from seniors and he is still doing it.

      While he caters to his rich friends by giving away billions in taxes our municipalities are being forced to increase property taxes and it’s seniors who will be the biggest losers.

      Reply
      • Anonymous

        May 29th, 2021

        ALAN K. SPILLER: I know it’s not going to get better under the UCP, at anytime soon. The UCP are trying to save themselves, before the next provincial election. Ralph Klein tricked the voters to get him reelected, and the voters were dumb enough to fall for it. If the UCP get reelected in 2023, Alberta will be in serious trouble.

        Reply
  2. Bill Malcolm

    May 28th, 2021

    You wonder whether kenney reads even the Postmedia newspapers and Henshaw her medical journals. It’s been three weeks since the following article was published:

    https://torontosun.com/news/study-single-pfizer-dose-only-30-effective-against-u-k-variant-so-spacing-is-riskier

    A single Pfizer dose is only 30% effective against the UK variant. And worse, it’s only 17% effective against the South African variant. Goodness knows how good it is against the two Indian variants. There’s an outbreak in Northern England of the latter.

    The SECOND dose is critical to any kind of real protection.

    Also, the UK approach has been to get the second dose into older people fast, while first doses for people under forty are delayed. They’re administering more than twice as many second shots as first these days, and are up to well over 60 million in total for a population less than twice Canada’s size, with 22 million second doses completed. So way ahead of us. They apparently read the label on the bottles. Explained here at a BBC webpage:

    https://www.bbc.com/news/health-55274833

    But kenney is about to lead the nitwits to the Stampede astride a White Charger of Incompetence, and bugger the consequences. He rhetorically asked at that “news” conference: “If 70% coverage of the first dose isn’t enough, then what is?” as if galloping guffaws were the expected response from the journos.

    A complete idiot.

    Reply
  3. Abs

    May 28th, 2021

    Remember the Stampede slogan of 2013 — come hell or high water? We had high water. Now comes hell.

    One Stampede board member and Calgary mayoral candidate has come up with a novel way to thank Calgarians for all their effort in staying safe and getting vaccinated. “As a Calgary Stampede Board member, I will use my seat at the table to ask that vaccinations be made available to all volunteers, staff, and performers in advance of the event. Ensuring safety for our people will be my primary goal. This means both shots before June 24.”

    https://mobile.twitter.com/JyotiGondek/status/1397913274998423555

    Say what, Jyoti Gondek? Our ticket to a second dose means being a volunteer, staff member or performer at a non-essential event? Is that based on sciency stuff? I mean, teachers, weren’t deemed essential enough to qualify for shots in advance of the rest of us. Firefighters and paramedics had to wait, but a teenage corn dog server or dancer on a stage gets to skip ahead of people who got their first vaccines two months or more ago? Are you saying that the Stampede is indeed very, very risky for catching Covid? More risky than teaching kids in a school, or being a paramedic or police officer? Ta, I’ll take that advice and skip the while thing. Guess who won’t get my vote in October?

    Yesterday’s news conference had the premier saying we’ll look at second doses once the 70 percent is reached. Say what? Not believing my own ears, I turned to CTV’s Kevin Nimmock and his Twitter feed of Wednesday’s Facebook Live with the premier. “Once everybody gets their turn, Alberta will start with second doses,” it said.

    So we have no choice about a super-spreader event in our community. It looks like all of us who willingly got our vaccinations will be punished for good behavior by waiting for the 70 percent to get onboard before we will get our second doses (unless we can-can or sling beer at the grounds), as the clock ticks on our waning immunity from the first dose.

    And get this — there’s no escape. Also from Kevin Nimmock covering the Facebook Live, “the government won’t facilitate COVID passports.” Many European countries require official government stamp-bearing Covid certificates as proof of vaccination, and of course second vaccine doses in order to get them. So don’t expect to go anywhere as long as the UCP is in power.

    As Dr. Hinshaw said at yesterday’s press conference, “we’re all in this together,” and “navigate your own risks”. We’re up the river without either a paddle or a canoe.

    New TV series, made in Alberta, based on the original hit (and I do mean that) series from Iceland: “Trapped”. Critics are calling it the “Worst Summer Ever!” and “Open for Summer, Closed for Fall”.

    Reply
    • Scotty on Denman

      May 28th, 2021

      Covid protocols were initially a hard sell but most jurisdictions soon convinced most constituents that they were necessary, and most people complied.

      At every ‘plot-point’ there’s resistance, and it’s primary weapon is misinformation. First, the pandemic was a “hoax” or a “Deep State conspiracy,” then masks were suspect—even said to cause Covid—, then ‘lockdowns’ (here in BC, we’ve never had a lockdown) were said to present worse risks than that of dying from Covid. From the beginning, most people longed for a quick fix in order to get back to doing things Covid protocols restrict. That had to be vaccines.

      And that had to become a bone of contention. Safe to say, anti-vaxxers are a large subset of general resistance to Covid protocols. They are a more rendered substance, more refined like the blackstrap molasses we used to feed the cows. Now at the vaccination chapter of this story and far enough into the pandemic to start assessing economic damage and adjusting for losses of lives and opportunities, the anti-vaxxer response will get more defensive and, therefore, more absurd.

      Somewhere the chapter of vaccine passports —‘vaxports’—is being sketched out. Rest assured in two languages: pro and con. When the drafts are collated and published, a new phase of far-right contrarianism will unfold. It will include every reaction to the loss of White privileges as threats to its self-defined ‘way of life’ and self-justified threats to seek revenge for the loss of an heroic golden age that never really existed.

      I hate to admit it, but our political leaders are apparently compromising cogent, realistic approaches to completing vaccinations in order to appease the most intransigent factions of society, if not to largely accommodate their demands—like in Alberta.

      But vaccine passports are, I think, going to filter into ordinary life, if not by way of official decree, then by private enterprises seeking a way to sell their services —especially food and entertainment—in effect, selling safety by way of vaccine passports as a way to attract customers—presumably those who have complied with protocols, despite the inconveniences and hardships, and have gotten both their vaccinations—people who will be happy to use their vaccination verifications as effective passports to allow them to enjoy unrestricted intercourses with friends and neighbours. Ironically, the faction that demanded restrictions should never have been imposed will find themselves excluded from the places where there don’t need to be any. Those inside will be relieved and happy to be safe, at least for a time, from those who ridiculed their cooperation with protocols and still present epidemiological danger. Unfortunately, those excluded will heighten their anger, a one-way, unreleasable and unreasoned ratchet, effectively emphasizing the necessity of vaccine passports.

      It’s as simple as unavoidable: if 30% or more of any population is not vaccinated and as likely to buck against safety protocols as they’ve done all along, then the risk they pose to all of society will have to be addressed: vaccine passports are the most immediate tool —even if our politicians are very reluctant to acknowledge, at least at this point in the narrative. It might become the most difficult part yet.

      One metric not prioritized in government propaganda is Covid variants, probably because that would logically—or epidemiologically—workout to total eradication of Covid by whatever means available. That can be total quarantine for two weeks and nobody allowed into the resulting bubble of safety until they prove Covid-free as well. For a compromised eventuality, 100% vaccination and some restriction for entering the resulting bubble would be required. Anything less, including tolerance of a substantial and epidemiologically significant population of anti-vaxxers, will make vaccine passports more necessary.

      I think we have to recognize that fools who paint themselves into a corner have a point of view that makes everybody else—the large majority—look like enemies. Since it’s impolitic to penstock them in (they only get more foolish, rabid and dangerous), there are only a few ways to respond ethically—and all of them have already been deemed ‘evil’ by anti-vaxxers in their increasingly febrile, siege mentality. They await and, in the meantime, compose rejoinders to the fact that it will be their uncooperativeness that makes vaccine passports necessary.

      It’s classic Redoubterism. We are trying to work around them, but when vaccine passports become more common, the supposed ‘defenders of individual rights’ will caterwaul theirs are being taken away when, in fact, it’s always been their choice to be uncooperative—a perverse freedom being better than none, I guess. But as long’s they allowed to roam free as potential spreaders of Covid variants which might render all our efforts so far nil, their persistent danger to society will have to be addressed. It will have to come to a head. It’s not a freedom of choice or belief thing. It just is what it is.

      Reply
  4. !?

    May 28th, 2021

    Vivian Krause threw cold water on Steve Allan’s smoldering pile of dung, and still the Kenney Klown Klub gave him more rope. Perhaps this latest gaslit conspiracy is meant to give Allen an excuse to expend his Alberta Inquiry Commissioner mandate!?

    Reply
  5. Athabascan

    May 28th, 2021

    There are two problems associated with the 70% first vaccine threshold.

    First, I doubt that given the political-religious make up of Alberta’s population 70% is even possible.

    Second, given Kenney’s demonstrated penchant for dishonesty, it’s hard to believe he won’t fudge the numbers and falsely claim that we have reached 70%, so he has a pretext to open up early.

    How will Albertans know for sure that we have reached 70%, if we even can?

    One thing has certainly been demonstrated during the Kenney’s regime, and that’s lack of honesty.

    Reply
  6. Dave

    May 28th, 2021

    Well, Kenney has Dr. Hinshaw back in line now after she was gone the other day. I don’t know what he had to do to get her support, perhaps he gave her his solemn assurances (for what it is worth) that if his speedy reopening plan does backfire, he will halt or pull back on it. In any effect, being away yesterday when the plan was announced may still allow her to put a bit distance between herself and the fast talking politicians, if needed later. Perhaps that was all she could really hope to do in a difficult situation. She does not seem like the type to risk her job by openly challenging or contradicting her boss. Of course, she has to share in the Alberta’s very poor track record so far, so I am not sure sure that her reassurances here now are really that reassuring.

    It is interesting that the former Chief Medical Officer, who doesn’t have to worry about repercussions on his job if he speaks up, was much more candid and critical of Kenney’s latest, perhaps premature again, declaration of victory over COVID. No doubt, come hell or high water, Kenney will get a Calgary Stampede photo op, but what comes after that will be telling. If cases rise again and there has to be more restrictions after that, well I think everyone’s patience with Kenney will be exhausted and he could be gone before the supposedly best summer ever is over. At this point I think Hinshaw may actually have better job security than Kenney, although if things get bumpy again sometime after the Stampede, she may want to schedule her summer holidays strategically. Sometimes, being away is the best strategy.

    Reply
  7. Kathy Cayenne

    May 28th, 2021

    The opposition is questioning Mr. Kennedy’s 4th attempt at a safe reopening because he is doing the same thing he has done the last three times unsuccessfully…not listen to science. They want him to listen to the science about the vaccines and follow the “instructions on the bottle” and work towards having the majority of Albertans have the second dose before a significant reopening attempt.

    The anti axers and the extreme right think he is moving to slow on reopening. They think he should not have closed things up at all because “Masks don’t save Jesus saves” and he is “following the sheeple” and they are “healthy so why should they have to suffer” and “vaccines and masks are how the government is gonna control you”. I think got them all???

    Jason Kenney’s response “there is a strange alliance coming together”. Funny that the thing he doesn’t get is the only thing these two polar extremes have in common is that they believe he is not doing his job right.

    Someone once said “you can’t make everyone happy but you can make everyone angry” or something like that.

    Here’s hoping everyone is still angry come election time.

    Reply
  8. John Kolkman

    May 28th, 2021

    Thinking Alberta’s public health professionals would allow vaccination numbers to be falsified seems like a stretch.

    But I wonder if Kenney is using reverse psychology on his own vaccine hesitant supporters by trying to lump the NDP in with the anti-vaxxers. The message is ‘if you want to stick to the NDP, go get vaccinated.’

    Reply
  9. ema

    May 28th, 2021

    The stampede is nothing but a steaming pile of dung, being foisted on us by Kenney & Co, ably supported by the CMOH. (Hmmm…is there a touch of Stockholm syndrome now impacting her previously better judgement? )

    Watching Kenney visibly gloat gives me nausea, even though I mute him with regularity. I’m of the opinion that he desperately needs either an intervention or a checkup, on his mental health, as his pathological lies and distortions of facts are completely out of control. Where is Daniel Dale, or his equivalent, when he needed now in Canada and more specifically in Alberta?

    Reply
  10. Just Me

    May 28th, 2021

    Mental gymnastics? More like crazed pretzel-logic was used by Premier Crying & Angry Midget to put a rational spin on anything he does these days. The current re-opening plan (I say current because you never know) is couched in so much gaslighting that one would have to be neither sober nor awake to accept it as sensible.

    As of this point, Kenney is so desperate for a win — any win — that he is willing, committed, hell-bent on taking all of Alberta to full reopening even if it kills everyone. Even if he does get his “summer to remember” with a rising body count, he will declare it the “summer of supreme sacrifice” and write it into the books as a stellar and decisive victory over the scourge of Venezuelan Socialism. Clearly, one will have to ingest a lot of ‘shrooms to be able to see even a shadow of logic in any of that.

    At this point, it’s all whatever Kenney wants, Kenney gets, and everyone has to buy into his manufactured alt-reality of the greatest summer of all time. Now that Kenney is trying to create this weird merger of Antivaxxers/Antimaskers and those who actually believe in a competently managed public health crisis, everyone can see that Kenney’s massive reserve of cough syrup is getting the better of him.

    More. Popcorn. Pronto.

    Reply
  11. pogo

    May 28th, 2021

    So if Mr. Premier: “I am The Humungous among us! “, says; “the vaccine is the way forward”, and then blames people encouraging vaccination and a conservative approach to controlling mutations that feckless panderers have allowed to metastasize during his self ordained failure. He sends out mickey mouse and then drags Minny! Since we’re in wonderland now! How about a lottery? Maybe even a tontine! My jeopardy is.. What is a poltroon Alex?

    Reply
  12. Alison Martin

    May 28th, 2021

    As a non-religious, multi-generational Albertan, not that that matters, I was offended that the first priority on the list was opening up to worship services. Blatantly political.

    All Albertans matter first.

    Stick to what is relevant to the health of all albertans, not entertainment or worship.

    Reply
  13. Bruce Turton

    May 28th, 2021

    Join the crowd who want to wish JK a “happy” birthday tomorrow (May 30) by sending him an email or whatever other way you wish saying that for his special day you have donated to the provincial NDP!! (The much lesser of neo-liberal nonsense),
    Here’s not seeing anyone still come the fall of 2021!!

    Reply
  14. Mickey Rat

    May 28th, 2021

    I think this latest adds to what’s been previously said – that this is a crap shoot of Mr. Kenny to save the UCP, and himself of course. Jason is betting that although there will be a spike in cases, everyone including especially his base, will just be happy and focused on getting a less-restrictive life.

    If the caseload goes through the roof that’s bad for everyone but he’s counting on a spike being manageable. If/when there’s a moderate ramp-up the gaslighting will continue with whatever spin he can dream up to minimize the issue. Yes there will probably be some collateral damage (sick people) and it’s dangerously risky to walk the fine line between under control and back to the worst in North America again but he sees it all as worth it. The thing is, he’s losing the game now so making a risky bet is better than where he’s at.

    Cynical with people’s health? You bet, but I think most here know that saving his beloved UCP creation and his own butt is more important to Mr. Kenny than that.

    So when cases start to rise watch for those guys from Wednesday’s spin conference and maybe Dr. Hinshaw out being positive, positive, positive. We can call Mr. Kenny nasty names but it’s more important to call him out on what he’s actually doing.

    And regarding that tweet ABS posted – and I’m trying to be nice here – that’s irresponsible crap which shows where her priorities are…

    Reply
    • Abs

      May 29th, 2021

      I fully agree. That tweet is irresponsible [email protected] Why should frontline essential workers have to wait for their second vaccine doses while entertainers and food servers jump the queue? Staff at all the local restaurants that have been open for takeout service and in-person dining have to wait for their second shots like everyone else. Slaughterhouse staff have to wait for their second doses like everyone else.

      This is even worse than the professional hockey players, families and staff jumping the line during H1N1, because Covid is not the flu.

      Reply
  15. brett

    May 28th, 2021

    It is embarrassing to let on to anyone that you are an Albertan when your Premier is such a horse’s ass and makes a fool of himself on a very regular basis.

    Reply
  16. tom

    May 29th, 2021

    Winter is coming.

    Reply

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