Alberta Politics
Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health Deena Hinshaw at yesterday’s daily COVID-19 media briefing (Photo: Screenshot of Alberta Government Video).

Chief medical officer of health, left to fend for herself, refuses to criticize premier’s rule-breaking pandemic patio party

Posted on June 04, 2021, 2:20 am
7 mins

It’s time for Premier Jason Kenney to acknowledge his mistake at that Sky Palace patio party and move on, you say? 

Chief Medical Officer of Health Deena Hinshaw certainly seemed to think so yesterday, although she wouldn’t quite admit she thought Mr. Kenney had done anything wrong in her evasive responses to reporters’ questions during an uncomfortable COVID-19 media briefing.

The Sky Palace diners, seen from afar (Photo: Twitter).

In the face of aggressive questioning by three of the reporters at the virtual news conference, Dr. Hinshaw tried to explain why the rest of us should still obey the province’s COVID mitigation rules even if the premier and his influential dining companions felt no need to do the same when the bottles were open and they thought they were far from the public’s prying eyes. 

And so, she extemporized to Calgary Sun columnist Rick Bell when he suggested the premier and the health minister were setting a bad example: “With respect to role models and setting an example, I think all of us, sometimes, make mistakes as we are doing our best to follow the rules in place and so there’s a variety of ways that all of us can model the way, and some of that is by, again, where we’re doing our best to follow the rules in place, and there’s a mistake made, that we acknowledge that and move on.”

That rambling answer was the closest Dr. Hinshaw came to suggesting a course of action for Mr. Kenney, let alone criticizing him, after he was busted Tuesday night breaking COVID-19 restrictions in the company of three senior cabinet ministers, two political aides and a couple of waitrons by a mystery photographer with a very long lens.

This would be pretty dismal stuff at the best of times. 

But with no sign the premier was willing to brave the questions of the press after a day in the Legislature aggressively denying he had done anything wrong, it was hard not to feel embarrassed for Dr. Hinshaw as she dodged and weaved to avoid admitting the obvious. To wit: that the photographer caught Mr. Kenney and company dead to rights, breaking their own rules.

Repeatedly asked about the photographic evidence by Kevin Nimmock of CTV, Michelle Bellefontaine of the CBC, and Mr. Bell, who used up all of their rationed questions on the topic, Dr. Hinshaw stuck determinedly to her key talking point: She wasn’t there and therefore can’t know how far apart they were, no matter what those photographs tell our lyin’ eyes. 

Mr. Nimmock asked: “You’ve seen the photos. It appears the premier and the ministers are not sitting two metres apart. … So is the premier following the public health orders?”

CBC journalist Michelle Bellefontaine (Photo: Twitter).

Dr. Hinshaw responded: “It’s hard to say in the photos. I guess I would say I wasn’t there, so I’m not certain whether or not they were exactly two metres apart. What I would say is that, again, it’s important for Albertans to understand the rules that apply in those different contexts, and again that two-metre requirement is part of those outdoor social gathering requirements …”

Ms. Bellefontaine took up the cause: “In your answer to Kevin Nimmock, you indicated that you weren’t there. … I’m gonna ask you this, from what you saw in those photos, and those photos are all over the Internet, was the premier, and his three cabinet ministers, and his staff members, complying with the rules for outdoor gatherings that came into effect on Tuesday under the Stage 1 reopening?”

Dr. Hinshaw: “Again, it’s difficult in a picture, depending on perspective, to know exactly. So I would say that I’m not able to say with certainty, but what’s really important for Albertans to know, and again my job as the chief MOH is to insure that Albertans know the requirements, and those requirements are that in outdoor social gatherings two metres of distancing is maintained…”

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

Mr. Bell: “What do you have to say about what was in the picture as it relates to getting the rest of us, who are behaving unequivocally and unambiguously to the rules … what would have been so hard about just holding off on that dinner until another time? …”

Dr. Hinshaw: “Whether or not a mistake was made really comes down to that question of distancing. It’s clear that that two metres is required in outdoor social gatherings, and so, again, I’m not able to comment on that … that’s not something that I can definitively say.”

Dr. Hinshaw responded to each of these queries with an ambiguous smile, as if she’d known all along the talking point she’d been handed was never going to work. 

Who knows what really happened, though? Certainly we Albertans will never be told. 

Like his caucus members’ Hawaiian and Mexican vacations last winter during the pandemic’s second wave, the political fallout from Mr. Kenney’s boozy rooftop party and his refusal to admit any error continued to drift over Alberta yesterday.

If you care about finally getting COVID under control, the impact is dispiriting. 

It remains to be seen what the long term impact of that fallout on the political health of Mr. Kenney and the United Conservative Party Government will be. 

14 Comments to: Chief medical officer of health, left to fend for herself, refuses to criticize premier’s rule-breaking pandemic patio party

  1. David Harrigan

    June 4th, 2021

    I watched Minister Shandro’s media conference with “Emily” Gotfried last week about the changes to continuing care. I thought to myself “I will never see a more cringe-worthy media event.” Unlike the Premier, I will admit – I was wrong.

    Reply
    • ema

      June 4th, 2021

      It truly was mind boggling! I fear that the CMOH has been infected with a severe case of Stockholm syndrome.

      Reply
  2. Anonymous

    June 4th, 2021

    The Sun usually and frequently shows support for the Conservatives. However, this stunning and impossible to deny display of the UCP’s do as I say and not as I do antics made the front page of that particular newspaper yesterday, on June 3. In relation to Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the UCP have strings tied to her, and she is like a puppet on a string. She is incapable of making any judgements of her own anymore. The UCP is digging a deeper hole for themselves, and they are providing more nails for their coffin. There are individuals who think this was a drone that got the images, or that the NDP had something to do with this. Neither of those accounts are correct. There are also people who think this isn’t a big deal, which is utter rubbish. For the premier of Alberta to downplay this, and think there wasn’t any wrongdoing, is utterly a bogus call. The UCP do not have the moral authority to govern Alberta anymore. Actually, the UCP never had any morals to begin with. This is going to be impossible for the UCP to get out of this unscathed. Canada, and the world has seen this. It puts Alberta in a bad light. When people were warned about how bad the UCP were going to be, they didn’t listen. What the UCP has been doing, has been a horrible mess, and it’s costing Albertans very much.

    Reply
  3. !?

    June 4th, 2021

    Anybody remember Canada’s Prime Minister not following travel restrictions and breaking away to see his family early in the pandemic? He owned it and apologized, because that’s what leaders do.

    Reply
  4. Bob Raynard

    June 4th, 2021

    If I remember correctly, I think Premier Kenney’s first attempt to deal with the Christmas holidayers last January was to try to make the case that it was no big deal. It then took a weekend of mounting outrage before Mr. Kenney realized he had a problem that was not going away, and he then punished the wayward travelers.

    This one will be trickier, since it is Kenney himself who got caught.

    Reply
  5. Just Me

    June 4th, 2021

    Stock·holm syn·drome

    /ˈstäkˌhō(l)m,ˈstäkōm ˈsinˌdrōm/

    noun:
    Stockholm syndrome

    feelings of trust or affection felt in many cases of kidnapping or hostage-taking by a victim toward a captor.

    At this point, it can only be believed that Hinshaw is working for her pension and nothing else.

    Reply
  6. Roger

    June 4th, 2021

    It is sad to see a professional such as Dr. Hinshaw demean herself in such a humiliating way. Sadly, for myself, she lost any credibility as a source of reliable information on Covid months ago.

    Reply
    • Kang

      June 4th, 2021

      Good link ABS, thanks. However, Kenney is just the latest of a long line of destructive and narcissistic leaders.

      Roger: The young doctor has learned that Alberta is a single-party authoritarian state at her mother’s teat, as has pretty much every proto-lawyer, academic, and others of the professional classes in Alberta since the 1950s. If you stand out against the Premier, or The Party, you will never have access to any of the considerable pork doled out by big business and government. In the case of Judges, you will seldom get there unless you display a considerable degree of discretion in your legal career.

      This is so ingrained in Alberta’s political and professional classes that many of them are not even aware of these limitations imposed by big business using their wholly owned and captured agent, the Government of Alberta. For the ones who are aware, many of them cynically simply go along to get along.

      So, don’t be too hard on the young doctor. She has learned the lesson from birth and it is hard to blame her for opting for a quiet life, rather than have to up-root her family, and move to another jurisdiction where she is not black listed, or worse going back into private practice checking the prostrates of the indifferent front-end boomers who perpetuate this mess.

      Reply
  7. Little Bird

    June 4th, 2021

    A little bird told me Mr. Kenney is staying on as a lightning rod till vaccine participation is at a sustainable level and then he’s going under the bus. They seem to think we’ll forget about the Nixon’s, Shandro, Dreeshan, Madu…..

    Reply
  8. Dave

    June 4th, 2021

    Yes, Dr. Hinshaw is another casualty in Kenney’s war against truth, or at least anything true that he thinks might be damaging to him. I feel a bit bad for her, trying not to openly contradict her boss while trying to stand by and reinforce the public health rules I think she actually believes in. Fortunately for her, she only looks a bit foolish stammering, but if her reputation or integrity were really her biggest concerns, she would have probably resigned a long time ago.

    I think Dr. Hinshaw, like the UCP, is learning the hard way that Kenney destroys everything around him. It will not be easy to get him to go, at least not until he qualifies for his Federal MP’s pension in a few years. He currently has no university degree or professional credentials to fall back on. Heck, he doesn’t even have past private sector experience in business or even as a car or insurance salesman to fall back on. He will probably try cling to his current relatively well paid political job as long as possible. Of course, Mr. Barnes, now can say “I told you so” to his former colleagues, but unlike Barnes a number of them are also clinging to their cozy positions as long as possible, as they do not have other good prospects.

    I do wonder how much longer Kenney can continue gaslighting Albertans with his charade, the pictures seem fairly clear he was not actually following the COVID rules, not even the more relaxed ones introduced just before his dinner on the terrace. Social distancing – no, masks – no, outside gathering with no indoor component – nope! However, the only reason this is not more damaging is I suspect at this point, most Albertans have made up their mind about Kenney and this only reinforces it.

    I am now fairly certain that whatever the UCP does, Kenney will not be their candidate in the next Alberta election. He has become far too much of a liability now and the conservative elite know that. They will eventually do whatever it takes, for this to happen – whether it involves setting up a generous private trust fund or a cozy position for him to transition into, or begging and cajoling the Federal Conservatives to take him back, just so they can get rid of him. So perhaps at this point it doesn’t much matter if Kenney continues to do stupid things. I think his fate is already sealed.

    Reply
  9. Carlos

    June 4th, 2021

    So much for the rule of law.
    What a banana republic we have become. Is that a surprise that people vote less and less and soon will not even notice we have a government at all. Is it worth it?
    Deena Hinshaw must have a big mortgage. The truth does not matter anymore.
    Alberta is a rich third world province. I can only imagine an independent Alberta with goons like this at the top. Perfect scam job.

    Reply
  10. Gromster

    June 4th, 2021

    Many years ago when I served as a middle manager under the Getty government the expectation was that we would to everything to not embarrass the minister. I assume that Dr. Hinshaw is operating under that premise.
    The worst thing about this fiasco for me personally is that a I like to drink Jameson whiskey. If Jameson is a favoured drink of Kenney and his pals, in order to distance myself from them, I will need to find another brand.

    Reply
  11. Scotty on Denman

    June 4th, 2021

    Ah, the Telephoto lens: going on safari in our living room armchairs would be impossible without it. And, speaking of zoom, social media lets us focus on the intimate behaviour of fat cats from the Covid-safety of home.

    It’s certainly a thrill to get a rare glimpse of nature on the thorn-scrub sahel of Wild Irish Rosacea: the buck and the doe head for future pasture, the Gulo listens intently to the herd for telltale sound of limping, ever ready to single out and take down any sick and weak, the water rat and beaver lodge in dammed banks, the hooked-beak (not a crook) of the coal-black mountain vulture soars over unfenced grass and ungated water, the ever-vigilant, skin-clad tribal chiefs (and deputy chiefs, I presume) carefully looking out for any of their free-range cows in mire, or stragglers for culling.

    We’re very lucky, indeed, to witness the extremistly rare marsupial Mustelid in its reclusive habitat because it’s now rated as extirpated, or functionally extinct. Fun fact: this exceedingly unusual trans-familiar hybrid between common kangaroos and weasels might look small but is actually a vicious predator that must eat ten times its body weight in red meat every day just to maintain its ecological position at the top of the political food chain.

    Wildlife documentaries are used for educational purposes in high school health class, the unabashed calls of nature presented as euphemism for bodily functions humans also do, but in private (or in secret). More popular, however, are wildlife docs suitable for family viewing which are carefully edited for taste. Shots of, say, the wildebeest Concheatest ralphii casually stopping to pinch one before moving on don’t make the cut—even if it apologized.

    Some might ask, “Who gnu?” Highly specialized doctors of wildlife behaviour—that’s who. They provide expert commentary or narrate the whole show like David Attenborough or, in Alberta, Dr Deena Hinshaw whose calm demeanour and dispassionate delivery gets the science across while deftly turning aside news media’s puerile questions —like: how’s Jason Kenney gonna weasel he way out of this one? Dr Deena is the epitome of discretion, the temperate voice of decorum who’d rather describe a black-and-white still of resource workers eating dinner in a work camp cook-shack than replay a recording of their colourful, fifty-F-bombs-a-minute banter verbatim. How might our more vulgar compatriots describe her almost inscrutable smile as she parried today with reporters: sarcastic or wincing?—sympathetic or apathetic?—wry or Jameson’s? To rephrase terms too profane for network TV, they would probably liken her smirking cageyness to It’s easy to suppose she enjoyed the task about as much as publicly rolling over, playing dead, or shaking a paw at command.

    Dr Hinshaw did allude to people—in the generic—making mistakes. And she did respond a number of times with bullet-points on Covid safety protocols, if not correspond with reporters’ incessant, ‘hall-monitor’ questions. But if she were really nailed down to answering whether Jason Kenney has gotten himself into even more trouble than he already is, I betcha she’d be as steadfastly professional in her prevarication (as her employer instructs) by affirming the obvious:

    ‘Does a bear [poop] in the woods?’

    Reply

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