Alberta Politics
Those were the days! Jason Kenney in the 2010 Calgary Stampede Parade, back when he was Member of Parliament for Calgary Midnapore (Photo: 5of7/Flickr, Creative Commons).

How the Kenney Government could push us back into another wave of COVID in the name of reopening

Posted on June 14, 2021, 2:25 am
7 mins

Will the Kenney Government lose interest in its vaccination campaign the instant Premier Jason Kenney’s arbitrary 70-per-cent vaccination threshold for allowing the Calgary Stampede to open is met?

If past behaviour is a guide, this seems quite possible.

The Calgary Stampede is a great place for Conservatives to meet Conservatives. Mr. Kenney with a friend in 2016 (Photo: Twitter/@MaximeBernier).

Once Alberta has hit a first-dose vaccination rate of 70 per cent – we were at 67.8 per cent on Friday, so that may be declared to have happened today – in two weeks we will move to Stage 3 of the government’s re-opening plan.

At that point, all restrictions will be lifted, including the ban on indoor gatherings. Business will be wide open. 

Thereupon, we can expect to see the two things happen in short order:

  1. Mr. Kenney will declare COVID-19 vanquished. (Naturally, he will take credit for the vaccines that have been flooding into the province, thanks to the federal government. Likewise, he will make no mention of the repeated claims by his and other Conservative governments that Ottawa’s vaccine procurement effort was a failure, now that it obviously isn’t.) 
  2. He will declare the Stampede open and the summer of 2021 the best Alberta summer ever.

Unfortunately, a third thing may happen too: The Delta variant of the coronavirus will continue to spread, infecting many who have received only one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and a few who have gotten both.

In other words, the moment when Alberta’s United Conservative Government is most likely to lose interest in its vaccination campaign is precisely the one when the drive to ensure maximum full vaccination will be most important if we are to put this disaster behind us.

So this is a moment when the instincts of the Kenney Government and other provincial governments that share its neoliberal ideology become a problem. 

Lately, presumably contemplating the prospect of another summer without a great Conservative beanfest at the Stampede, Mr. Kenney has pushed the idea a 70-per-cent first-dose rate will be the silver bullet that slays COVID-19 and ends his political problems.

But we don’t actually know how much of the population needs to be immunized against COVID-19 to safely reopen. It is very likely higher than 70 per cent of the population, even if fully vaccinated. “The proportion of the population that must be vaccinated against COVID-19 to begin inducing herd immunity is not known,” says the World Health Organization, noting it is 95 per cent for measles, and about 80 per cent for polio.

So Alberta, where vaccine skepticism has been actively encouraged by many in Mr. Kenney’s government, is unlikely to achieve anything like herd immunity. 

As a result, if the Delta variant continues to spread, some restriction on behaviour will still be required, and this presents both a political problem and an ideological one for Mr. Kenney and the UCP. 

The political problem is that as much as possible, it is necessary for his government to be able to claim the pandemic is unequivocally over, and, somehow, that the UCP can take some of the credit. 

The ideological problem is that neoliberal governments like Mr. Kenney’s privilege economic liberty over any other kind of freedom, including democratic rights. And economic freedom requires minimal restrictions on behaviour that might get in the way of spending money, no matter how dangerous.

This is at the heart of the argument for holding a Stampede this summer, come what may.

If the Kenney Government were doing this right, the sensible precaution would be to delay the reopening by a few more weeks, as the U.K. government is expected to do later today, until more than 70 per cent of the population could be fully vaccinated.

We all know that isn’t going to happen.

The next most sensible thing would be to require a vaccine passport like the “digital green certificate” now in the process of being adopted by the European Union.

The UCP can also be counted on to oppose that idea on ideological grounds. 

But ending all restrictions with insufficient levels of immunity – which is exactly what the UCP is proposing to do in the next few days – puts all of us who have been abiding by the rules in a difficult and dangerous position. 

As columnist Will Hutton wrote in the Guardian yesterday, right now “risks are being collectively, socially managed.”

“But when lockdown is over and the virus is still circulating, even though 70 per cent to 80 per cent of us may be fully vaccinated, I no longer have that assurance,” he wrote. “The man without a mask coughing on the train or restaurant table next to me? Even if I am fully vaccinated, I run a risk and for many people that will be a risk too far. Recovery will be inhibited, not advanced.”

Canadians require this level of assurance too, as does the Canadian economy. So, whether or not health care is a provincial responsibility, Ottawa is going to have to try to find a way to implement a vaccine certificate. 

Otherwise, Mr. Kenney and the UCP could do what that have done repeatedly: Push us back into another wave of COVID, with severe economic consequences, in the name of reopening the economy. 

24 Comments to: How the Kenney Government could push us back into another wave of COVID in the name of reopening

  1. Dave

    June 14th, 2021

    Yes, I suspect when Kenney meets his 70% threshold, he will lose interest in COVID and it will be party time. However, the risk is 70% might not be good enough. I wonder if Kenney hopes to get more than 70% in his leadership review, when it eventually or if that happens. I imagine he would.

    So, the big lottery – still not clear if that is open to everyone vacinated or just the lucky last reluctant few, is designed to push him over his threshold. Perhaps in Kenney’s mind a few million is a small price so he can get some good photo ops at the Stampede.

    You are also correct that many of us would be more comfortable if big events were not open without restriction to the 20 or 30% not vaccinated, given those nasty variants even running amok in Calgary lately. So, just doing a bit of math, if some of the more cautious who have had one vaccination stay away and the more risk taking unvaccinated do not, what are the odds some crowds will have well below 70% vaccinated and could become super spreader events.

    We’ve had progressively worse second and third waves in Alberta mainly because of a government that was too reluctant to shut things down when needed and too eager to open them up too soon. So chances are they will once again mess things up.

    Kenney may be a bit overconfident because of the vaccines, but if this reopening does not go flawlessly, I think it will be Kenney’s political career that becomes one of the first casualties of any next wave. Many people have lost patience with him, so this time there is no or little room for error. I am not sure if he fully realizes this is no time for risk taking for himself.

    Reply
  2. Abs

    June 14th, 2021

    I imagine that Mr. Kenney will try to jam us up when it comes to Covid passports, much like he wants to pull our money out of the Canada Pension Plan. I could see everyone else in the country having national vaccine passports, but not Albertans. Goodbye to Alohagate vacations, because most countries will soon require national proof of vaccination for entry. But hey, Lotto Vax!

    I want the best summer ever. Summer solstice is a week away, so there’s still hope for the best *UCP-free* summer ever!

    Reply
  3. Anonymous

    June 14th, 2021

    The UCP has a few things going for itself here, which are arrogance, complacency, denial, and ignorance. Albertans who fall for the lies the UCP are peddling, will be in for a big surprise in a month or two, when Covid-19 cases shoot back on the upwards trajectory, once again. The number of people who get the new variant of Covid-19 is increasing steadily, and that will come like a tidal wave upon Alberta. This will be solely because the UCP is repeating its same mistakes from the past instances of botched reopening plans. Shortsighted. Basically, short term limited gain, with long term pain. Dr. Deena Hinshaw, who is now just a puppet of the UCP, will come up with all kinds of reasons for what went on. Tyler Shandro will be in hiding. It will be the worst summer ever, followed by a less than fabulous fall. Things still won’t look so good in the winter. The UCP are only planning for failure, and Albertans are the ones who will suffer for it.

    Reply
    • Abs

      June 14th, 2021

      Pretty sure the UCP spent the weekend watching the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show on TV. There’s an art to dangling hot dogs in front of dogs’ noses in order to get them to obey. With people, just hypnotize them with hand motions, fake grins and $3M. Ooh, votes. Donations. The question remains: is Lotto Vax merely an exercise in data mining? Stay tuned.

      Reply
  4. Bill Malcolm

    June 14th, 2021

    Yes. Well said.

    59.1% of all people in Alberta have received at least one dose. 17% of all people have had two. The 69% kenney refers to for first doses is people over 12. So none of the kids matter a whit apparently, and yet can spread Covid willy-nilly this summer without generally being too badly affected themselves, although the Delta variant poses some question about that. Throw ‘er wide open nevertheless in Texas North.

    Also, Alberta is the only province, surprise, surprise, that doesn’t use StatsCan population estimates. Well, of course not, that’s federal propaganda. There’s a big disclaimer on this Alberta vaccine counting page run by USask volunteers.

    https://covid19tracker.ca/provincevac.html?p=AB

    The NS government target is 75% of ALL Nova Scotians, requiring 85% of all eligible citizens to get a first jab. We are talking herd immunity, right? That’s the minimum epidemiological ideal for this Covid epidemic, we are told, based on the original virus. Two jabs are really necessary But not in kenney la la land, when you’re a home-grown expert blurting your version of reality with a tame doc to back your delusions up. Or disregarded, take your pick.

    Good luck with the Stampede. I see many companies are hedging about their participation while kenney sports a 10 gallon hat in anticipation of a job not nearly over, only 40% complete and in lop-sided age demographic fashion at that. I just saw him on TV offering a million dollar lottery win if someone would just get a first jab. All with a jubilant grin on his face and a cheery hale-fellow-well met tone.

    Unbelievable. Good luck.

    Reply
  5. Bob Raynard

    June 14th, 2021

    David, maybe your headline should be ‘Jason Kenney Promises a Killer Summer in 2021 – One to Die For’!

    During a press briefing last week, Jason Kenney told the story of a couple of his (probably fictitious) elderly friends who were struggling with Covid. His intent was to try to motivate more people to get vaccinated, but I wonder if he ever considered it might have been his insipid response to Covid that caused them to get the disease in the first place.

    Reply
  6. Bruce

    June 14th, 2021

    Sounds like theres going to be more than one “Horses Ass” at the Stampede this year eh?

    Reply
  7. tom in ontario

    June 14th, 2021

    Shame on you Mr. Blogger for dragging out dated pics of your premier doing his best imitation of the roly-poly pillsbury doughboy. Break out the parker house rolls!

    Reply
    • karl roth

      June 14th, 2021

      lol !!
      yes indeedy

      Reply
  8. Bob Raynard

    June 14th, 2021

    During much of the pandemic CBC has run a daily article on Covid, updating the numbers on a variety of topics. During the third wave I started following each province’s per 100,000 case numbers, and saw how drastically Alberta was out of step with the rest of the country. We were well over twice the national average, and briefly were over double the second highest province. Just before Manitoba’s case count started to climb, it looked like we could be on track to be the only province above the national average.

    I would love to see a line graph of each province’s per 100,000 cases from last March until now. I suspect it would show how even the third wave was essentially Jason Kenney’s wave. Even when things appeared to be going crazy in Manitoba, Manitoba’s case per 100,000 numbers were nowhere near what Alberta’s were.

    Reply
  9. Just Me

    June 14th, 2021

    I recall Neville Chamberlain declared victory and “peace with honour” before the roof fell in, as well.

    Incompetent blowhards and dullards tend to declare mission accomplished just as the worst is about to start. If there’s one thing that can be learned from Premier Crying & Screaming Midget’s behaviour is that he has this bizarre eagerness to please. Like some annoying yapping puppy, he will tell everyone to party and forget all the bad that ever happened. (Definitely forget the bad he caused, of course.) And if things do go sideways, he can always, for whatever inexplicable reason, blame PMJT for all woes. That’s what his base wants, so he’s willing to give it to them in spades.

    If there is an explosive reemergence of the pandemic, Kenney will pooh-pooh it, go back to his old denying self, invoke that weird concept called “personal responsibility” and declare that the vaccine-hesitant are among the damned. If the damned includes many Evangelicals, this could be a problem from Kenney. But he’ll blame Ottawa for coddling the Chinese Communist Party, and that will make his easily gas lit base happy.

    So, there will be no further lockdowns or restrictions; Kenney will deny any responsibility, and he will evacuate Alberta in eighteen months for the sunnier climes and the sweet and safe riding of Regina—Qu’Appelle. (Andrew Scheer may come out the real winner in all this.)

    Reply
  10. Carlos

    June 14th, 2021

    I hope that we are lucky enough this time to get over this without much damage but hoping this government does anything with common sense is as hopeless as living without oxygen.
    They are lucky that oil price is improving and the economy will get better and they will claim that what they promised is coming and next thing we know gullible Albertans will vote them in again. That is when I get my passport out of Alberta for good.

    Reply
  11. Neil Lore

    June 14th, 2021

    I’m very confused today. I have memories of people acting as though Jason Kenney were some kind of competent politician with prime ministerial aspirations, but I also have memories of Jason Kenney bungling literally everything he has tried to do since going to Alberta – from an election he got caught cheating on even though it was his to lose, to cratering the economy, to picking fights with doctors and teachers, to giving billions of tax dollars to oil tycoons, again, to bungling Alberta’s covid response and so many more boondoggles.

    My question – was there ever a time when Jason Kenney really was a skilled politician? I’m starting to think that Canada’s conservatives, in general, are a bunch of incompetent grifters who are only ever entrusted anything because they’re able to swindle rubes into voting against their own interests. Jason Kenney is definitely the poster boy for this trope, but the Ford brothers certainly buttress it, and the ongoing tire fire that is the CPC plays into it as well. If there are any grownups left in the Conservative party, they have to know how revealing their failure to defeat Trudeau for this many elections is.

    Reply
    • jerrymacgp

      June 15th, 2021

      The problem is, Kenney is a skilled politician with stellar campaign skills, but he’s [email protected] at governing. Governing requires compromise, and working with people who disagree with you or have different priorities and perspectives.

      Reply
  12. Bret Larson

    June 14th, 2021

    I guess this would be the dipper wet dream. Praying for another variant to boost their election chance. Well, not much can be done about that. Keep in mind, just because the economy is “opened up” doesnt mean that the pandemic is gone. People need to address their individual health needs and protect them and their community.

    Reply
    • Anonymous

      June 14th, 2021

      BRET LARSON: Unfortunately, the Delta variant of the Covid-19 virus is in Alberta, and cases are steadily on the uptick. Due to the UCP’s history of bungled reopening plans, this latest reopening will not go smoothly. The UCP has a proven knack for screwing things up, economically, and also with the way they managed the Covid-19 pandemic in Alberta. Come July, or August at the latest, things will only get worse in Alberta. Watch for it. It will be a given, what will happen.

      Reply
  13. ema

    June 14th, 2021

    While I remain very concerned about a potential fourth wave of Covid, I get yet another deep wave of nausea every time I see photos of our premier, or hear his posturing (though thoroughly disingenuous) voice. The off button on my radio and the tv remote get well used.

    It seems he gets his mug and voice daily in the news as he attempts to deflect from his most recent crisis. It’s time for the press to stop facilitating his manipulative presence from almost every newscast, without giving the Opposition and others a reasonable length of time to respond or reply, to his wayward views.

    It’s time to end the farce of the 2 question remote press conference, where “selected” reporters get to ask questions and the podium gets to control the message. An example of this last week was Kenney on taking the second q from the veteran columnist Don Braid, he chose to answer by launching an attack on something he considered unflattering from Braid. Advantage JK-1, Braid 0. (At least CP’s Dean Bennett used his questions to show that he was not going to be a patsy for Kenney’s obfuscation about the Sky Palace Jameson party.)

    Reply
  14. Just Me

    June 14th, 2021

    Looking at all the pics of Kenney in much happier times, when he was on top of the world and certain that his path to the PMO was assured, is pretty telling about the level of arrogance he was more than pleased to display.

    Apart from the large pic of Kenney wearing something that looks like a caricature of himself as a young chubby cowboy, he seems more of a rodeo clown than a roughrider. The pic of him greeting and shaking hands with Maxime Bernier was doubtlessly after the latter lost the CPC leadership to Andrew Scheer by a breath. One wonders if this was the moment that Kenney was considering endorsing Bernier if Scheer proved to be a dud? Turns out both became duds, but Kenney is always the happy gambler.

    Of course, when you’re happily spending the house’s money, you can afford to look very self-satisfied. Considering that he was, first, endorsing Rona (Rosa) Ambrose for the CPC leadership, until she got a better deal from PMJT and Freeland. And then endorsing John Baird, until that fascinating scandal emerged concerning Baird’s playful obsession with chasing young men (What is it with these middle-aged confirmed bachelors anyway?) it looks like Kenney seems to like playing long and impossible odds. I guess that’s where the biggest pay-offs are, but also the biggest falls.

    Given Kenney’s bizarre and always losing track record, his luck has got to turn sometime. I mean, Kenney is a man of destiny and the PMO awaits.

    Excelsior!!!

    Reply
  15. Alan K. Spiller

    June 14th, 2021

    You didn’t need to be a genius to figure these reformers out. Just smarter than a lot of Albertans . The MLAs from the Lougheed era that I knew certainly had it right. You can’t trust a reformer.

    I had a letter in the Calgary herald about 20 years ago outlining what Klein was doing to us. I received a call from a senior in Calgary thanking me for writing it. He had attended one of Klein’s $250. per plate fund raising dinners in Calgary and said his speech was a pack of lies but the other seniors sitting around them were believing every lie he fed them. After it was over he went to the washroom before driving home. Here was Klein outside the washroom talking to one of his MLAs. He over heard him say “ I could tell these idiots anything and they would believe me.”

    I think Alberta s have woken up. Kenney isn’t able to pull the wool over their eyes like Klein did and I think it has a lot to do with the fact that when Klein was doing it we were being told the vast majority of voters in Alberta were seniors and were easy to fool and that’s not the case anymore. Even my grandchildren are taking more of an interest in what these fools are doing to us.

    Reply
    • Athabascan

      June 19th, 2021

      Alan,

      You can call them Reformers, but they are US-Style Republicans.

      Reply
  16. moe

    June 14th, 2021

    My comment relates to the called success of the Fed’s vaccination program. Yes, the amount of vaccine that Canada has recently been getting and will continue to get is terrific but it is too late for many, many deceased and others who have long term, if not life time impairment. Justin has been slow off the mark, deadly slow, at various stages and initially aligning Canada with the Chinese vaccination program was an enormous, deadly and stupid blunder. Thankfully, Canada got on its horse to give the rest of us a chance. No way I’m going to the covid stampede.

    Reply
  17. jerrymacgp

    June 17th, 2021

    I am somewhat surprised at your support for a vaccine passport system. There are serious & widespread equity concerns around such a system given the difficulties many people are having accessing immunizations. For myself, I feel the only way this could be ethically acceptable would be if everyone other than hard-core vaccine resistors & anti-vaxxers has been given an opportunity to be immunized. As long as there are people who should be — and want to be — immunized who cannot get a shot, I feel that restricting people’s mobility rights on the basis of their immunization status would be unethical.

    Reply
  18. TiredOfCovid

    August 31st, 2021

    Here we are, well after the Stampede and there doesn’t seem to be any crisis. Too bad for all those who love to live in fear. Looking at the StatsCan data for the 2010’s up to 2020 sems to indicate that the vast majority of “excess deaths” were in the 65 + age group. I wonder what the BMI was for those in the “exess deaths” category for the under-65 group?

    Canada continues its march to totalitarianism.

    Reply

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