Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro wilts in the sun as Premier Jason Kenney carries on about Alberta’s vaccination lottery (Photo: Chris Schwarz, Government of Alberta).

As a purely cynical effort to distract voters from the many failings of the Alberta’s United Conservative Party Government, it would be hard to top the decision announced yesterday to give away the first of three $1-million vaccination lottery prizes on the day the province drops most of its COVID-19 restrictions. 

Better, the Kenney Government’s strategic brain trust must have concluded, to have the folks talking about the first of three big winners that day than speculating about how many of the 2,300 or so poor souls who by then will have lost their lives to COVID-19 could have been saved if Premier Jason Kenney hadn’t been in such a hurry to reopen the malls.

The late Ralph Klein, premier of Alberta (Photo: Lieutenant Governor of Alberta).

After all, as George Orwell pointed out in his most famous work of fiction, lotteries are well known to capture the imagination of the proletariat. “The Lottery, with its weekly pay-out of enormous prizes, was the one public event to which the proles paid serious attention,” he wrote in 1984. (The novel, that is, not the year.) 

For his part, Premier Kenney carried on like a carnival barker at the outdoor news conference called to announce some of the details of the province’s “Open for Summer Vaccine Lottery” – or, as we prefer to think of it here at, Lotto Vaxx. 

Health Minister Tyler Shandro didn’t look quite as enthusiastic, squinting into the blazing sun and wilting in the heat as he gamely tried to persuade the few reporters who turned up or called in that Lotto Vaxx “is an investment in Albertans and in our province’s future.”

The jury’s still out on whether the scheme will actually get more people to sign up to be vaccinated than would get the jab without it, but it probably didn’t help that Mr. Kenney seemed to admit that you don’t actually have to get a shot to get your name in the draw. As the Calgary Herald’s Don Braid pointed out, that’s “really not much of an incentive to get vaccinated.”

“Yeah, the cut, uh, at each stage, Don, the, ah, the eligibility cut-off to enter, the draw, will be about a week … before. Uhhhh, the … the draw happens. … And then … Good question … Tyler! What if they get drawn and then they run out to get proof of vaccination? I, I think we’re going to allow that! The point is …” he gestured at Mr. Shandro, “Is that right?”

Mr. Shandro’s answer, somewhat abbreviated: “That’s a good question. We can get back to you on that, Don.”

What this illustrates is that whatever is planned by Calgary-based Stride Management Corp., the company hired by the government to determine the winners and make sure everything’s above board, the premier and the health minister don’t have a very good grasp of it.

Calgary Herald columnist Don Braid (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Except … prizes! 

So, you have to ask, is the Kenney Government capable of giving away cash money to anyone without seriously messing up?

Let’s face it, Mr. Kenney has a track record giving money away, and it’s not very promising. 

On the other hand, it’s only $3 million or so at risk here, not like the $1.3 billion he gave away to TC Energy Corp. for, well, nothing. So why break into a sweat? After all, as Progress Alberta’s Jim Storrie observed in his weekly newsletter this morning, “Jason Kenney could give away three million dollars again next year, and the year after, and for four centuries after that, and it still wouldn’t add up to the $1.3 billion he handed to TC Energy shareholders in his awful Keystone XL deal.”

Alert readers with really long memories will recall that when Ralph Klein’s $400 prosperity bonuses were handed out to everybody in 2006, people from as far away as Ontario found ways to get a cheque sent along to them. The current general eligibility rules don’t even say you have to have receive your vaccine in Alberta.

Mind you, the government website says the rules can be changed without notice. 

This time, as when Mr. Klein was premier, the rules say you’re supposed to be an Albertan. But I’m willing to bet that if you were an Ontarian whose mom lived in Calgary, you could probably get way with saying you lived in her basement to get your name in the draw. 

Author George Orwell (Photo: Felix Man, National Portrait Gallery).

If you feel like rolling the dice, the online form’s simple to fill out, and it’s found at

As for how well Lotto Vaxx works, Mr. Kenney didn’t seem particularly concerned, as long as we can get the Stampede open on time. 

“We’ve never been chasing after zero,” he explained in his professorial voice. “People will continue to contract COVID. There will be seasonal spikes. I guarantee you there will be one this fall, probably starting in mid-October. And some of those people will end up in hospital. And sadly some of those people will pass away. Just as we have dozens of people who die every year from the conventional flu, influenza. …”

The premier corrected himself a moment later, noting that COVID-19 is not an influenza, as he once put it. Still, give it a few weeks and see what he says. 

Getting back to the imaginary lottery of Orwell’s 1984, the author wrote, “the prizes were largely imaginary. Only small sums were actually paid out, the winners of the big prizes being nonexistent persons.” 

That’s one important difference between Mr. Kenney’s Alberta during the best summer ever and Big Brother’s dystopian England, though. 

Here we know who the big winners are: Pipeline companies.

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  1. Basically, the UCP are getting desperate and want to try and redeem themselves for their many pricey follies, and bribing voters with their own money is one way they want to achieve that goal. Still, there is no account of what happened with the $6 billion in loan guarantees for the Keystone XL pipeline. In 2001, Ralph Klein cunningly gave Albertans two cheques for $160, in advance of a provincial election. These cheques were issued to offset the pricey cost of deregulation of utilities in Alberta. Unsurprisingly, Albertans took the bait, hook, line and sinker, and Ralph Klein and his Alberta PC government saw a majority government unlike any other he had seen. In 2004, or 2005, there was another provincial election. Columnist, Graham Thompson noted that Ralph Klein and the Alberta PCs got a reduced majority government, because there were no cheques issued to voters before that election. Ralph Klein wanted to repeat this voter bribery scheme, and that’s when the $400 cheques to Albertans were issued. There were warnings against issuing these cheques, because the money should have been saved. That’s even what Peter Lougheed was saying. Ralph Klein ignored that. Essentially, these $400 cheques were given to Albertans, because Ralph Klein needed redemption for his very pricey shenanigans, and the stupid things he did, while under the influence of the booze. Ralph Klein wanted to repeat that and offer another round of $400 cheques to Albertans, but his cabinet and party stopped that idea, dead in its tracks. Danielle Smith was the leader of the Wildrose. She had a very strong admiration for Ralph Klein, right down to his voter bribery scheme, and wanted to offer Albertans something called Dani Dollars. This was another very dumb idea. Thankfully, the Wildrose never got into power to institute this. The UCP are past the halfway mark of their term, and they have to try anything to keep their grip on power.

    1. To Anonymous Well these reformers are in power now trying to follow where Klein left off destroying us, and you are certainly right Smith worshiped the ground Klein walked on. She told us that Klein was wonderful but he didn’t go far enough he should have privatized our health care and education systems. Apparently she doesn’t care that he helped cheat Albertans out of their oil and tax wealth, like Kenney is doing.

      Now while Reformer Danielle Smith remains as their mouth piece she continues to prove why Albertans weren’t dumb enough to elect her. You would think that after being fired by the conservatives as a trustee of the Calgary board of education and a loser of three elections she would keep her mouth shut but you can bet she has a bone to pick with the conservatives and is only interested in trying to help Jason Kenney destroy everything our conservative hero Peter Lougheed created for us.

      It’s my understanding that she got kicked off the radio station because so many people complained about her and you would think the Calgary herald would be smart enough to drop her also.

      1. ALAN K. SPILLER: We all know the Edmonton Journal, The Edmonton Sun, The Calgary Herald and The Calgary Sun all endorse the Conservatives. I have a hunch that Danielle Smith will be wooed back into politics, and come to the UCP. It’s likely to happen. Sadly, if Albertans are dumb enough, they will support these pretend conservatives, suffer more damage, and wonder what went wrong. They will then say that someone else is at fault, such as Rachel Notley, or even Justin Trudeau. There were warnings about the UCP being bad for Alberta, and if these warnings had been heeded, Alberta would not be in this horrible mess. I don’t think Alberta can endure another four more years of the UCP.

  2. I was pleasantly surprised to hear that 2 of the 3 lottery prizes were for people who had received their second dose. Mr. Kenney seems so fixated on getting first dose numbers up to open the stampede I really expected all 3 prizes to be for the first dose.

    Thanks for providing the link to register for the lottery, David. One of criteria you have to check off as part of the registry process is that you are vaccinated at the time you register. I really hope a ‘winner’ will be disqualified if he/she is unable to prove they were vaccinated when they submitted their application.

  3. The problem all along is a strategy that does not aim for Covid Zero, and never did. But then, the premier sees us not as human beings, but merely “low-hanging fruit”.

    “We knew a point would come when we would run out of low-hanging fruit in terms of people who were eager to get the jab, and we reached that point about a week, two weeks ago,” he said.

    It is hard living in a place that is gaslit. I guess fruit love the Vaxx Millions. Can fruit enter the draw?

  4. In case anyone was wondering, the “low-hanging fruit” that lined up for vaccination early on are actually high-hanging fruit with more education.

    That poses a problem for the premier, who for whatever reason has his own biases against education and the educated. The problem is that in order to get more vaccines into more arms, the province needs to educate people about the vaccines. This is not news to anyone who has been reading up on vaccination strategies all along, but it does seem that the premier is not one of those people. Isn’t that what anti-vaxxers have told us: “Educate yourself”? So true. It’s the difference between bribing three people with a million dollars each, and reaching out to the darkest corners of the unvaccinated to vaccinate thousands of people. Thousands are more effective than three.

  5. The real issue here is access to the vaccine. Setting up all these standalone centres is one thing, but introducing mobile and travelling centres would accomplish a lot more. But this is always been Kenney’s approach: do as little as possible, and short of what is needed, then blame others for not following their “personal responsibility” when everything goes south.

    This was Kenney’s approach at the beginning of the pandemic. First, deny the severity of the situation; second, declare everyone’s fate was in their own hands; finally, implement unenforced restrictions just to show off the government had an effective response. Each measure failed miserably, so now Kenney is offering cash prizes for the “vaccine-hesistant” and declaring this approach, laughably, an “investment” in public health. Kenney groomed anti-vaxxers from day one, so he is reaping the whirlwind.

    Kenney’s gaslighting has reached a point of complete idiocy, and he really doesn’t care what people think anymore. In Kenney’s mind, he’s the victim because he’s supposed to be on a certain path to the PMO. Why not? He says his prayers every night and bribes and grooms allies to advance his career.

    I believe the War Room is going to be hit up for the monies to cover these prizes, but I don’t believe these prizes will be honoured. Kenney’s is just not an honourable guy. Personally, I’d want the cash before the jab, because I really don’t believe a word he says.

    1. Okay Just Me, you don’t believe a word he says. How about this?
      “People will continue to contract COVID. There will be seasonal spikes. I guarantee you there will be one this fall, probably starting in mid-October. And some of those people will end up in hospital. And sadly some of those people will pass away.”
      Does Kenney write his own lines? How did he survive five minutes in politics? Puh-lease Conservative Party of Canada, make Jason your next leader.

      1. Kenney has the extraordinary ability to have no recollection of things he’s just said, let alone things he said one week or one month prior. The guy has what’s called Highly-Selective Memory, which means he edits himself long after he has said something, and moves it back into the past. He’s a time-traveller, I tell you!

        If someone mentions that Kenney said something completely contrary to what he said earlier, he will obfuscate by saying, “You misunderstood…” “You reinterpreted…” “I totally reject your claim…” and the ever popular “This position has since been revisited…you should keep up…”

        It’s all been done before. Mind you, it’s not has impressive as the fireworks that happen when Shandro retorts a question about a position by saying, “That’s insane! You’re insane! Call yourself a journalist? You’re an idiot.” Well, that and standing in driveways and screaming at the offending person.

        And my position remains the same…where Kenney is concerned, cash payment up front is the only option.

    2. Speaking of vaccine access … in 2009 I was redeployed from my regular job to help out in the mass immunization programme for the Pandemic H1N1 influenza that year. There were a few bumps — like Calgary Flames players jumping the queue — but by & large that programme went fairly smoothly.

      The difference then, IMHO, was that the government left the logistics & operation of the clinics 100% in the hands of Public Health to manage. Remember, this all went down in the midst of the formation of Alberta Health Services out of the nine former Regional Health Authorities & three provincial health bodies (Alberta Alcohol & Drug Abuse Commission, Alberta Cancer Board, & Alberta Mental Health Board, for those who don’t recall or weren’t here then). But even with all the uncertainties everyone in the system had to deal with, millions of Albertans get their shots that fall.

      With this pandemic, the Government is sticking its meddling fingers into the process at every step along the way, and so AHS isn’t really in charge — even though there are many staff in AHS Public Health who were in similar roles in ‘09 & have the institutional memory to make this run a whole lot more smoothly. The vaccine programme is heavily politicized, to its detriment.

    1. Yes. Surprisingly, that stunt was used on the campaign in Western Ontario on the Niagara Peninsula. Gimmicks like that play well to the yokels there, but not that time.

  6. To my mind, Albertans should find this to be among the most directly insulting thing Kenney has ever done to them (granted that is a high bar to clear). The elected premier of Alberta is telling the whole world that he believes his constituency is such a bunch of gravel-humping rubes that they won’t get a life-saving medical treatment unless LOTTERY!!1!!! Not a great look…

  7. Dumb and Dumber in action! It was like a skit, with the pair of bozos riffing off one another . It shouldn’t be long before we see this presser parodied on The Beaverton.

  8. Yeah, this lottery is going to cost us a few more million, but I suppose it is better than the $1.3 billion Kenney blew on the Keystone XL Pipeline. He sure likes to gamble with other people’s (ie. our) money, doesn’t he?

    It would also be interesting to see the residency requirements for this lottery. I sure don’t want some guy from Ontario named Jason – who claims to live in his mom’s basement in Calgary, except there are conflicting claims as to whether there is even a basement in that place – win.

    It would also be a good idea to require two doses for all the prizes.

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