Cancun Airport in February 2021 (Photo: Twitter).

If “the Open for Summer Lottery is a once-in-a-lifetime response to a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic,” as Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro put it in a news release about vacation package prizes for Albertans willing to get vaccinated against COVID-19, what does that make Premier Jason Kenney’s $1.3-billion giveaway to TC Energy?

It’s rude of me to ask, I know, but with the United Conservative Party’s frenetic efforts to get its vaccine-hesitant base to sign up for COVID-proofing now approaching self-parody, it’s hard not to wonder aloud about these cascading ironies. 

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney with that well known Cancun enthusiast, Ted Cruz (Photo: Twitter).

Yesterday’s Lotto Vaxx news release, which proclaimed that “Albertans who get fully vaccinated with two doses of an approved COVID-19 vaccine now have a chance to win vacation packages and other travel prizes from WestJet and Air Canada,” seemed to be approaching peak irony.

“This is the perfect opportunity to make some of those travel dreams a reality while encouraging more Albertans to get vaccinated,” Mr. Shandro exclaimed in his canned press-release quote. 

Mr. Shandro’s feel-good sentiment about the benefits of travel was backed up by a vice-president of Calgary-based WestJet, which with Air Canada is providing the travel prizes. “We look forward to stimulating recovery by once again reconnecting Canadians to their friends, family and loved ones from coast to coast,” said Andrew Gibbons in a statement anodyne enough to show WestJet is co-operating with the UCP without actually offending anyone. 

Air Canada government relations director David Rheault’s quote was a little bolder, enthusing about that “long-awaited beach vacation” and “exploring more of what the world offers.”

Not without a government-issued vaccine passport, you won’t! Not, at least, if foreign governments like those in the European Union have been paying attention to the suggestion that one in five vaccine-hesitant Canadians would happily lie about their unvaccinated state if that’s what it took to get them on an airplane out of the country.

But as the spokesperson for the travel insurance association that commissioned the survey observed, no one should be surprised by this when faking negative COVID-19 tests is already becoming a “cottage industry.”

Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

Since principal prizes offered by both airlines are a vacation package for two to Cancun, Mexico, it’s not entirely clear how this is supposed to help the local economy, but then tourism is a give-and-take sort of thing. What’s more, Cancun is supposed to be a favoured vacation spot for Mr. Kenney’s pal Calgary-born Texas Senator Ted Cruz! Plus, with COVID-19’s Delta variant doing the rounds, there may be an opportunity for local hotels to pick up some additional quarantine business when the lucky prize-winners return to Wild Rose Country. 

As it happens, many Albertans’ travel dreams seem to involve getting the hell out of the province and not coming back. This is particularly true of physicians if disturbing reports from Lethbridge and environs are anything to go by. Sample headline: “Doctor shortage becoming health care crisis in Southern Alberta.” 

To be fair, I’m sure Mr. Shandro and his boss have other, better explanations for this exodus of doctors. Like, say, summer vacations. 

Doug Schweitzer, Alberta’s minister of jobs, economy and innovation, whatever that’s supposed to mean (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

Getting back to the government’s vacation-prize news release, it quoted Doug Schweitzer, the minister of jobs, economy and innovation – a portfolio that has no clear job description – chirping that “with partners like WestJet and Air Canada, we’re ready to kick-start tourism in Alberta and start welcoming travellers from around the globe.”

If you think about where most of Alberta’s tourists are likely to come from, that may or may not be the comfort Mr. Schweitzer apparently intended. 

As for that $1.3 billion, how much of it has left Canada is not entirely clear and may never be. TC Energy is theoretically a Canadian company, based in Calgary, but it casts a big shadow south of the 49th Parallel.

Perhaps some of the cash found its way into the company’s efforts to help South Dakota’s state government trample on the First Amendment free speech rights of Americans inclined to protest against pipelines like the doomed Keystone XL project on which premier Kenney bet so heavily and lost so much. 

A once-in-a-lifetime chance for a foreign government to interfere in U.S. politics for a once-in-a-lifetime pipeline project, you might say. Mr. Kenney should probably be grateful that all President Joseph Biden did was pull the plug on the project. 

Join the Conversation


  1. I am seeing shades of Ralph Klein here, with the UCP government. Bribing voters with their own money, and also wasting money on the most pricey shenanigans, and acting like nothing went wrong. Two bad gambles the UCP has done, among many. One is with their assessment of how bad the Covid-19 situation really is, and the second is from the Keystone XL pipeline. The other question also is still lingering. Where did the money from the $6 billion in loan guarantees go off to? Albertans were sold a bunch of empty promises by the UCP, which turned out to be lies, and we are all paying the price for this. Why didn’t Albertans pay attention to those of us who said the UCP wasn’t any good from the outset?

    1. Recently, Pembina and TC Energy announced a significant investment in carbon-sequestering infrastructure. I don’t think you have to take a long giant leap to guess who’s paying for that one.

  2. The Alberta exodus becomes real when people you know start moving to the promised land — B.C. — thanks to Jason and his Golden Fleece. They’re not sticking around for a chance to win prizes in his lottery, either. Maybe that was the point of all this: stem the flow of human capital until after the third quarter of the year. Apparently the *Best Summer Ever* means moving to B.C.

    1. It’s already happening. There’s a significant exodus from Alberta right now to Ontario (Ottawa and Hamilton) as well as Quebec. (Alberta are not scared of French anymore.) And of course, BC and Atlantic Canada, which has always been the Promised Lands.

      Kenney boasts about Alberta having the youngest population. Not much longer.

    2. And we will welcome you, one and all! Just one favour though: once you get settled in, please don’t continue your habit of voting for right wing nut job politicians, otherwise BC will suffer the same fate as that of Alberta!

  3. Mr. Kenney, as we know from his various past COVID spending announcements has quite the political talent for making a little momentarily appear like a lot. So of course, he will add in a trip or two and some lucky person (or two) will indeed get to go somewhere.

    Although, with COVID still being a worldwide issue regardless of what the rules or the situation is here, be prepared to deal with hotel quarantines and various restrictions elsewhere (and when you come back) depending on where you want to go. I suppose for Air Canada and Westjet this amounts to essentially a bit of free advertising and if the Government of Alberta wants to pay for a seat or two on a flight for someone, heck they are sure not going to mind.

    I have to wonder if the doctor shortage will become more severe in the next year or two. I suspect many people have hunkered down in jobs they are not happy with, due to COVID. As things improve, expect more movement. Also, if COVID does recede, I suspect the UCP and Kenney will resume taking the axe to AHS, which they reluctantly paused due to COVID. If this shortage is already being felt in a city like Lethbridge, I suspect things will be similar in Edmonton and Calgary. After all, the grievances doctors have with Shandro, Kenney and the UCP’s approaches to health care are province wide. I suspect it will be a bit better year to find a doctor in BC or perhaps even Manitoba as doctors here continue to vote with their feet.

  4. Anyone else reminded of Mr. Burns trying to get the union members to trade their dental plan for a keg of beer? Like Monty, Kenney isn’t even bothering to hide his contempt for Albertans at this point. He keeps revealing that he thinks his constituency is a bunch of know-nothing rubes. Not sure why anybody who doesn’t financially benefit from his misrule would support him at this point. Also not sure why anybody ever thought this guy was good at politics.

  5. CONs sure love Mexico, though they can’t stand Mexicans. I never understood this weird trait, but I suppose it’s another one to add to the list, as well as being closet cases, that CONs have to bear.

    I can imagine the next Beaverton headline about Alberta … UCP Government Makes Escaping Alberta That Much Easier. Get the Jab; Win Your Freedom.

    Kenney’s desperation to open the Calgary Stampede is proving to be more bizarre with every passing day. I am certain that there will be offers of free pick-up trucks (blue ones, of course) to all the vaccine-hesistant who accept the jab.

    Considering Kenney’s declaration (which he will likely edit later) concerning the inevitability of further waves of the pandemic (sometime around Oct 21st) doesn’t provide much hope that the effort will be successful. There may be not enough free goodies in the world to suit Kenney’s dreams.

    And it’s likely PMJT, who is a regular visitor to the Stampede, may skip it this year. This will give Kenney a stage upon which to declare victory over Trudeau and announce himself as the only worthy successor. (I’m guessing O’Toole may be out of the loop on this one.)

    Meanwhile, my massive supply of snacks is getting thin.

  6. I dont much like governments offering incentives for behaviour. It just reeks of bigger government to me.

    That said, in a situation where you have socialized healthcare. So society pays for the poor decisions of individuals.

    And large government unions, which can dictate to their political allies that they wont work and want to get paid anyways and have the propaganda avenues to make it so…

    Well I can see why a government that wants to govern for the whole of the population might just make a lottery up so the progress to a more normal environment is expedited.

    And I use normal in the most liberal sense.

    1. BRET LARSON: Ralph Klein wanted private for profit healthcare in Alberta. That is why he severely neglected hospitals in Alberta, by not looking after them, and laying off thousands of nurses. The UCP wants to finish what Ralph Klein started. Who would benefit here?

    2. Hey Brett,

      Having public healthcare means society pays for poor decisions of individuals?

      So, the reason we have cancer patients is because of their own poor decision. That is the most idiotic thing I have ever heard from any RWNJ.

      You are demonstrating to everyone who reads David’s blog that Conservatism is an ideology of selfishness that is at its core anti-social.

      1. What makes you think Im conservative? Your neat little world of left and right doesnt actually exist.

        And of course, your straw man argument is as illusory as your comfortable universe.

  7. So can those of us have gotten both shots register for these draws? Does anyone know ?

    1. Sadly enough, you don’t need to get any vaccinations in order to register for the draws, only to claim the prize if you win. Search for “AHS vaccination lottery” and you’ll find a link to the entry form. If rationality ruled then this whole enterprise would result in only 43 more “possible” vaccinations. Considering how the Kenney government has performed so far, spending about 4 million dollars for 43 vaccinations sound just about right…

    2. You go to the website and apply. If you win you have to prove your vaccination status, one or both as only one entry is allowed.

      Maybe there should be another lotto for boosters and boosters of the boosters. We need government to have a compliant customer base for the drug companies they are bank rolling.

  8. Three 3 million dollar prizes. For motivation to get the jab wouldn’t more smaller prizes be better? Say $10,000.00. You would have 300 prizes thereby having more winners, probably leading to more jabs. Better yet $1000.00 resulting in 3000 prizes. $1000.00 is enough incentive for most people , if they don’t want to get vaccinated for $1000.00 they won’t for a $1,000,000.00 considering the odds.

    To my reasoning, considering who the UCP are, the FIX is in. They will choose the winners from a pool of UCP sycophants, the rest of us have no chance. Another day at the office, another GRIFT.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.