Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and Health Minister Tyler Shandro, both grinning, confirm what Albertans already knew – we’ll be reopening in time for the Calgary Stampede (Photo: Chris Schwarz, Government of Alberta).

Never mind the obvious risk or his expensive and expansive record of bad bets, Jason Kenney rolled the dice again yesterday on Alberta’s pandemic reopening.

Delta variant or no variant, Alberta will be pulling the plug on almost all COVID-19 restrictions on July 1, Mr. Kenney confirmed yesterday – you can’t really call it an announcement because everyone’s known for days exactly what he planned to do. 

Premier Kenney at yesterday’s news conference (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

What else he may be pulling the plug on remains to be seen.

“This is a happy day for Alberta,” a grinning Mr. Kenney declared at an outdoor early afternoon news conference at a scenic spot overlooking the North Saskatchewan River and downtown Edmonton. “And that means, on July the first, on Canada Day, Alberta’s public health measures will be lifted and our lives will get back to normal.”

“The end of this terrible time is just two weeks away,” the premier exclaimed. “It’s hard to believe, but it’s true!”

He all but said “Mission Accomplished,” as in George W. Bush’s famously premature announcement of victory in Iraq – “we did it! you did it!” – and he promised that “the sun is rising in Alberta, this is our time,” channelling another American Republican president, Ronald Reagan.

Notwithstanding those cynics who think the timing of the reopening is probably more related to the July 9 opening of the Calgary Stampede, the traditional climax of the Conservative fund-raising season in Cowtown, the reason was said by the premier and Health Minister Tyler Shandro to be the fact Alberta reached a 70.2-per-cent vaccination rate on Thursday. 

Albertans have been hearing fund-raiser style announcements all week that the number was creeping closer to that threshold, which the premier has promised repeatedly will open the door to the best Alberta summer ever. 

Never mind that figure refers to first vaccinations only, or that outside the big cities the rate is as low as 40 per cent in some regions, and under 30 per cent in some communities according to the government’s own statistics. 

Health Minister Tyler Shandro at the same event (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

And never mind that the highly contagious Delta variant that has been ripping through the British population prompted that country’s Conservative government to extend its lockdown for another month. 

Mr. Kenney’s got answers for that: It’s your responsibility. And if you’d be more comfortable with a more cautious approach, you’re probably one of those NDPers who would like society to be locked down forever. 

“I know there has been lots of attention paid to two unfortunate deaths in Calgary hospitals, people who had been vaccinated and had contracted the Delta variant,” he told the news conference. “These were both individuals in their 80s, with multiple co-morbidities, both of whom were in hospital before contracting COVID.”

 “Very frail, immunocompromised people with multiple co-morbidities are going to continue to be vulnerable to any disease like this,” he said.

“The virus will circulate. Variants will emerge. The most contagious variants will become over time the dominant variants. People will get infected. Some people will get sick. Regrettably, a few people likely will pass away, as has been the case forever with the flu, with influenza.”

Former President George Bush aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln on May 1, 2003 (Photo: Associated Press).

The CBC quoted University of Alberta medicine professor emeritus Noel Gibney, co-chair of the Edmonton Zone Medical Staff Association’s Pandemic Response Committee, warning the government to expect conditions that could lead to a fourth wave and advising preparation for a return to COVID-19 restrictions. 

Dr. Gibney said the Alberta reopening plan was drafted before the highly infectious Delta variant was prevalent and doesn’t account for the danger it presents. “We’re going to see an increase in cases,” he predicted.

Naw, said the premier, accusing a reporter of irresponsibly “spreading fear” by asking about it. 

“I guarantee you, though, the promoters of fear will have lots of variants to come in the future,” he said. 

Well, if we Albertans have learned anything after two years with Mr. Kenney in the province’s top political job, it’s that the man’s a gambler. A chronic gambler, some might even say. 

He may not waste his time in casinos – why bother when you have literally billions of dollars to place on exciting bets with pretty good odds like who’s going to win the U.S. election?

Like that bet – which ended up costing Albertans $1.3 billion, and maybe more when the dust has finally settled – the odds aren’t completely terrible for Mr. Kenney’s reopening gamble. The science on COVID-19 and the impact of the vaccines now flowing into the country thanks to the federal government suggest he could win. 

This time, though, lives are at stake, so most politicians wouldn’t take the risk – and most Canadian provinces will wait until late summer or fall to reopen. 

But not Mr. Kenney. He wants to be first. As the Shrek movie meme that’s now a staple of social media political commentary in Alberta constantly reminds us: Some of you may die, but it’s a sacrifice I am willing to make.

Join the Conversation


  1. It has been said that pride cometh before a fall. The head honcho of Alberta isn’t using proverbial wisdom or common sense here. He is being cocky, complacent and quite foolish with his reopening plan. And once again, Albertans will end up paying for this. Things will get worse before July has even ended. As usual, he will be blaming someone else, for why things went awry. Come to think of it, the leader of Alberta never did use any common sense. His costly gambles with Covid-19, have been failures, so often. So were his financial gambles. We still haven’t got a clue as to what happened with the $6 billion in loan guarantees from the Keystone XL pipeline. This hearkens back to the days of Ralph Klein. Ralph Klein told Albertans the things he thought they wanted to hear, and many Albertans, fell for these lies. Also, Ralph Klein was good at throwing Alberta’s money away on so many very bad gambles. Ralph Klein then would then act like he did nothing wrong, or he would find someone else to blame. Here it is, all over again, with the UCP. Watch things take a downward spiral in Alberta. It certainly will be interesting to see how the UCP deals with things, a month from now, as well as further on down the road. Had Albertans listened to those of us who said the UCP weren’t good at the outset, things would surely be different right now. Alas, Albertans are stuck with the UCP nightmare until 2023.

  2. “Some of you may die, but it’s a sacrifice I am willing to make.”

    This brings to mind another famous quote, this one from Yogi Berra: ‘Nobody goes to that restaurant anymore – its too crowded.’

    I have felt comfortable going into retail stores lately, assured that capacity restrictions make it safe. After July 1 I will be considerably more reluctant.

    At least the government is being honest with their slogan ‘Open for Summer’ – it makes no promises for after that.

  3. There will be a fourth wave in late summer/early September guaranteed.

    One General Strike lasting 10-14 days would rid us of this sociopath. Until that happens we die as we wait for the next provincial elections. Two more years of this…

    1. On the contrary, a general strike would be just the shot in the arm (no pun intended) that Jason Kenney needs. It would be his Reagan-and-the-air-controllers’ moment.

      1. Tom,

        So, don’t stand up for your rights, because it might upset the oppressor? That sounds like Neville Chamberlain.

        Democracy is people not one sociopath.

  4. Ian and Sylvia said it best in “Four Strong Winds”:

    “But our good times are all gone
    And I’m bound for moving on
    I’ll look for you if I’m ever back this way.”

  5. Anyone who thought that The Grand Reopening wouldn’t happen right away (whether the magical 70% mark was reached or not) was severely delusional. This was Premier Randy’s plan, come hell or high water.

    No sign of the completely useless puppet Hinshaw either. It’s radio silence from our so-called chief medical officer of health.

    Shandro is looking very tanned and bloated, so I see the pandemic has been good to him.

    Seeing those smiling disgusting faces makes me want to dip into some budget liquor. I think I have a bottle of Jamesons around the house somewhere….

  6. This time Kenney might win the gamble as Albertans know him better and the impact of Covid19 virus better. People would become more cautious by following the advised practice of keeping distance, wearing masks, and washing hands more often. If the opening for summer works, Kenney will take all the credits. If it does not, Kenney would say that he has warned people. Eventually, he can claim that his great leadership brings an unparalleled win for all Albertans.

  7. Yeah, not a word about yesterday’s decision to stop the Grassy Mtn mine. Yes there were the required dutiful posting that the decision was made.
    But not a peep about Sonia Savage or Jason Nixon or the UCP caucus. The decision slammed the proponents environmental and operational preparations as juvenile and farcical; Benga Mining acted as if it was participating in a self-made fantasy.
    Nixon, Savage et al have much to account for. They were the main enablers of this farce, making direct promises of fantastic riches and insignificant regulations to foreign shareholders while secretly changing laws and approving projects here at home.

    Yes there is lots to talk about today. Agreed.
    But just because the carny barker is shouting about something “over there!” is no reason to be unaware or quiet about the whole circus. There are plenty of clowns and spectacles in this circus.
    And we should examine every one of them.

  8. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, throwing things wide open using the eligible over 12 year-old population as the yardstick for 70% first dose coverage neglects the children. And where did 70% come from, anyway?

    Alberta has only vaccinated 60.1% of the overall population with a first dose.

    By comparison, Nova Scotia sits at 69.1%, just 6% shy of the 75% overall population coverage that was talked about here from before vaccinations even began. That was the minimum for so-called herd immunity, we were advised. That requires 85% coverage of the currently eligible.

    kenney has some sociopathic chutzpah: “The virus will circulate. Variants will emerge. The most contagious variants will become over time the dominant variants. People will get infected. Some people will get sick. Regrettably, a few people likely will pass away, as has been the case forever with the flu, with influenza.”

    Well, that’s all right then. Just so long as his precious jolly fat hide doesn’t fall victim.

  9. We’ve been here before.

    Twice already, there have been attempts for a complete lifting of all restrictions (and maybe one attempt to abortive attempt last summer) and each time the province has had to turn tail and run. Well, Premier Crying & Screaming Midget turned and ran. And each time, Kenney has drawn the anger of his base and opposition in equal amounts, threatening his downfall and an end to his campaign for the PMO.

    So, here we are, again. This time with more optimism, and with lotteries and prizes to boot, Alberta is opening before all the other provinces (according to Kenney) and COVID-19 has been declared dead for all time.

    Well, not for the 30% who are vaccine-hesistant, who may die, but that seems to be a sacrifice that Kenney is prepared to make. “Personal Responsibility” has reared its ugly head again. So let the deferred carnage begin. Come the fall, Kenney will puff up his chest and announce, “I told you so.” as the body count rises. Considering that Kenney coddled and groomed anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers for so long, it’s not like he’s going to take any responsibility for the coming disaster.

    So, happy days are here again. Oil prices are rising and Alberta is going to party like it’s 1978, again. Mullets and bell-bottoms are optional, maybe.

    Come Canada Day, we’ll see if Kenney has the ginormous ego to declare it “Alberta Independence Day”. Maybe he’ll paraphrase President Thomas J. Whitmore’s icon speech from that movie. And, very likely, at the Calgary, where PMJT is likely to skip because he’s practising Personal Responsibility, Kenney will declare Trudeau a coward, anti-Albertan, and every other complaint that spews from his great big brain. This is Kenney’s stage, and he’s in full Captain Canada mode.

    The PMO awaits. Get the step stools and the lifts ready.

    1. I’m not sure if you recall but about 20 years ago there was some twit that used to march down Jasper and Whyte Aves, in full maple leaf regalia complete with flag, screaming at the top of his lungs that “GOD HATES FAGS”, complete with fire and brimstone predictions of what will happen to those unfortunate souls in the afterlife. He was known at the time as “Captain Canada” and everyone laughed at him. Now I’m not necessarily comparing Premier Randy to Captain Canada but I would predict on a national stage that Premier Randy is probably as electable as the clown that used to shout out obscenities on Edmonton street corners. Just sayin’…..

      1. I recall that character. I had a brief run-in with him. His endless yelling and chanting was getting on my nerves and asked him to quiet down (He was really loud) and he threw into a rage. I mean a screaming, foaming at the mouth kind of rage. All wild bodily contortions, the speaking in tongues…it was the whole nine yards of full-on exorcism crazy. It was quite the scene, remember. And not once did I have to consult the ‘Roman Ritual’ to make it happen; just my charming personality at work.

        I believe I may have driven him into a seizure, but that’s okay. He disappeared from the scene soon after, so I presume I had a hand in the destruction of Captain Canada.

  10. Our Mr. Kenney has certainly been consistent in his behaviour – eager to open things up sooner than may be prudent and reluctant to shut them down in the face of evidence. It is as if he had learned nothing and forgotten nothing in dealing with COVID. I suspect the biggest motivation for him is the future of his political career which may be hanging by a thread. He does not want to further upset or alienate the right wing of his own party, although I suspect they have already come to their conclusions about him and they are not favourable, so I am not sure he can stop a leadership review or change movement at this point. In any event, once again politics trumps science in the Kenney UCP government – Alberta is the fastest province to reopen.

    I might imagine Kenney driving along happily in the big blue truck singing “Happy days are here again”, although I believe that truck was leased so he no longer has it. Like much of the UCP faux populist hall of mirrors, little is as they try to make it seem. More likely, he is driving along in a European car, singing along to Ethel Merman show tunes – perhaps “Everythings Coming Up Roses”. At least he can go out on the Sky Palace patio without breaking his own rules, although I wouldn’t be surprised if soon he finds different ones to break.

  11. It looks like the absence of Deena Hinshaw at the announcement of the latest “triumph” is that she’s completely worn out after having to deal with Covid and the Kenney crowd for the last 16 months and that she’s given up being the representative of reason. Unfortunately for she, when the shit hits the fan with the rapid increase of the Delta variant in a couple of weeks, Kenney and Shandro will be nowhere to be seen but will expect her to deliver the bad news.

    1. Many will recall how enthusiastic Albertans were with the early Covid announcements from Dr. Hinshaw. She was lauded heartily, but gradually the bloom fell off that rose.

      it was never more apparent that when the former CMOH, experienced doctors and others pointed out that she had more executive power than these UCP hacks (“premier” and his useless sidekick Shandy). The fact remains that she let them lead the way and now we are staring straight at a potential fourth wave.

      I suspect that the good doctor taking a week off, before her kids are out of school, is reason to believe that she is now overwhelmed with the potentially dire consequences, of not enforcing well grounded restrictions sooner.

  12. I feel the need to offer solace to any who have been upset and regret for those who have actually died, so I guess I should offer Premier Jason “Tubby the Tuba” Kenney, a song with my apologies, because it’s in his register.

  13. Pretty safe gamble, start of summer and school is out we saw what happened last year when cases went way down in the summer. Variants may be more contagious but if the spike protein remains the same the therapies given should provide some protection. 70 percent of the population has one shot 25 both, throw in some natural immunity from those who have recovered and we have to be pretty close to herd immunity. The WHO has changed the definition of herd immunity back to include natural immunity so we are allowed to include those numbers again.

  14. I think it’s time for those that lost a loved one to covid start suing these phony conservatives each for putting our lives at risk, especially the ones who deliberately urged the businesses to ignore the rules. Sadly rural Albertans who blindly supported them are to blame and you would think they would be smarter. There was no question that the number of covid cases skyrocketed because of them. My son was one of them.

    After watching these clowns whine and complain about what Notley was spending to try to fix the mess she inherited, Kenney has made her look rather normal . Creating a far worse mess, while he tried to blame it all on Ottawa.

    The big question is how much of our money has he funneled into the pockets of his reform party fiends with his Expert Panels. All Preston Manning and Stephen Harper had to do was repeat the lie Kenney was already using “We don’t have a revenue problem, only a spending problem” Yet he has no problem slashing billions off corporate taxes to try to buy votes and cutting teaching jobs and health care jobs to make up for his revenue cutting stupidity. Where is the intelligence in that?

  15. It took a couple of days for the thought to sink in, but I think what really bothered me about Jason Kenney’s announcement was the way he seemed to be encouraging people to go out and engage in risky behaviour. Its one thing to announce the lifting of restrictions, and perhaps ask people to proceed cautiously, but the tone he used seemed to invite people to throw all caution to the wind.

  16. It’s easy to gamble with other (“the”) people’s money, you just gotta know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ‘em, know when to walk away, and know when to run. But Jason Kenney Rodgers has flopped way beyond his raising and couldn’t even get a river to flush if he tried —except with Albertans‘ money, he’s all-in.

    It’s a sure bet he’s also all-in with Albertans’ lives, too. And if it don’t pan out, he’ll just excuse the bust by saying he was Delta lousy hand.

    Jason, Jason, Jason! You never count your bodies when you’re sitting at the Sky Palace table: those aren’t pennies you’re anteing-up with: those are 80 year-olds who probably account for a large share of your party’s poke.

    And the K-Boy couldn’t bluff if his own life depended on it—unless it’s that Head-Smashed-In Bluff southern Alberta’s famous for. I can hear his parents rooting him on out of the cellar: “Bye Son!”

    But the Covid slots WILL be open at all the best Alberta Casinos—the Tar Sands, the KXL Grand, Albertabadlandins, and of course, Sneezer’s Palace (just wait till Hallowe’en: doctors say there’s gonna be a helluva masquerade party, too!)

    But here’s the guy who just can’t lose. There’s just no way his federal CPC lost in 2015 and 2019—not when it nearly swept the “Spare Cloth Provinces.” Remember: Obama called Harper’s bet and Biden called Kenney’s. (The CPC never recovered its record high popularity of that heady majority hand —and don’t forget they cheated to get it.)

    But K-Boy’s never lost an election (don’t forget he had a few cards up his sleeve to mop up his opponents with—learned that in Ottawa and rode Rose Bud all the way to the Wild Rose province with a Golden Horseshoe up his rose bud), and he’s sure betting heavy on that record. In fer a clock-cleaning, I’d say.

    So, Jason: I’ve made a living outta reading people’s faces. If you don’t mind me saying, I can see you’re out of Aces. Hope you don’t mind if I pass on your last swallow of Jameson’s. Share it with your stampede buddies. That’s an Ace that you can keep.

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