Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro at yesterday’s news conference (Photo: Screenshot of Alberta Government video).

Albertans are dying, yet the Kenney Government is paralyzed, a deer caught in the headlights.

Alberta is in crisis. Hammered by the fourth wave of the pandemic, our health care system appears to be on the verge of collapse. All elective surgeries in Calgary have been cancelled. The province leads the country with new and active cases of COVID-19. We have become the Typhoid Larry of Confederation.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney at his July news conference where he announced Alberta was open for summer, and “open for good” (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

Albertans are desperate for leadership. But the leader is missing in action.

Premier Jason Kenney, who declared the pandemic over in July and promised Albertans the Best Summer Ever, is nowhere to be seen for the second time in a month. 

So when the going gets tough, Mr. Kenney – who likes to pass himself off as a Canadian Winston Churchill – apparently gets going, but to an undisclosed location. Not quite what Mr. Churchill did, readers will recall, during the London Blitz. 

Yesterday afternoon’s news conference, presided over by Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Chief Medical Officer of Health Deena Hinshaw, should have been the moment when Albertans learned what our government’s plan was to get us through this chaotic disaster.

But within seconds of the update’s 3 p.m. start, it was evident there is no plan. There will be no decisive response to a crisis that is bringing the province’s hospitals to their knees.

Oh, there were some announcements. Alberta will kick some patients out of acute-care hospital beds to make room for others sick with COVID-19, a majority of them vaccine dodgers. 

The patients discharged early will be taken care of at home or in continuing care facilities, Mr. Shandro said – hardly reassuring if you’re a family member who will have to replace qualified health care workers, or if you’ve paid attention to the role of continuing care facilities throughout this pandemic. 

Chief Medical Officer of Health Deena Hinshaw (Photo: Screenshot of Alberta Government video).

Mr. Shandro also announced what sounds like a half-baked plan to recruit and train new health care and home care aides, to be paid minimal wages by private sector service providers. The province will devote $36-million to what sounded like a back-of-the-napkin scheme.

After that, Mr. Shandro, desperate to avoid giving any answer to repeated questions by media about what the government plans to do to control the vaccine refuseniks who are powering the Delta-variant-driven fourth wave, babbled incoherently.

Consider the final minutes of the exchange between Postmedia columnist Rick Bell and Mr. Shandro.

Mr. Bell: “… Some people want to know about government mandated vaccine passports, some people want to know about closing businesses. Are they on the table or off the table? Thank you.”

Mr. Shandro: “Well, uh, Rick, I think the question, or both those questions, was, ‘How certain can we be of the future?’ And, and, people are expecting certainty, and they want certainty now, they want us to commit to and answer to a particular question, and you had a couple there, and why can’t we say the, the future is definitely, one hundred per cent, going to be one way or the other. And I know that’s been a question that I’ve received, many times over the last 18 months, but it’s also a question that people throughout the world have had of their governments. They’ve wanted to know, you said this was going to happen this way, and it didn’t, uuuum, and it’s been because this is a pandemic that quickly changes, and government responses have to quickly change, and I know that that’s frustrating because you want 100-per-cent definite answers to, um, to the questions, um, and the future of the pandemic continues to change, um, so that means that it’s difficult for us to say 100 per cent we know that th- th- the answer for the next, uhhh, X amount of time is going to be one way or the other …”

University of Calgary law professor Lorian Hardcastle (Photo: Twitter).

Enough already! There was never a clear answer. 

For patient readers who wish to listen to the minister’s entire, excruciating response to Mr. Bell’s simple questions, the exchange begins at 40.30 minutes into the YouTube recording of the news conference and ends at 47.53.

Alas, vaccine refuseniks are the heart of the United Conservative Party’s base, and a significant part of its Legislative Caucus. In other words, they are driving the train. 

Dr. Hinshaw spun a comprehensive defence of her recommendations, which led to the premature reopening that set the stage for the fourth wave now overrunning our hospitals. Please, she told her astonished audience … “Kindness matters.” 

“A summary of the press conference,tweeted University of Calgary law professor Lorian Hardcastle soon thereafter: “Shandro serves up an incoherent word salad and fails to directly answer any questions. Hinshaw tries to justify her past mistakes and wants people to be respectful. No one is going to do anything. Hopefully not too many people die.”

All the essentials in 40 words. 

Alberta Union of Provincial Employees Vice-President Mike Dempsey (Photo: Facebook/Mike Dempsey).

The Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, in a plain-spoken news release, called the news conference laughable late yesterday. This would be true, were the circumstances not so catastrophic. 

“Albertans expected the government to offer a serious response to the surging fourth wave,” the union’s release said. “Instead, Minister Shandro announced a band-aid solution and Premier Kenney did not even show up.”

AUPE Vice-President Mike Dempsey dismissed the news conference as “an embarrassing exercise in deflecting attention away from Premier Kenney’s decision to plunge Alberta into COVID chaos and his refusal to take responsibility for doing so.” 

“We are drowning in the Delta variant’s fourth wave and Kenney doesn’t even have the courage to address Albertans, and hasn’t for a whole week,” Mr. Dempsey said.

This seems fair. 

Join the Conversation


  1. It just gets worse and worse with these pretend conservatives and Reformers in Alberta. No end in sight to the lows they sink to, and their abandoning Alberta when there is a crisis with Covid-19. Is this what we want at the federal level, with Erin O’Toole? What’s even more appalling is how people in Postmedia newspapers, from The Edmonton Journal, The Calgary Herald, The Edmonton and Calgary Sun, and The National Post defend the UCP, and think Ralph Klein style austerity measures are the way forward, and that private for profit, American style healthcare is the way to go. They also believe the lies Ralph Klein was telling them, when he claimed that Ottawa and other provinces in the East were taking Alberta’s money away, when it wasn’t that way at all. When these pretend Conservatives, like Ralph Klein didn’t get the proper oil royalty rates that Peter Lougheed was getting, forsaking $575 billion, were negligent in ensuring that oil companies promptly rectified their messes, leaving Albertans on the hook for $260 billion for this, didn’t collect proper corporate taxes, losing Alberta $150 billion, and did the priciest shenanigans so often, this certainly didn’t leave Alberta with anything. This led to the layoffs of nurses and teachers in the province of Alberta. The UCP had hired Janice MacKinnon, for their Blue Ribbon Panel. She was a former Liberal and NDP MLA, from Saskatchewan, who closed rural hospitals there, because the Roy Romanow government had to fix the huge financial disaster caused by Grant Devine’s PC government. They were following in Ralph Klein’s footsteps of austerity. The UCP picked her and this is because the UCP wants private for profit healthcare in Alberta, like Ralph Klein wanted to have. These people have been duped by these pretend conservatives and Reformers and we are not any better of in Alberta because of that. What these people have wished for they now have, in Alberta, and if Erin O’Toole gets into power at the federal level, it will be even worse. Is there any sense in this?!

    1. What we are seeing in Alberta with the pandemic gives us a pretty good idea what Canada might have looked like right now had Harper and the CPC won another majority in 2015 and continued in power after 2019. Kenney’s policies are parallel to Harper’s but I suspect SH might have more political savvy. It doesn’t give me confidence in O’Toole when Harper and Kenney are some of the people advising him. As for Post Media, they have been openly campaigning on the behalf of the CPC. I hear all about their rhetoric from my neighbour whose bible is the National Post, about what a dictator Trudeau is and how we are losing democracy in this country. As a life long BCer with family connections to Alberta, I take no pleasure in watching the demise of your province despite the rivalry between us. We are all Canadians. I also definitely don’t want what’s happening in Alberta to happen in the rest of Canada.

      p.s. David, if you will allow me, I’d like to follow up on RonMac defending the UCP’s rodeo exemptions by quoting “independent journalist” Michael Tracey in your Sept 5 post. RonMac, here is a tweet yesterday from Mr. Tracey regarding Biden’s new policy for vaccinations in the workplace. “Hope we can all agree that Dems would’ve reacted totally calmly and rationally if Trump tried to unilaterally coerce millions of unwilling adults (disproportionately POC) to submit to the injection he pioneered.” A Trump ass kisser through and through.

  2. The government’s embarrassing and shameful news conference serves to underscore the simple fact that, when it comes to matters of significant importance to Albertans, we are ruled by a tyranny of the minority — the anti-vax, anti-masker, and mostly rural UCP base. This news conference demonstrates just how craven and fearful the Kenney/UCP government is of its minority base. So fearful are they and desirous of remaining in power that Kenney and the UCP are willing to sacrifice the health of Albertans and cause unnecessary suffering and death to pander to that base.

    While Albertans want to return to normal and be free (at least as free as possible) from the threat of Covid, most Albertans recognize that this cannot be accomplished without strong leadership that is willing to make evidence and science-based decisions free of ideological constraints. This includes government mandates for vaccine passports and masking. Instead, we get a desperate Shandro fulsomely praising reporter’s questions as “excellent” or “fantastic” before giving evasive, incomprehensible, and meandering non-answers. One of the CBCs reporter’s follow up question at 34:50 was pretty funny: “another good question for you…” When normally respectful reporters take a sarcastic swipe at the minister during the presser, you have to wonder about their level of frustration the non-answers were creating or depths to which regard and respect for Shandro has sank, as if it could go any lower.

    Rick Bell, a Sun columnist and one-time favorite of the Kenney government, was like a dog with a bone. He pressed multiple times for an answer to the question whether vaccine passports and business closures were on or off the table. Shandro did not have the courage to say either the truth, which we must by now infer is that they are off the table, or shade the truth and say nothing is off the table.

    The measures proposed during this news conference to keep Albertan’s safe and to get out of this mess were both laughable and weak. Among them was Shandro’s and the government’s advice, in response to Bill Fortier’s questions at 29 minutes into the news conference, for the unvaccinated to take voluntary measures not to put others and themselves at risk, as if that advice is going to get some of these poor folks who have been caught up in the misinformation bubble to change their behavior or get vaccinated. Other measures including giving people the “power/freedom” to voluntarily show their vaccination status via some QR code or vaccination card or downloading onto businesses the ability to choose to require proof of vaccination status.

    Regarding the downloading of responsibility to individual business to require proof of vaccination status or not, this is just the same kind of abdication of responsibility that Adriana LaGrange downloaded onto the school boards — it is not the government’s decision to require masks in school settings: it is the local school boards. This is just a feeble attempt to deflect anger any anger that the base might feel regarding sensible Covid mitigation measures away from the government. Most people, I hope will see through this, and have long memories about the government’s incompetent and ideologically driven responses to the pandemic.

    As for Deena Hinshaw’s responses, I used to feel some sympathy for her, but she has used that up. She needs to resign to preserve whatever shreds of her credibility are left.

    Finally, I wonder about the timing of this news conference — just before the federal election English language debate. That ensured that this dumpster fire of a presser did not get the national coverage it deserved, which might have served to strengthen the link between the UCP and the CPC.

  3. A couple of weeks ago a commenter posed the rhetorical question, how bad can it be? Since then, we have seen the government come up with $100 bribes for the unvaccinated, then yesterday the announcement that the government would be moving non-Covid patients out of hospitals.

    Whenever the government has imposed restrictions, they have justified it by saying it was necessary to prevent the health system from collapsing. Yesterday’s announcement really feels like, rather than fighting until the health system collapses, they are simply surrendering it to the unvaccinated.

    I can’t imagine what it must be like to be a healthcare worker right now. Before yesterday’s announcement we were hearing about how demoralized healthcare workers were feeling, as they took abuse from Covid deniers as they walked into the hospital to help truly needy people. Now the needy people are being removed, and replaced with people who had been hurling abuse at our health-care heroes, until they discovered that Covid is not a hoax.

  4. Yes this was absolutely a show stopper.
    Little Shandro suddenly cared so much about the long term care centers and Deena Hinshaw about pregnant women. Just 3 weeks ago they were all celebrating the end of the pandemic and announcing that this is now a regular respiratory virus just like influenza and we no longer need contact tracing, no masks, no physical distancing and the most amazing one – no need to isolate. It was going to be the best Summer Ever.
    The irresponsibility of all of this alone should be enough to take these people to court. Here they are running our province and somehow our unions and their leaders and others with others that can do so, cannot manage to organize a protest that will take people to the streets to show these idiots that we need something better than this.
    It is astonishing to me that we all seem paralyzed in face of a crisis. Imagine what would happen if the crisis included lack of food or water and the regular services we all enjoy daily.

  5. They have abandoned us. Yesterday they walked away from their duty, turned their backs and continued collecting their generous salaries.

    What a horrific display of their callous disregard for the people they are supposed to represent. They are losers, not leaders. They have forsaken the children. They have foresaken all of us. (In case you missed it, Dr. Hinshaw pointed out that no fully vaccinated person under the age of 60 has died. So fully vaccinated people over 60 have died? t seems that 60 is the new age at which Albertans are disposable. I would like to point out that the premier of this province is perilously close to that age himself.)

  6. Kenney has other, more important issues than covid, to concern himself with.

    Top of mind for him has to be the Nov19 UCP Annual General Meeting. Not just the meeting, but the constituency AGMs leading up to it and the back room rooming running up to the meeting and during the meeting.

    One of the biggest thorns will be vaccine passports. I believe that Alberta will get them. They will of course be called something else. If they are released prior to the AGM there will be fireworks at that meeting. Kenney and Shandro are well aware of that.

    1. Interesting point about the AGM, Brett. I went on the UCP website to see if it was in person or virtual. Not only is it in person, under the FAQ section they said there will be no virtual option. Not surprisingly, nothing was said about masking, or even telling prospective attendees that they will be required to adhere to whatever Covid rules are in place then.

      It will be interesting to see if they backdown on the no-virtual option. Perhaps the website page was prepared last July when Covid numbers were such that the party could decide to ignore them. If they don’t back down, it will certainly result in a stacked electorate; I can’t imagine a person concerned about Covid going into those packed hallways.

      I have to go now. After looking at the UCP website, I really feel the need to shower.

  7. I always tell people leadership is best judged during a crisis. Kenney gets an F, Shandro an F and Hinshaw gets an I for incomplete as she just parrots the company line. As David Crosby once sung ” it is always darkest before the dawn” but unfortunately in Alberta and the pandemic we are still early in the evening.

  8. Sometimes there is something to be said for at least showing up. I suppose in this regard, Shandro is ahead of his generally absent these days boss Kenney. However, the funny thing about news conferences is they actually expect answers. If one is not inclined to say yes or no on the spot and one really has nothing useful to say, we’re considering it or we are looking at the data closely and we will update you on that later might suffice.

    Shandro does have that deer in the headlights look. I suppose it is only made worse by often being Kenney’s go to sacrificial lamb and the knowledge that he actually has nothing useful to say at this news conference and somehow needs to make it look like something. I assume he is also constrained by not being able to say what he really thinks, whatever that might be, and just stick to the party line.

    Perhaps his underlying message is don’t be too alarmed, even though we have no plans or no ideas, at least we are all back from vacation now and physically present, so we could do something if we really had to, but we will really try to avoid that and would prefer not to. If so, maybe they should have all just stayed on vacation – at least it might convey the message of intentional inaction more honestly.

  9. “Alberta will kick some patients out of acute-care hospital beds to make room for others sick with COVID-19, a majority of them vaccine dodgers.

    The patients discharged early will be taken care of at home or in continuing care facilities, Mr. Shandro said – hardly reassuring if you’re a family member who will have to replace qualified health care workers, or if you’ve paid attention to the role of continuing care facilities throughout this pandemic……”

    I remember this was happening during Ralph Klein reign, people were discharged from hospital as soon as they could stand up and families had to take care of them at home. And of course most, probably all, of the caretakers were women.

    This UCP government is moving the clock backwards for all Albertans. NDP warned us how bad Jason Kenney and UCP is, to no avail.

  10. Judging my Shandro’s avalanche of word salad to Bell’s question, I can only presume, in the middle of all that verbose confusion, Shandro was trying to say “SERENITY NOW!” but it came out “CERTAINTY NOW!” Or something to that effect.

    Anyway, it’s apparent that Kenney, while getting ready to make a hasty getaway from the Alberta crime scene, he is determined to make sure there are no witnesses by killing everyone off in the province. You have to give the midget credit, he does like to think big. (An Erin O’Toole win not withstanding.)

    Now that the Shandro and Hinshaw have opted to release hospital patients to home-care (Also known as “COVID 19: The Home Edition”) it seems that we will soon have tents set up in the hospital parking lots for the COVID patient overflow. Ottawa helps while Kenney keeps screwing up and blaming PMJT. (Kenney rubs his hands together and says, “Excellent!”)

    Last night’s final federal debate (AKA. The National Trainwreck) seemed to make things clear as muck. O’Toole is still playing his grift, but is he trying to cheat Alberta or Ontario in all his flimflammery? Who can say? PMJT continued to be earnest, all the while wondering why his savvy election call move has blown up in his face. Jagmeet Singh is still the smartest, most likable guy in the room that no one will vote for. Annamie Paul came across as extraordinarily articulate and combative, getting under Blanchette’s skin more than once. And Blanchette, clearly reeling from LeGault’s snub, was in full-on rage mode, and even picked a fight with the moderator. I can’t say if Blanchette’s rage was tied to debate moderator, Shachi Kurl, being a woman of color, but I’ll say…YEAH. It was.

    Need. More. Popcorn.

    1. Wow, an astute summary of the so-called debate. Your comments are always worth reading down to the last word. A blog of your own would garner readership to rival King David’s.

      1. While your praise for the notion of a blog of my own life s flattering, it should be known that I am the following…




        And wildly unfair

        I also tattle and can’t keep my festering gob shut.

  11. If families are going to starting sue for deaths in their family , because of the stupid way this pandemic has been handled, like we saw under Klein , let’s make certain that it comes out of their pockets and not the Alberta taxpayers.

    It’s my understanding that Klein passed a bill that protected himself and each of his MLAs from lawsuits up to $35 million. It was why Albertans were on the hook for the lawsuit when a lawyer sued Klein’s pal Stockwell Day and won. We lost $792,000.

    A guy told me that Klein had killed his uncle with his health care cuts. His family sued him and it was settled out of court behind closed doors under a gag order so they weren’t allowed to tell any family members what they got. He said they knew it was huge. They went from being dirt poor farmers to Beverly Hillbilly types. He figured they got $20 million, $5 million each.

  12. Free of charge for nurses or anyone who ends up striking or protesting against this government or Shandro specifically, two chants:

    Shandro time to go
    Shandro really blows
    Shandro has to go
    Shandro not my bro

    And in a slow hockey taunt:


    Repeat both as required

  13. So the newly re-manufactured “debate” about the conscience rights of doctors has me thinking – doctors can legally refuse to provide services that are against their conscience, such as abortion. Can a doctor refuse to treat a vaccine-refuser for COVID under “conscience rights?” This might seem like I’m trolling, but think about it. For people in the health care system, watching precious, dwindling resources be lavished upon self-righteous, belligerent assholes who knew the risks and made their choices is very demoralizing. Now factor in that many people in the health care system have been personally attacked for doing their jobs by some of these same anti-vaxxers. Now factor in that people in the health care system are taking some of the greatest risks of the pandemic for no reward. Now factor in that people in the health care system, who are legally required to be responsible for the information they disperse, are being drowned out by hucksters and cretins platformed by the Rupert Murdochs of the world, who will face no responsibility for the information they disperse. If I was a doctor, I would have moments where I would want to say something like, “get that asshole off of that precious ventilator and give it to someone who didn’t choose to refuse a vaccination.”

    An unpleasant line of thinking. Get used to more like it if things don’t change PDQ.

  14. Just checked with one of my rural contacts. The local rodeo had over 9,000 (that’s nine thousand!) in attendance with nary a mask in sight. The beer tents were so busy that they ran out of booze Sunday afternoon and the organizers had to make an emergency trip to town to get more. Talk about a Covid variant incubator. And that was just one of several rural rodeos over the long weekend.

  15. Bill 52, the Recall Act, received royal assent June 17th. A citizen in an MLA’s riding has to initiate the process. Kenney’s riding is Calgary-Lougheed. Shandro’s is Calgary-Acadia.
    Unfortunately, I live in neither.

  16. Seems Kenney popped up on Facebook Live again.

    He addressed the province, assured Alberta that all is well, and then Kenney announced that his taking some personal time for self-care.

  17. David:
    Alberta’s solution sounds very similar to what the state of Idaho is proposing when it comes to the “no room at the inn” hospital situation. The state of Idaho has developed a “Crisis of Standards Care” response to the overrun of Covid patients along with the normal run of emergency visits. I came across it in a “Balloon Juice” article on Sept 8 and it looks like non-Covid patients are going to take a back seat to all those non-vaccinated Covid folks (meaning shipping them off to other facilities) that are not equipped to deal with an “emergency” situation. You might find it interesting reading.

  18. I stood in a line to vote early today with my neighbours, 77% of whom voted for this shameful disgrace of an excuse for a provincial government, and made it clear that I was disgusted with the fact that we STILL have to wear masks and I can’t sit in my local and drink my anxieties and societal impotence into submission because Kenney is such a spineless sycophant that he won’t do his fucking job.

  19. So, apparently the UCP has its own ideological partisan interests at the front of their decision making flow chart, in every single case. That in itself should not be surprising, given the pedigree of Jason Kenney and his long time advisors. It is a ‘family affair’.

    What is unforgiveable, is the ideological nature of Deena Hinshaw’s guidance and the flawed modelling that has resulted in this ‘4th wave’. An academic should certainly know better. As a political appointee, apparently she does not. The word ‘stooge’ comes to mind.

    “Because she’s a doctor and has ethical obligations in terms of her work reflecting science, you think (her) statements reflect the science. “And they don’t. They’re a mix of science and politics.”

    Anyone in the private sector (excluding Ben Harper style nepotism) having the same pattern of errors, demonstrating incompetence, would have been fired long ago.

  20. This government is truly shambolic. Not even Aberhart Social Credit can compare. Don Braid himself has given up defending the indefensible. My guess is it won’t be long before F.O.K’s and party movers tell Kenney to move along, i.e. resign. Or the party is over?

  21. Back in, oh I think it was 2006 or 2007, I was taking a University of Alberta course in Community Health Nursing, as part of an effort to upgrade my old hospital Nursing school diploma to a BScN (I finally got that degree in 2010, & a Master’s in Nursing in 2017). One of the fundamental concepts I encountered was the importance of primary prevention, and a powerful illustration of that concept was given by this old poem, “The Fence or the Ambulance?” …

    What this government is doing, is trying to keep supplying ever more and more ambulances — so many they’re having a traffic jam at the bottom of the cliff — while at the same time they are not only refusing to build that fence at the top, but they’ve sprayed the slope near the edge with lubricant making it easier for people to fall off.

    As for Dr Hinshaw, if she has truly earned her title as a public health physician, she should be intimately familiar with this concept. It’s shameful that she seems to have forgotten it.

  22. I wonder how many Albertans are going to take a chance on another one of these stupid Reformers in Erin O’Toole, after seeing what a farce his buddy Jason Kenney is. A friend says we have nothing to worry about. The people won’t let O’Toole privatize our Public Health Care system.

    I wonder where he was when Klein refused to listen when Albertans didn’t want him to privatize our liquor stores, vehicle registration, driver licensing, power industry , natural gas industry or our long term health care system. I think you would have to be a damn fool for risking our health care system on a reformer in O’Toole the fool.

    It was former MLAs both social credit and conservative from the Lougheed era who taught me that as much you might hate what Trudeau has done there is nothing that will destroy seniors financially faster than privatization of our Public Health Care System and my American relatives would certainly agree.

    It’s the number one cause of bankruptcies in the U.S and as Harvard university pointed out 76% of the people who have declared bankruptcy had private for profit health care insurance. These companies only pay a small percentage of the amount owing and in fact you usually have to sue them to get them to pay anything.

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