Alberta Health Services CEO Verna Yiu at her news conference yesterday (Photo: Screenshot of news conference livestream).

After managing to stay completely off the radar for a two-week vacation that stretched to at least 23 days, there was a credible sounding Jason Kenney sighting in Calgary last night. 

If the man spotted at a southeast Calgary shawarma restaurant while a dark SUV full of bodyguards idled nearby really was Alberta’s elusive premier, Mr. Kenney will have his work cut out for him when he makes his return official.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

He faces considerable pent-up demand for answers to questions about the parlous state of Alberta’s health care system as the fourth wave of COVID-19 overwhelms hospitals, the unexpected decision yesterday by Alberta Health Services to mandate vaccinations for thousands of employees, physicians and contractors, the dangers of sending unvaccinated youngsters back to school today, and the optics of leaving the province with no one in charge when all hell is breaking loose.

And if it turns out the man seen by anti-Kenney Senate-abolition candidate Duncan Kinney’s brother was not the premier after all, remember that people still think they see Elvis wandering the streets of American cities every now and then. 

Alberta Health Services CEO Verna Yiu surprised almost everyone when she called a news conference yesterday afternoon to announce the province-wide health authority will require all employees, physicians, contracted health care providers, students and volunteers to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 by Halloween. That means all of them must have had their second jab by Oct. 16. 

Dr. Yiu told an afternoon news conference the decision was AHS’s alone and had been thoroughly vetted by the health authority’s lawyers – “we are very confident that the policy is legal.”

She said affected personnel who don’t comply and can’t make credible health or conscience argument for an exemption will be sent home without pay.

It had to be done, she added, because the province’s hospitals are rapidly being swamped by new COVID cases – which have been rising rapidly since the government vowed in July Alberta was “open for good” and lifted almost all restrictions to celebrate the “best summer ever” despite the arrival of the highly infectious Delta variant in Alberta.

It’s highly unlikely, though, AHS made that decision without consulting the United Conservative Party government. Presumably the government draws a distinction between health care employees and its vaccine-resistant rural base. Still, this does seem like fairly dramatic course correction for a government that long insisted there was no way it would require any Albertans to take a vaccine and suggested workplace vaccine mandates would be impossible. 

Alberta Finance Minister Travis Toews at his news conference yesterday (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

But that was then and this in now – and things right now are looking pretty grim in the hallways of Alberta’s overburdened hospitals. 

Yesterday morning, Finance Minister Travis Toews spun an upbeat story about the province’s fiscal situation at a news conference staged to present the first-quarter financial update, a statutory requirement. 

Still, despite some good news, Mr. Toews had to walk a bit of a tightrope – bragging about how higher prices fetched by Alberta’s bitumen will cut the province’s forecast deficit in half while still making things sound bad enough to justify cutting health care workers’ paycheques. 

In the event, media at the news conference seemed more interested in pressing him on what the government is going to do about COVID.

Whatever it does, Mr. Toews said, it won’t involve vaccine passports. “The premier has been clear,” he told a reporter. “We’re not going with vaccine passports in this province.” 

Alberta Culture Minister Ron Orr, looking at his shoes, as his press secretary shuts down their news conference yesterday (Photo: Screenshot of CTV Video).

As for complaints that the premier, the health minister and the chief medical officer of health haven’t been around, which a reporter suggested made it look like the government “has abdicated responsibility and is not steering the ship,” Mr. Toews dismissed that as “an entirely false premise.”

Not a very good answer, perhaps, but better than Culture Minister Ron Orr’s dismal performance in Lacombe yesterday when an impertinent journo also asked about the premier’s notable absence. Mr. Orr stood by dumbly, then looked at his shoes, as press secretary Amanda LeBlanc shut down the news conference and shooed away the reporter with a cry of, “It’s about Culture Days!”

“We’re finished,” she said. “We’re finished.”

For those who agree that’s a possibility, if last night’s report is true, Alberta’s great helmsman will be back at the wheel shortly to tell us why it isn’t so. 

Join the Conversation


  1. In the midst of a severe Covid-19 pandemic in Alberta, which is the worst in Canada, the head honcho of the UCP isn’t there. He is on a pseudo vacation, for around three weeks already. He can’t answer for his abject failures. You will not expect proper governance from pretend conservatives and Reformers anyways.

  2. I reject the entire premise of this absentee so-called government. At least Elvis had fans, whereas it is highly unlikely that anyone would ever want to dress up like Jason Kenney and wander around town visiting shawarma shops. My encounter with quasi-celebrity was a sighting of a realtor who advertises heavily on local TV in the same restaurant chain. He did not like it when I asked, “Hey, (insert name here), where’s your basket of puppies? In other words, this report seems credible.

  3. For those of us who have had the privilege of living under a dictatorship this is called the Divine period, where the boss becomes difficult to see so that the absence creates an almost moment of awe when the ‘people’ have a chance to see him/her. Not much different than what monarchs did.
    Jason Kenney is a chosen one and cannot waste his divine right to rule dealing with matters of the ‘people’. He has his clowns to look at the shoes or like the finance minister deny that the premier has ever been silent in the last 3 weeks. That is just not true at all – it is only our quantum perception.
    We the untouchables will persevere on our pilgrimage to be part of the chosen ones. We still do not have the capacity to understand the higher levels of the cult. We for example, cannot understand that market fundamentalism was given to us by God and so fighting it is superfluous. We will understand it somehow we just have to pray a lot. Understanding finances like Toews does is impossible for us little one celled creatures.

  4. Rod Orr got his promotion to the cabinet by declaring on Twitter that Jason Kenney’s leadership was ordained by “The Lord, Jesus Christ.”

    Failing upward is a high art for those who can do it well. As for Orr, he can fail upwards, but it seems has no idea how to fake competence. Oh, well.

    But Orr’s claim to fame, apart from being one with the Savior (and presumably, Jason Kenney) is that he is a graduate of a evangelical Bible school and, at one time, a master carpenter. Wow. This guy really walks in the path of the Lord!

    As for Kenney sightings, is he the new Elvis? I suppose spotting a Kenney look alike, eating at a shawarma restaurant, along with a waiting entourage of security agents and black SUVs is something of a giveaway. If it was Kenney, he was probably taking the restaurant owner’s account of escaping from some oppressive regime somewhere in the Middle East and finding freedom in Alberta’s green and pleasant land, where freeDUMB reigns. Of course, the restaurant owner was likely born in Ottawa, is looking after his also Canadian-born uncle’s restaurant for the summer, while he awaits returning home because everything is better in Ontario.

    As for Toew’s arousing declaration that Alberta’s deficit will be cut in half thanks to rising oil prices, his joy maybe short lived. Rising oil prices usually means that the US oil industry will be back online and pumping more sweet crude than the world could ever use. Alberta lives and dies by its oil booms, and they are not lasting as long nor is the price rising that high anymore. Oh, well.

    1. What is with these businesses that let Kenney in the front door? Surely they have a broom with which to shoo him away.

      Also, the war room should love-bomb the populace with low-budget local TV commercials featuring a basket of puppies. Now that’s the way to create a “social movement”.

  5. Oh my goodness. Those were extraordinary performances by Minister Orr and his handler. If the intent was to present himself as a gormless, witless idiot he certainly succeeded. The culture portfolio is obviously in good hands with this example of one of Mr. Kenney’s collection damp squibs posing as cabinet ministers. Maybe he’d been getting into some of that stuff that he claimed will lead us to communism.

  6. I dunno, guys, I still think we’re better off when Kenney isn’t ACTIVELY screwing things up. He’s been MIA long enough that the adults are finally taking action on their own; Kenney hasn’t been around to throw tantrums.

  7. Maybe those missing person posters in the river valley finally did some good. Interesting they did not say wanted on them. I figured Kenney would resurface eventually, perhaps after he found himself or put himself back together. Yesterday’s column by Licia Corbella also indicated Kenney is back, so perhaps she was at the same Calgary restaurant. Presumably she can also tell a real Elvis from a fake one.

    However, I have a several bold predictions to make about Kenney’s disappearance and presumed reappearance. First, of all, as noted before he is very secretive about his private life, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t ever really clarify where he was for the last few weeks. Second, I suspect the reappearance will be brief and he will disappear soon again. I believe any reappearance at this point is only to reassure us (and some of his own party members who might have started to get nervous) , he did not actually meet his demise in Burnaby or he is not permanently incapacitated. Third, if he disappears again, until say at least Sept 20, it then follows that the Alberta ship of state wil likely continue to be rudderless.

    Perhaps Kenney having been badly burned before by his anti lock down supporters has decided to take a more laissez faire approach to COVID rules and restrictions. By that, I mean leaving it to others (school boards, cities and AHS) to make all the hard decisions while the premier “vacations” wherever. I suppose it is a strategy, although I am not sure it is a good one. Those people are not used to making such decisions in the centralized system Kenney has imposed and all that some like Mr. Orr can do is look at their shoes, when faced with tough questions. This means that things will be dealt with slowly and on a piecemeal basis. However, I suppose in some ways that is no different than before when Kenney dithered and delayed introducing more restrictions last fall and in the spring.

    So, the leadership needed will probably continue to be missing, but arguably it was never there anyways, even when the Dear Leader was physically present.

  8. Verna is maybe the best AHS has ever had. She knows that she can’t know what is going on, and advises to the Jack Mintz Calgary school of medicine board (sic) in order to protect the service we have. Dr. Hinshaw? Whoa! Now there’s a pay-cheque worth cutting! The surgery continues at the conceptual level! Ad hoc? Proptor hoc? [email protected]$#%*#$#$%&#^[email protected]%^!!! Ok then. I’m fine now!

    1. I abuse language and many other forms of expression agnostically. I admit that. I no longer “swear” on this board due to my respect for David.

  9. Maybe the missing KeKangaroo Kenney has let his hair out, grown a beard, donned a Nehru shirt and a medallion, started lecturing as an expert in alternative medicine and offering counselling for sexual disorders by exercising something called “Human Bitumen Energy” under the name of “Doctor” or “Professor” Dragan Reginova Covidic. With the succour of rural Wexpska sympathizers—among whom his ability to evade capture is legend— he freely roams incognito right under the noses of his pursuers.

  10. First he man pretends to be premier then he pretends not to be. If he’s not bipolar, there’s something else more disturbing going on – if such a thing is possible. And what are those body guards for.

  11. Meanwhile the embarrassing provincial comedy show continues unabated. In todays news, September 1st, there is a report that the war room announced that it intends to build a ‘social movement’, and will be inviting proposals on how to change the attitudes and values of the residents of Eastern Canada and the northern United States.
    Easy peasy Tom. This one looks destined to become both scintillating and entertaining. As the premier says, stay tuned.

  12. Now that it’s official that Ontario’s Doug Ford had adopted a vaccine passport, something that he vehemently opposed, one wonders how long Alberta can hold out?

    I think back to the cover of MacLean’s magazine and the introduction of “The Resistance: PMJT’s Worst Nightmare” and wonder where have all the good times gone?

    Brian Palasser will be leaving the scene shortly, Andrew Scheer went into witness protection a while ago, Doug Ford is tight with PMJT and also AWOL, and Scott Moe is wondering about keeping friends like Jason Kenney around.

    I suppose Kenney, being the gambler he is, is looking for that ginormous grub steak win with O’Toole bagging the LPC and ending Trudeau’s career. That’s a lot of hope tied into one bet.

    Until that ship comes in on Election Day, Kenney maybe roaming the streets of Calgary, with his security detail and a motorcade of black SUVs in tow, trolling various shawarma restaurants, and eating his fill to soothe his cough syrup hangovers.

    It used to be that BC had all the crazy premiers.

  13. Recent Jason Kenney sightings:
    – amongst anti-vaccine passport protestors at Kelowna hospital
    – amongst anti-vaccine passport protestors at a Penticton hospital
    – in Rapid City, South Dakota researching why there was a covid increase after the Sturgis motorcycle rally

  14. Who’s running the culture department — Orr or his press secretary? She takes over the press conference and won’t even let her so-called boss answer. Heaven help us when the press secretaries start censoring their bosses.

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