Friday’s jaw-dropping “Kenney Pennies” announcement may have included a few feeble temporary measures to slow surging COVID-19 infection rates and ease the strain on the fraying health care system, but it took less than 24 hours for word to leak the Alberta government has created special exemptions for rodeos.
So while as of yesterday restaurants, cafes, bars, pubs, nightclubs and the like were required to stop serving alcohol at 10 p.m., it turns out rodeo beer gardens will be allowed to go on serving till 2 a.m.
Yesterday morning, sharp-eyed Facebookers spotted Airdrie Pro Rodeo cheerfully announcing “the Provincial Government has granted us an exception for our FCA Rodeo September 4th & 5th. Therefore beer gardens will carry on as usual and will be open until 2am.”
As this is written, presumably, rodeo goers in the bedroom community of 70,000 north of Calgary, where the full vaccination rate is said to be well under 60 per cent, have lots of time to chug more beers and celebrate the infectious end of Alberta’s Best Summer Ever ™.
Similar exemptions were soon discovered at other Alberta weekend rodeos in Ponoka, Rockyford, and Benalto. This being Alberta, there are likely more.
But that’s just the way we roll here in Wild Rose Country.
If you’re a friend of the United Conservative Party, or better yet a Friend of Kenney (FOK), you don’t have to phone up and beg for an exemption. Someone will phone you.
And if there aren’t any exemptions, restrictions tend to be timed to take place after events the premier wants to happen – and Mr. Kenney loves rodeo. (What’s with that, anyway? Is it because he spent so many years in Ottawa he thinks that’s the real Alberta?)
Indeed, it was Mr. Kenney’s determination to reopen in time for the Calgary Stampede in July that is credited for some of the current Delta-variant-fuelled coronavirus surge that has ICU occupancy at 95 per cent province-wide. And God forbid, as Mr. Kenney put it in Friday’s news conference at which he announced those $100 gift cards for tardy vaccine recipients, that we should ever have to re-close!
If you’re not an FOK, it can be a little harder to get permission to break the rules, but not impossible.
CTV Calgary reporter Timm Bruch tweeted last night that Alberta Health “reached out” to Calgary Pride, which had been denied a liquor licence under the new restrictions, to advise them they too had an exemption to serve alcohol into the wee hours last night and tonight.
Needless to say, these exemptions may make political sense, but they don’t make any sense from a public health perspective. Alas, as has become increasingly evident over the past year, the office of Alberta’s chief medical officer of health is now a political office.
As the Progress Report’s Jim Storrie asked yesterday, “You ever hear that bit about how conservatism is all about defining one group that has to obey the law but isn’t protected by it and another group that gets protected by the law but doesn’t have to obey it?”
Well, that’s Alberta in a beer glass.
Meanwhile, COVID infection rates and chronic understaffing has Alberta Health Services so far behind the 8-ball it’s admitted to signing deals with staffing agencies to hire contract nurses from other provinces to address staff shortages in Alberta hospitals.
The admission came in the form of an email to the labour relations director of United Nurses of Alberta, which represents more than 30,000 Alberta nurses, conceding that AHS did intend to hire contract nurses during the fourth wave of the pandemic.
By the way, the email said, AHS will be dropping its August labour board complaint in which it accused the union of bargaining in bad faith by saying AHS was using staffing agencies to hire contract nurses and planning to pay them more than UNA members are paid now.
In its current negotiations with UNA for a new collective agreement, AHS is demanding pay cuts of 3 per cent from every one of its RNs and RPNs!
You’d almost think, at a time like this, it would make more sense to stop trying to cut nurses’ pay and keep making bars close early!