Alberta Politics
Alberta NDP Economic Development Critic Deron Bilous (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Weekend Roundup: Vaccine passport’s new QR code won’t work; Mandel quits AHS board; pipeline association folds tent

Posted on October 02, 2021, 2:26 am
7 mins

Astonishingly given its record, Alberta’s United Conservative Party Government has actually upgraded its easy-to-forge vaccine passport in jig time!

There’s only one problem. It doesn’t work. 

Alberta Jobs and Something-Something Minister Doug Schweitzer (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

But don’t worry, we’re told by our dependably undependable government, it’ll work “soon.”

Two weeks ago, “Jobs, Economy and Innovation” Minister Doug Schweitzer promised Albertans they would have what the Kenney Government insists on calling a “restriction exemption program” thingy by Oct. 1. 

So, I guess they can say they delivered … even if it doesn’t work. 

NDP Economic Development Critic Deron Bilous was not impressed. “The UCP has had weeks to develop a secure vaccine passport system,” he said. “Every day without one further risks public health, the personal information of Albertans, and damage to our economy.”

Meanwhile, the NDP noted in a news release, Quebec, Manitoba, and British Columbia have all introduced working QR codes for proof of vaccination. Saskatchewan also launched a QR code system that works on Wednesday even though it announced its system a day after Alberta.

Alberta Health (the government department, that is, not the massive health care agency with a confusingly similar name) blames the delay on smart phone makers’ policies for approving apps. This doesn’t explain how Quebec, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and B.C. all managed to avoid that problem. 

“There is no reason for the delays from the UCP,” Mr. Bilous said. 

In the meantime, the government says, Albertans can continue to use their old, forgeable vaxxports. In fact, they’ll almost certainly continue to be used by some Albertans until the end of the pandemic, whenever that is. 

This may prove that Gresham’s famous law applies to more things than money – that is to say, bad vaccine passports debase the good. 

Alert readers will recall that back in the summer and fall of 2020, the Kenney Government promised to let Albertans access Ottawa’s COVID Alert app because the province’s ABTraceTogether app was useless. 

It’s a moot point, I suppose, now that tracking apps have pretty well been abandoned as ineffective, but the federal app still hasn’t been activated to work in Alberta.

Maybe it just wasn’t fun anymore: Stephen Mandel quits AHS board

Stephen Mandel has quit the board of Alberta Health Services. 

Former Edmonton mayor, former health minister, former Alberta Party leader and former AHS Board member Stephen Mandel (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

No reasons were given in a note sent to employees, physicians and volunteers by AHS Board Chair David Weyant, a copy of which was posted online yesterday by Progress Alberta’s Progress Report.  

Best known as a three-term Edmonton mayor from 2004 to 2013, Mr. Mandel was the unelected minister of health in Progressive Conservative premier Jim Prentice’s cabinet for eight and a half months in 2014 and 2015. That gig ended when he inconveniently failed to win a seat in the 2015 provincial election and, even more inconveniently, the NDP won a majority. 

Soon thereafter, in February 2018, Mr. Mandel was made leader of the Alberta Party in some kind of insider shuffle, hard to fathom since the party had a perfectly good leader in Greg Clark at the time.

Mr. Mandel quit that job in June 2019 after the Alberta Party failed to win a single seat in the provincial election the previous April. 

By September he’d been appointed with great fanfare to the AHS board by former health minister Tyler Shandro. He was touted by a Kenney-friendly columnist as “a symbol of cross-party co-operation during the health-care upheaval to come.”

Greg Clark, the perfectly good Alberta Party leader that Mr. Mandel replaced for reasons nobody explained properly in February 2018 (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

His appointment proved, I wrote at the time, that failure is no barrier to success in Jason Kenney’s Alberta. 

As it turned out, though, the health care upheaval that came wasn’t the one that everyone expected in the fall of 2019. So maybe being on the AHS Board just wasn’t any fun anymore. 

Whatever happened – other than COVID-19 and the related implosion of the Kenney Government, that is – it looks like Mr. Mandel, 76, has moseyed off into the sunset once again. 

Mr. Weyant praised him for efforts to persuade AHS to “capitalize on its extensive real-estate holdings.” (Say what?)

Of the famously irascible former politician, Mr. Weyant said diplomatically, “I will miss Stephen’s candour, dry wit, and the ease with which he spoke his mind.” 

Canadian Energy Pipeline Association folds its tent 

A sign of the times, perhaps, the Globe and Mail has reported that the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association has pulled its own plug and will cease operations by Dec. 31. 

The end of CEPA, the Globe intoned, “underscores the seismic shift under way in the energy sector” as fossil fuel corporations and investors alike pivot to green energy and attitudes. 

CEPA’s board made the decision to close up shop, the Globe said, when three major energy companies walked away. 

But, but, sputtered pipeline advocates in Alberta, we still need pipelines for … hydrogen! 

Whatever will the Kenney Government have to say about this, not to mention the UCP’s petro-separatist caucus, which still dreams of founding a petro-republic in Wild Rose Country fuelled by carbon? 

Presumably the crack staff of the Alberta Energy War Room, authors of the Choose Friendly Oil campaign on a couple of electronic billboards south of the Medicine Line, will have to step up and fill the gap.

That should work well.

27 Comments to: Weekend Roundup: Vaccine passport’s new QR code won’t work; Mandel quits AHS board; pipeline association folds tent

  1. Anonymous

    October 2nd, 2021

    The UCP are getting worse and worse everyday. If Albertans heeded the warnings from us who said these pretend conservatives and Reformers were no good, we wouldn’t be in this horrific mess.

    Reply
  2. Phlogiston

    October 2nd, 2021

    The lack of a vaccine passport that provides a high degree of assurance regarding the identity of the passport holder and their vaccination status is appalling. Even if it were hard and complex to launch a smart app, this should have been factored into the planning and design. Except in the case of Apple, it is not the smart phone maker’s policies and standards that would prove the barrier. Rather, it would be the Google/Android or the Apple/iOS store policies and standards that the app would have to meet. This is a subtle but important distinction. It is not as if the government has to deal with many different phone manufacturers.

    They just have to deal with standards and policies dictated by a couple of entities. And what are these standards anyway? These standards would dictate some fairly basic and well-known requirements that govern, among other things, privacy, security, data retention, authentication, feedback mechanisms, and so on. In the words of Don Cherry, this not rocket surgery. And, there are likely many capable firms in Alberta who have the expertise and knowledge to develop the app. If not, you could ask for help from SK.

    As usual the government is providing misleading information to create the impression that something is harder than it is. Another item to add to the long list of feckless and useless excuses this government issues to shift the blame and cover up its own ineptitude.

    As to the real reason the app is not ready, the cause is obvious: the knuckle- (er, foot-) dragging of Kenney and the UCP caucus. The federal and a number of provincial governments were working on plans for proof of vaccination applications months ago. Many in the province were calling for it. This lack of foresight and planning is inexcusable. Been there, done that, got the T-shirt.

    Regarding pipelines for hydrogen. Of course, the plan to shift to a green economy in Alberta is not a plan at all. Rather, what we get is a strategy for green washing to make it appear acceptable to continue to use fossil fuels so that Albertans can keep shoveling money to the oil companies who subsequently transport it out of our province by the boatload.

    The government is proposing blue hydrogen (hydrogen created from natural gas, with byproducts captured and stored) to reduce carbon emissions. Readers might be interested to learn that blue hydrogen is not really a green solution at all and may contribute to increased carbon emissions. See https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/aug/12/clean-fuel-blue-hydrogen-coal-study.

    If the government were truly serious about reducing carbon emissions they would, among other things such as diversifying the economy to prepare for post-oil, be aggressively pushing an infrastructure for charging electric vehicles like BC does. I can only recall the federal government announcing any money for charging infrastructure in Alberta. That was the past summer. Compared to BC we are way behind. I am not sure I would want to buy an electric car in Alberta because of the lack of charging infrastructure.

    After living here all my life (I recall when the Robin Hood flour mill and the Bentall Building were the tallest buildings in Calgary), I am starting to think that perhaps it is time to pack up and move to BC. It is not good here and it is getting worse.

    Reply
    • Mike J Danysh

      October 2nd, 2021

      Can’t say I’m at all surprised at the ham-fisted, thumb-fingered incompetence of the Kenney government response to…well, to anything. The vaxxport mess is simply the result of Kenney sticking his fingers into his ears and drumming his heels on the floor. You see, friends, anything is hard if you don’t even bother to try.

      Still, it’s probably better that Kenney does NOT try to find a QR app of his very own. We all know how it turned out when Kenney wanted his very own contact-tracing app.

      …and I’m STILL convinced our best long-term bet will be to use the international vaxxport domestically. But until that’s finalized, we’re stuck with Canada’s usual Balkanized mess of 13 semi-independent princedoms fighting among themselves.

      Reply
  3. October 2nd, 2021

    When I opened your site this morning there was a sidebar advertisement for sweaters with various sayings printed across their fronts. One has the header: ‘I’m Vaccinated’. There’s that free-market solution our UCP has been looking for!
    Thank you, David! : )

    Reply
  4. Abs

    October 2nd, 2021

    I don’t know why Alberta keeps trying to reinvent the wheel, except perhaps this wheel has to pass through several private UCP-friendly corporations for a sweet consulting fee? What other explanation can there be?

    I have printed off my paper QR code, all the while thinking that Adriana LaGrange is probably behind this. After all, she thinks children should learn coding with paper and pencils. Suddenly, the first AstraZeneca shot has changed from Serum Institute of India to AstraZeneca/University of Oxford. What is this Magick? Why the switch from the first printout? Granted, the first version would have left me with a combination of two different types of vaccines, while not qualifying me for a third shot for travel, like those who are currently getting them due to having AstraZeneca with either Pfizer or Moderna. The SII would have meant that I could not travel to the UK, which at last review was not accepting SII vaccinations. Also, the U.S. was not recognizing AstraZeneca either, the last time I checked, not that I intend to travel any time soon. First World problems.

    Also this week, I received a text message reminding me to get my second shot. Upon further investigation, my Alberta Health record shows no shots and one shot, depending on where you look, but the Covid vaccination printout shows both.

    The Bumbles continue…

    Reply
    • Abs

      October 2nd, 2021

      Never mind that my first request to obtain the numerical code needed to access my health records failed. The code never arrived. Three months later I tried again, with success.

      Reply
    • Dubh

      October 2nd, 2021

      The Grift is strong with these ones.

      Reply
  5. A little bird

    October 2nd, 2021

    Irascible, love it. Maybe he’ll leave for good this time.

    Reply
  6. Dubh

    October 2nd, 2021

    What did we expect from a provincial government that still issues health care cards on flimsy card stock paper?

    Reply
  7. brett

    October 2nd, 2021

    Alberta has become a laughingstock.

    Time for Kenney to go. Anywhere. Just go. Now!

    Reply
    • Mike J Danysh

      October 2nd, 2021

      Now people are pointing at Kenney and saying, “You see what he did? Don’t do that.”

      Reply
  8. e.a.f.

    October 2nd, 2021

    Incompetent comes to mind. can Kenny and his friends not get anything correct. First he doesn’t want help with COVID patients, then he wants help, all in one week. can’t he make up what is left of his mind. Alberta or Alabama, which has dumber politicians?

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      October 2nd, 2021

      I don’t think the problem is that he can’t make up his mind. I think it’s that his caucus is not of one mind. The pattern seems to be that the Calgary MLAs threaten him first and he reluctantly goes along with him. Then the rural MLAs threaten him and he backs off his earlier commitment. Allies of both groups spread rumours to try to box the other side in. Caucus is dysfunctional. Kenney is dishonest. The combination is not a good one. DJC

      Reply
      • Mike J Danysh

        October 2nd, 2021

        DJC, I think you nailed it. The urban/ rural fracture has become extreme, and the only thing the two warring parties can agree on is that Kenney can’t do enough to satisfy anyone.

        The other factor that allows this chaotic state is Kenney’s personality. He plays the Strong Man part, but doesn’t have the guts to make it work. His entire caucus know that he’s a bully, but they can bully him back–and he’ll fold.

        Reply
      • pogo

        October 2nd, 2021

        It’s not that he’s dishonest. He has no time for honesty! He’s far to busy trying to surf the political waves to his rightful place! A higher power! Not the higher ground mind! https://youtu.be/Blnsu9a8eoo?t=18

        Reply
      • Bob Raynard

        October 3rd, 2021

        I have wondered if there are enough Covid-sensible MLAs in the UCP caucus that they could form a coalition government with the NDP.

        Reply
    • Mike J Danysh

      October 2nd, 2021

      E.A.F., I think the problem is more complex than who’s “dumber,” i.e. who’s got the lower IQ. It’s more a matter of who’s better at political maneuvers. Kenney’s way out of his depth. He THINKS he’s smart, but he’s nowhere near smart enough, or gutsy enough, to pull off the moves he’s trying. Worse (from Kenney’s viewpoint, and bad enough from ours), Kenney’s tactics are utterly wrong for Canadian politics–even here, the most Americanized province in Confederation. Much worse, Kenney’s not flexible enough to change tactics when they don’t work–and too stubborn to admit he’s wrong unless the consequence is “You’re fired!” or the like.

      In Alabama, the local politicians know how to play to the crowd. It’s the HOME crowd, which makes things even easier. Everybody knows the playbook, the rules and the fight songs (even if they like the other side’s song better).

      Kenney’s biggest problem is he’s a self-displaced Republican. He’s using Republican tactics on a non-Republican crowd (well, about 70% of us aren’t Republican). He’s incapable of understanding that American ideas don’t work well here, because Canadians and their laws are different. OUR biggest problem is finding a big enough cluestick to convince Kenney he’s wrong. (Still working on that….)

      Reply
  9. Weyand Weyant

    October 2nd, 2021

    Weyand /Weyant

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      October 2nd, 2021

      Thank you. It’s fixed. DJC

      Reply
  10. Former Albertan

    October 2nd, 2021

    It just occurred to me that I have a green solution for the Kenney government that will satisfy his party’s need to go back to the early 20th century. Kenney’s government can create a new industry Bennet Buggys. These are cars without engines pulled by horses. Kenney should like them as they are named after former Prime Minister RB Bennet, a Conservative. I see many things conservative thinkers in Alberta who should embrace this idea.

    As to medical issues, perhaps the the UCPee caucus might consider modern medicine.

    Reply
    • Mike J Danysh

      October 3rd, 2021

      By coincidence, I recently re-read “The Great Depression” by Pierre Berton. His first chapter, describing the society and attitudes of Canada in the late ’20s, was disturbingly familiar. I’d really like to think we’ve moved beyond “Work or starve” as the answer to every problem.

      Oh, yes, the Bennett Buggy. I’m afraid we don’t have enough horses anymore. We’ll have to get the wife and kids to push while Dad steers. Then we can call them Kenney Karts.

      Reply
      • Abs

        October 3rd, 2021

        I think we’re moving into the “Ten Lost Years” phase of Kenney governance now. To achieve this in slightly more than two years is peak Kenney.

        Reply
  11. pogo

    October 2nd, 2021

    I know you’re a student of history. I trust you to understand the nuances that must be part of our nation, if it is to be a nation. So here’s a quote that might be helpful in the coming.. Days? Weeks? Gloming? “Knox wrote that one of the soldiers near Wolfe shouted “They run, see how they run.”” Pass that on to those who might find themselves on either end of the spear in these tragic and forlorn days left to us! https://youtu.be/VC9yv–LHRI?list=RDVC9yv–LHRI&t=3

    Reply
  12. Just Me

    October 2nd, 2021

    Why is it when the UCP government does anything, it’s completely f*cked up and idiotic?

    Because people who get into government who are determined to break it, will break it at the first opportunity.

    They will underfund to the point of failure, they will deregulate until anything goes, and they will stop or completely f*ck up anything that even has a mere whiff of adult and mature governance.

    No one should be surprised that this gang of idiots cares nothing for sitting on their arses and doing nothing. Ever.

    Oh, but they still demand to be paid, because all government employees are lazy and overpaid, right?

    Reply
  13. !?

    October 2nd, 2021

    Three huge Calgary based businesses – Enbridge Inc., Pembina Pipeline Corp. and TC Energy Corp. – left
    CEPA, and clueless Kenney still insists on pandering to hicks in the sticks.

    Reply
    • Mike J Danysh

      October 3rd, 2021

      Welcome to the dynamics of social change. Ordinary people push, businessmen (eventually) agree, and politicians trot along behind, trying desperately to pretend they’re leading.

      Reply
  14. Dave

    October 3rd, 2021

    Is there anything that the UCP can not screw up these days?

    Even Trudeau who has been surprisingly magnanimous considering the numerous vicious attacks by Kenney has tried to help him on a number of occasions and has been mostly rebuffed. Trudeau has stood behind the pipeline the Alberta government wanted and it is still moving ahead, he offered Kenney the Federal contact tracing app, after the Alberta one proved to be a dud, and is now offering to both pay for vaccine passports and provide medical support to Alberta’s overwhelmed hospitals. I don’t know if Kenney’s problem is a denial of the dire situation or just pride that he can not swallow or both, but whatever it is, it does not help.

    I am not surprised Mandel is quiting the AHS board. I suspect the current situation requires people like those on the AHS board to bite their tongue hard and Mandel has probably had it with that. I am surprised he stayed there this long. I imagine the board position was a consolation prize from Kenney for Mandel and perhaps intended as a way to keep him occupied and so not causing grief or mischief for Kenney.

    Mr. Schweitzer and Mr. Mandel actually share one thing in common – there are a select few of those who Kenney ran against that he did not actually treat that badly. However, despite this, I am not sure either now feels things have worked out very well for them. I suppose Schweitzer still has a bit of time to try figure out that vaccine passport app, however Mandel is again exiting stage right (or is it left?) in frustration.

    Reply

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