Alberta Health Minister Jason Copping at this morning’s news conference (Photo: Screenshot of Alberta Government video).

It would be an exaggeration to say 2021 is ending on an apocalyptic note in Alberta, or even a chaotic one, but it feels ominously as if the boat we’re in is drifting toward the falls with no one looking for the paddle.

If our United Conservative Government had plans for dealing with the next stage of the pandemic or the party’s fundamental political problem – what to do about Premier Jason Kenney – it doesn’t seem to have any now.

Despite Omicron’s virulence, Alberta opts to ‘balance’ safety and business needs

After meeting yesterday, Mr. Kenney’s awkwardly named COVID Cabinet Committee appears to have decided to step away from more basic public health principles as the Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus rips through the province. 

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

At a news conference this morning – rescheduled twice, first from yesterday afternoon, then from later today when more up-to-date infection information might have been available – Health Minister Jason Copping said the government is reducing from 10 days to five the isolation period for people with two or more doses of vaccine who nevertheless contract COVID-19. 

This is in line with a controversial recommendation of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

Unvaccinated people with symptoms are still expected to isolate for 10 days, Mr. Copping said.

But the health minister added that “we’re providing additional flexibility” by allowing employers whose services could be disrupted for more than 24 hours to call back essential employees with symptoms or positive tests after fewer than five days of isolation if they wear masks and obey protocols.

The aim, he said, is “balancing safety and the need for businesses and communities to function.”

NDP Health Critic David Shepherd (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

This is hardly reassuring. Nor is the fact that while continuing to ask Albertans to cut their planned New Year’s Eve contacts by half, restaurants and bars will remain open next week and team sports activities will be permitted to continue. 

True to UCP form, Mr. Copping and Chief Medical Officer of Health Deena Hinshaw, who was also at the 10:30 a.m. news conference, urged Albertans to exercise personal responsibility tonight. “Please keep doing your part,” Mr. Copping said. “Continue to please try and cut your contacts with others by at least 50 per cent.”

Mr. Kenney, perhaps unsurprisingly, did not attend the morning newser. 

Shortly after the news conference, NDP Health Critic David Shepherd responded with a statement that “Albertans still have no plan from the UCP Government to get through the fifth wave of COVID-19.”

“We know the UCP Cabinet met for hours yesterday and all they came up with was delaying the reopening of schools because they have no plan to keep them safe and reduce isolation times,” he added. “That is pathetic.”

LaGrange says classes won’t reopen till Jan. 10

Speaking of schools, Education Minister Adriana LaGrange announced yesterday that the government is putting off the return to classes in Alberta schools until Jan. 10. 

Education Minister Adriana LaGrange (Photo: Alberta Newsroom: Flickr).

This got mixed reviews – anxious relief combined with worry among parents about what to do with the kids for another five work days at home. 

“This pause will give teachers, school administrators and school authorities more time to plan for students to return safely to learning,” Ms. LaGrange said – an admission the government hadn’t yet tried to figure out how to safely manage schools reopening.

But it’s all Omicron’s fault, the minister implied – an excuse with just enough truth to make it dangerous. 

Yesterday’s news release also suggested the government chose this course because other provinces are doing the same thing – an interesting approach for a province that likes to insist it’s a distinct society that should set its own course in all matters.

There will be some rapid COVID tests handed out to teachers and students, and better-quality masks, as supplies permit; diploma examinations will be cancelled. But Ms. LaGrange’s statement also showed nothing has really been decided – she’ll get back to us later about whether schools will be returning to online learning or meeting in person, she said. 

“No one wants to see schools remain closed, but the government has done nothing to keep them safe despite having weeks of warnings about the surge of Omicron cases,” responded NDP Education Critic Sarah Hoffman yesterday. “This is a pattern with the UCP.”

AHS, Dr. Hinshaw appear to give up the fight

Meanwhile, with Wednesday’s record of 2,775 new COVID cases in the province shattered by yesterday’s estimated 4,000 cases, it starts to sound as if Dr. Hinshaw and Alberta Health Services are throwing up their hands and surrendering. 

Chief Medical Officer of Health Deena Hinshaw (Photo: Alberta Newsroom: Flickr).

The Calgary Herald’s Bill Kaufmann, quoting an unnamed AHS source, reported yesterday that health care authorities are doing nothing to control a COVID outbreak that has hit more than 200 employees at the Chateau Lake Louise in Banff National Park, about a third of the famous hotel’s staff.

“It’s moving to endemic status so there won’t be any focus on COVID, it’s like the open for summer business,” Mr. Kaufmann quoted his anonymous source saying, referring to Premier Kenney’s disastrous announcement last June that the Best Summer Ever was upon us. 

“We’re just dropping the ball.”

And despite the reassuring tone of this morning’s news conference, behind the scenes AHS is said to be once again to be preparing for the need to implement triage protocols if hospitals are overwhelmed by Omicron-infected patients. 

What do you do with a problem like the premier?

Which brings us to the UCP’s principal political problem of 2022: what to do about Mr. Kenney himself.

UCP leadership aspirant and former Wildrose party leader Brian Jean (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

The premier is deeply unpopular, politically wounded, and likely to drag the UCP down with him if he remains at the party’s helm. 

I have only one prediction about Mr. Kenney’s next moves in 2022: There will be no sign he intends to do anything but hang onto power until we suddenly learn he doesn’t intend to hang onto power. 

That is to say, a day will likely come sometime in 2022 that is judged auspicious for the party and Mr. Kenney will suddenly announce his work is done and he’s moving on to a new stage of his life. 

Perhaps something will take him back to Ottawa. It’s hard to imagine what he would do here. 

In such a scenario, Mr. Kenney will be praised extravagantly for uniting the right, a new leader will be swiftly chosen, and an extended unofficial election campaign will begin immediately. His name will not be mentioned again by a UCP candidate. 

The trick, of course, will be to pick a candidate who can hold together the two deeply divided sides of the UCP – one loyal to the premier, the other disaffected with him; urban and rural; COVID concerned and COVID skeptical. 

This will require a better political healer than Brian Jean, the ambitious former Wildrose Party leader and UCP candidate in the still-unscheduled Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election, methinks.

But it’s hard to imagine Mr. Kenney could lead the UCP to the polls again and win. As even Postmedia political columnist Don Braid, no foe of the government, said last night: “For many Albertans, this premier has long since disqualified himself from any claim on a second term.”

So, if Mr. Kenney hangs on regardless, chances are good that will be the end of Alberta’s united Conservatives, even as an Opposition party. And they know it. So something is bound to give. 

All this and COVID too! Happy New Year to all! 

Join the Conversation


  1. Hey, Jason Copping. Thank you very much for leaking my personal information in that data breach of yours back in November.

    Remember that QR code scandal, when you apologized to people who were travelling, who accessed other people’s names, birthdates and vaccination information? I would like my apology now. You did not apologize to the victims or your incompetence, the people whose information was stolen.

    You sent me a form letter, received today, directing me to a government website. It explains that I should keep my personal information private. Not good enough, buddy. I kept my information private. You exposed it. No free subscription to a credit bureau for a year, nothing. This is your fault. Capiche? This is your fault! What else have you leaked?

    By the way, since this was a photocopied form letter, how many thousands of others were caught up in this data breach? If you buy me a UCP membership, I will be very upset with you Minister Conning, I mean Copping. Of course, this is probably the least of my worries, and you have just tossed this back in my lap. What a way to end the year, Minister of Hell-th. This is the icing on the UCP cake of 2021, which is a steaming pile of dung.

  2. Happy New Year Alberta Politics,
    fyi this otherwise unAlbertan Quebecer checks your site every day. I reread and reread the reports. I wish I could find such reliable commentary and analysis and reporting here on the Quebec political scene. In 1975 I started as a copyboy at CP Mtl, I was a photographer with Reuters and freelanced etc, now I’m retired. But can I suggest you?: A new year’s roundup on Alberta’s legislative achievements (or otherwise). Just wondering and curious what Mr. Kenney et al have achieved all that time they weren’t otherwise occupied with the battle against Covid. Thanks I can’t tell you how much I enjoy your writing. Ian Barrett Montreal

    1. UCP’s “legislative achievements”?

      You mean bungling the COVID response to the point of unleashing a holocaust of idiocy on Alberta’s public heath?
      Apart from that, there was all the UCP in-fighting that has resulted in a legislative agenda that has turned Alberta into the Zimbabwe of the North. (Robert Mugabe would be proud.)

  3. The UCP does seem to be engaging in COVID theatre. So instead of doing useful things like more testing and contact tracing, its time to close the schools again. The kids are not the biggest problem at this point, but doing other things would take more effort and resources than the government cares to committ and more competence to implement than it has.

    Its not surprising Kenney is not front and center now. He may be slow to realize a looming disaster, but once he does he seems to stay away to distance himself from it. Perhaps it is time again for a greatest winter vacation ever, or maybe this time a staycation, at least until the congestion eases.

    The UCP does have a big problem. Kenney does not want to go, at least yet, and no one is brave or strong enough to give him the heave ho. Perhaps the leadership review vote will do the dirty work for them, but it is quite possible Kenney’s organizing or stacking skills will help him to get over 50%. Even if it is embarrassingly close, it is quite possible he will hang on. At this point, he is shameless and desperate. He can’t easily get another good paying job with his limited education and experience and is still a few years short of qualifying for any pension.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if some UCP financial supporters are trying to quietly set up some sort of trust fund to provide a financial bridge to ease him out. Of course they may also be trying to pressure O’Toole to take him on, but I doubt the Federal Conservatives really want a problem called Kenney. He already has enough of his own right now.

    1. “and no one is brave or strong enough to give him the heave ho”

      This also speaks to the lack of a successor to Jason Kenney. While Brian Jean certainly comes to mind as a successor, it should be remembered he was having trouble maintaining his own leadership of the Wildrose Party.

      Personally I don’t think people who are ‘conservative enough’ to be active in the UCP are capable of selecting a leader who will have appeal with the general electorate. We are certainly seeing that with the CPC.

    2. Remember that Jason Kenney already has his own ‘trust fund’ (paid for by the Canadian Taxpayers) in his very healthy pension which he will begin collecting in the Spring of 2023. $140,000,00 per year should be enough to hold him while he sets up his next venture/scam to get even more public money. I doubt that JK could actually make it in a real job.

  4. Omicron isn’t overly deadly so there’s no need to force your neighbors into lockdown. It seems as if Davey didn’t have friends who permanently closed their businesses due to these lockdowns. Look, you fear mongering trolls can beat the covid drum all you want, but no one with any sense left is listening to you. Your vaccine mandates are failing accross the board, comments sections are FILLED with folks who aren’t buying the media’s catastrophizing anymore, and other countries are openning up after realizing omicron is a BLESSING because it’s taking us to the endemic stage. So just stop, okay? You boomers are embarrassing yourselves… oh and PS, boomers: thanks for tanking the economy and ruining the planet. I hope the next pandemic takes you all out.

    1. Dear Readers: Usually I simply delete offensive anonymous trollery like this for the simple reason it contributes nothing to the discussion. However, I thought I would post this one so that readers can see the some of contribution “conservative” readers quite frequently make to political discourse, especially on their Big 3 conservative obsessions: COVID-19, gun control and “Wokeness.” Perhaps this commenter was reading Mickey Rat’s commentary about what can happen to COVID deniers with no tears shed when his head exploded. Happy New Year to all, even you, BP. DJC.

  5. The details of the early callback provision will, apparently, be announced on Monday and will be the real deal breaker/maker.

    My first question is whether other employees will be made aware they are working with an infected colleague. I suspect privacy rules will prevent it. I will also be curious to see who gets to define ‘essential’. While the water treatment plant example given at the news conference seems reasonable, my fear is that a restaurant owner will declare his/her wait staff ‘essential’ because without them he would have to turn away customers.

  6. Well here are my unbiased, completely provable, and definitely will happen predictions for the new year…

    Premier Crying & Screaming Midget will go on a rampage against rebels in the UCP that will be so destructive, lawsuits will be launched against him for all kinds of egregious acts. Everything will be named, from liable, to slander, to fraud, to accomplice to everything from identity theft to assault (Yes, that one, too) in various personal lawsuits against Kenney. Oh, and Alberta will be on the hook for all of it. (You’re welcome, Alberta)

    The coming by-election in Ft. McMurray will not go entirely as planned. The vote will occur, but there will be enormous confusion over who the UCP candidate is. Kenney will see to it that Jean is disqualified from his nomination under highly dubious circumstances. The allegations will result in another lawsuit against Kenney (You’re welcome, Alberta) as Kenney’s favoured candidate (AKA the “Nigerian economist” and friend of Kaycee Madu) will be inserted into the ballot using White-Out. Jean will oppose and run as an Independent. (Alt-UCP, I guess) The resulting chaos, back stabbing, and excessive stupidity will result in a close race between the WIP candidate and the NDP candidate. (Ariana Mancini) which will result in the UCP finishing third in the race. (You’re welcome again, Alberta)

    In the middle of the continuing social dislocations resulting from the pandemic, Kenney will make the bizarre claim that COVID is an Act of God because PMJT and the Liberals were re-elected in the last and completely useless federal election. Apparently, Kenney will claim there his scientific proof for his claim and Dr. Hinshaw will nod her head.

    Kenney will appoint Andrew Scheer to a plum and totally awesome gig in the Alberta that will be so impressive, it make everyone forget that Scheer was the CPC leader that everyone kicked to the curb faster than the party tried to kick Erin O’Toole to the curb. This will leave the nomination for Scheer’s Regina, SK riding open. (Hmmmm…)

    The attacks against Erin O’Toole’s leadership of the CPC will continue, but mainly from the SoCONs in the caucus. The on-going challenges to O’Toole’s leadership will be predicated on the allegations that he has been giving plum shadow-cabinet appointments to only those MPs he likes and who appeal to a certain voting demographic that O’Toole hopes to trick…appeal to in a future election. In a related matter, token LGBTQ2+ CPC MP, Melissa Lantsman will continue to say that she has found acceptance, cooperation, and support from the SoCON faction in the CPC caucus. CPC MP Tamara Jansen’s head will then explode.

    Erin O’Toole will order all the female members of the CPC caucus with dyed blond hair to immediately stop doing so. This will be because the CONs obsession (fetish) for blondes is just so embarrassing.

    A public feud will break-out between Pierre “Skippy” Poilievre and Chrystia Freeland over who is more qualified to speak on matters related to economic policy. Freeland will then post her CV citing her extensive background including …

    – Undergraduate degree Harvard in Russian History and Literature
    – Masters from Oxford in Slavonic Studies
    – Tenures as a published Europe-based journalist for the Financial Times, the Globe & Mail, and The Economist.
    – Deputy Editor of the Financial Times London, as well as their Ukraine bureau desk editor.
    – Deputy editor the Globe & Mail
    – Managing Director and Global Editor At-Large for Reuters News
    – Managing Editor Financial Times (Washington, D.C.)
    – Extensive list of published books and freelance articles for Bloomberg News
    – Unofficial recognition by Russia’s NKVD/KGB/FSB-SVR that Freeland is an impressive and formidable C.I.A. spook (Codename: FRIDA)

    “Skippy” Poilievre…

    Bachelor of Arts degree in something, something from the University of Calgary.
    Got some gigs from Stockwell Day, Jason Kenney, and Harpo.
    Became a CPC MP and got a haircut.

    And finally…

    Jason Kenney will stage a successful palace coup against O’Toole’s leadership of the CPC. Kenney’s reason for this clear act of betrayal and subterfuge, “I need to become PM because what else am I going to do with the rest of my life? All these fricken lawsuits — I can’t afford them.”

    Happy 2020,too.

    1. Freeland working for the CIA
      Is not a plus for us, being that we are a sovereign nation. They overthrew the government of Australia for god sake. I really hope they try to sell it to us as a plus, but I’m guessing she calls it “Russian propaganda” and our foreign owned corporate press repeats it verbatim

    2. I cant wait for the NDP edition.

      As to Freeland qualifications, shes definitely qualified for something, but it has nothing to do with the job at hand now.

      Unless of course she is looking to bring down another totalitarian government.

      In which case, she has solid credentials.

  7. One twit, plenty of wit, perhaps it may be a good year. I say again, the only hope for Alberta, to set us on a track to political sanity, is for Ariana to win in Ft. Mac..

    The alternative are more odious farts of a back-firing clown car -headed Alberta over over the precipice.

    Can Ft. Mac miraculously deliver Alberta’s Gift of The Magi?

  8. John Horgan must say a little prayer of thank-you every day for the blessing of having such a perfect cartoon villain running the show next-door. It’s pretty hard not to look good when that’s the comparison.

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