Alberta Premier Jason Kenney at yesterday’s COVID-19 news conference (Photo: Screenshot of Alberta Government video).

Reading between the lines of remarks by Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and Chief Medical Officer of Health Deena Hinshaw at yesterday’s COVID-19 briefing, it seems evident they have reached a point where they no longer have a plan for the continuing COVID-19 pandemic.

The disturbing thing about that, of course, is that no plan is a plan of sorts.

One take on Premier Kenney’s news conference (Image: Twitter/@AB_RN_War_Room).

That is, it is the sort of plan generally associated with the high-risk quest for herd immunity that has always appealed to the United Conservative Party’s COVID denialist base. 

Dr. Hinshaw advised Albertans to assume they’ll encounter someone with the highly contagious Omicron variant of the COVID virus if they venture anywhere in public. 

The Government of Alberta’s website counsels Albertans who experience even mild symptoms such as a stuffy nose to stay at home and limit contact with others until the symptoms are gone. “Testing is recommended.”

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

Indeed, at yesterday’s news conference in response to a reporter’s question, Mr. Kenney himself noted that, “as Dr. Hinshaw said at the beginning of this, for people to assume that if they have cold-like symptoms, that they are likely positive with the Omicron variant.” 

But as Stephen Duckett – once the CEO of Alberta Health Services and nowadays back in Australia as a respected commentator on health care issues – tweeted last night: “‘We’re all going to get COVID,’ is not an excuse to abandon preventive policies. With precautions, the incidence will take place over longer time period, which reduces likelihood that health services will be overwhelmed.” (Note: I have added some punctuation to Dr. Duckett’s tweet for clarity’s sake.)

Mr. Kenney, for his part, appeared tired and pale and sounded congested – but he was on the job nevertheless.

This provoked a lot of predictable social media commentary about what his health condition might be – with some fairly obvious diagnoses and suggestions for appropriate follow-up. 

Former Alberta Health Services CEO Stephen Duckett (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Some comments were angry and some, like the highly visual effort of an anonymously run account called Alberta RN War Room, were angry and hilarious. As the RN War Room suggested, the premier probably should have been in isolation. 

This caused enough of a kerfuffle for the Premier’s Office to respond, telling CTV journalist Dawn Walton that Mr. Kenney was feeling “a bit congested” and had a negative rapid test before the news conference, so didn’t need to isolate.

Well, it’s a relief the premier had a test, anyway. Nevertheless, it is probably just as well that he was bloviating from Calgary as the chief medical officer of health provided her commentary from Edmonton. 

It is astonishing to a casual observer how much both Mr. Kenney and Dr. Hinshaw can say and yet communicate so little. 

Which brings us to the matter of the Kenney Government’s apparent decision to scale back Albertans’ access to the more accurate PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests. 

University of Alberta economics professor Andrew Leach (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Mr. Kenney responded snippily when when Lisa Johnson of the Edmonton Journal observed that scaling back the tests was “a political decision,” asking Mr. Kenney, “can you scale that testing back up?”

“First of all, it was not a political decision,” Mr. Kenney said. “We have been a leader in Canada in the volume of our PCR testing since the beginning of COVID-19 … but there’s still a limit.

“We can push it, to maybe 18,000 tests a day,” he went on. “Even at that, running full out, at full maximum capacity, running our staff ragged, working around the clock, massive overtime for a workforce in our labs that has already been under enormous pressure doing that, we still would not be able to nearly keep up with the volume of testing demand that would be imposed by widespread Omicron transmission.”

“This has absolutely nothing to do with cheaping out on testing,” he insisted.  

It is worth noting that a little earlier yesterday, University of Alberta economist Andrew Leach, a frequent critic of the government, tweeted that “our highest daily test numbers last week were approximately 50% of the peak daily testing rates we were hitting one year ago.

Alberta Teachers Association President Jason Schilling (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

“If we have testing capacity issues, it’s because the government has reduced capacity, not because we’re testing more people than ever,” he concluded.

And that, it’s fair to say, was a political decision, as was the government’s choice not to build and maintain sufficient contract-tracing capacity. 

In a statement issued via Twitter yesterday afternoon, Alberta Teachers Association President Jason Schilling called on Education Minister Adriana LaGrange to ensure that students, teachers, staff and families are safe when schools reopen in the New Year. 

“School communities expect that the mediocre measures that failed in Alberta’s fourth wave will be strengthened for the return to school next week,” Mr. Schilling said. “Omicron is highly contagious and we are likely to see a substantial number of people that will become sick and need to isolate. The minister needs to pay attention.”

There are now at least 15,000 active COVID cases in Alberta, Dr. Hinshaw told the news conference, with approximately 8,250 new cases reported from Dec. 23 to Dec. 27.

Join the Conversation


  1. Emploring Adriana LaGrange to “pay attention” to the circulation of Omicron will be problematic because the woman looks like she’s always taking a nap. Oh, and she couldn’t care less about the impending situation in Alberta’s schools.

    And of course, at today’s presser, it becomes more than clear that Kenney and Hinshaw say a lot but there is little to no content in what they are saying. It’s like Hinshaw only reads what the Premier’s Office gives her, but they gave her nothing today, so she just wings it and hopes something sticks. As for Kenney, yeah he seemed not exactly well. But I attribute that to spending too much time with that mountain of cough syrup and figuring out a way to ‘pants’ Brian Jean.

    The current state of the UCP government seems to switch between “Animal House” one day and “South Park” the next. Of course, with the constant allusions to opening up and having the “Best Whatever Ever”, to sudden, barely enforced restrictions, I find that “Groundhog Day” is becoming the standard.

  2. The goal has already been achieved, the overwhelming majority of the population has signed onto the vaccines and endless boosters. Herd immunity was never a conspiracy theory, it was simply a question of how to go about it….through natural infection, or immunization. The decision was made to try mass immunization, but it failed because the immunizations don’t immunize, and now we’re in a pandemic of the vaccinated.

    Despite the fact that it is mostly unvaccinated people being tested (some required to show proof of a negative test every 72 hours to work and/or go to school) the overwhelming majority of infections are being identified in the minority of fully vaxxed people being tested…..why volunteer for nasal rape to see if you’re infected with a virus you were supposed to be vaccinated against unless you’re sick with symptoms of covid.

    Spoiler alert, this has never had anything to do with health. Now go get your booster and another in March for Omicron…..Pfizer says it has the shot already to go, no extensive testing needed (not even at warp speed) because it’s based on the previously approved version.

    1. “…the overwhelming majority of infections are being identified in the minority of fully vaxxed people being tested…”

      Gordie, how about we look at reality? The rate of Covid 19 infections for Canadians with 2 vaccine doses is 9.9%. Severe outcomes? The same number for hospitalizations is 7.4%. That means more than 90% of all Covid cases since vaccination began are unvaxxed people.

      So you anti-vaxxers are spreading Covid and clogging up our health systems. Just admit that and we can have a rational discussion.

      You are right though, we missed our chance of attaining zero-Covid a long time ago. Covid control measures and immunization are now only about drawing out the effects and helping our health systems cope with it. Unfortunately we’re just going to have to tough it out until all you anti-vaxxers get sick or die. That number of unvaxxed deaths is also over 90% of total Covid deaths.

      1. Let’s look at this another way because figures can be deceiving. 87% of Canadians have had at least one vaccine dose. This leaves 13% of Canadians (that’s you anti-vaxxers) who are giving us 80% of all Covid cases, 80% of all Covid hospitalizations and 76% of all Covid deaths. 13% of the population are responsible for the problems we have – OK?

        I am losing my patience and the sooner you guys get sick (natural immunity) or die (Darwin’s Law) the better. Maybe that sounds harsh but that’s the way it is.

  3. Everyone should just relax. Omicron is an upper airways infection and far less serious than the earlier variants that got into the lungs. In the UK, which is further along with omicron, hospitalization rates have remained flat despite the surging case counts. In fact, the number of people in hospital with Covid is less than half than it was last year at this time. See for yourself.

  4. Which variant will come after omicron? We didn’t use the variants between delta which is the 4th letter of the Greek alphabet an omicron which is the 15th lletter.

  5. Just think what if? What if Rachel Notley was our Premier? Is there anyone who believes she would have been worse than Kenney?

    Kenney is living proof that collective karma is real. Maybe next elections people will vote for someone who cares about Alberta. That’s what I’m hoping. Our lives literally hang in the balance.

  6. If it’s not a political decision, as Jason Kenney claims, then who made this decision? Soon he’ll be bragging that Alberta has the lowest rate of new Covid infections in Canada because we under-test. Part of this non-plan plan seems to be the prevention of self-reporting RAT results. This could be done via the same provincial system used for the vaccine non-passports, but Kenney and Co. prefer to fly blind on pandemic reporting and forecasting. That is a political choice they can’t deny. Wilful ignorance with 4.4 million lives sounds like a recipe for disaster. Kennedy’s derisive “bat soup” comment only proves his ignorance. Contrast his strategy with China’s:

    “The virus attacks the heart, the lungs and even causes neurocognitive damage. We have not even begun to appreciate the population level burden of chronic disease, cognitive impairment and organ damage that countries with a large burden of disease will be living with,” MacIntyre told VOA.

    She said if China keeps the infection largely under control, its population will be fit and healthy into the future, “while the U.S. and Europe will be groaning under an unprecedented burden of chronic disease and even generational burden from potential long-term effects on children,” she added.

    As thousands of Alberta children head back to school next week, that is good for thought. The people will be as weak as their leader.

      1. If you’re going for sarcasm you might want to try a little harder. After two years of the greatest public health failure of all time my sense of humour has worn a bit thin.

        1. Obviously not a fan of Rick and Morty.

          The Covid-19 outbreak is not the greatest public health failure of all time. Its not even in the range of failure Alberta. Though it is a measured response.

  7. Kenney seems to have gone from Churchillian rhetoric to fatalistic defeatism over the last two years – from one extreme to the other without really ever pausing at sensible moderation. Kenney may be many things and confusing in his vacillation, but he seems consistent in heading to the extremes.

    He is also a micro manager, or perhaps a better term is a meddler and that leads to many problems. First of all, when he goes incommunicado for weeks on end, the system he has built can’t function properly because he has set it up to only be run from the top down. There are actually capable people in the government (not a lot, but some), however you would never know it because it is mostly the Jason Kenney show all the time, and they are never given the chance to do much on their own.

    So, that “congestion” whatever it is (and those rapid tests are not that accurate), would have been the perfect opportunity for Kenney to let go and allow others to take the lead for once and also set a good example of caution. It wasn’t crucial that he speak that day and others could have handled the situation in his absence, but no, such a micro manager never gives power to anyone else.

    I am sure most in the UCP have realized some time ago that Kenney is the exactly the wrong personality to lead a party that sometimes still likes to think of itself as a grassroots party. However, they need to summon the courage up to do something about it.

  8. More of the same we get with this government which is a joke but the UCP never disappoints.
    Basically this is now endemic and those that have to die because of it well tough luck – I guess them being so
    close to their God, it is your time anyway so no big problem, just a fact of life and take it with a smile.
    All that matters to the UCP is to privatize everything we own for peanuts and let their private friends get rich.
    After all there will be some going under the table anyway and that will compensate for the pity 100 thousand plus they all make as ministers of the crown. We have to realize that it is hard for them to raise a family with that kind of money.
    Unfortunately I guess I have to tone down my criticism because there are already people asking me to get out of Alberta because of course I do not have the skills or talents to be successful in a highly corrupt society.
    We need more people like Jason Kenney and goons that can do whatever they want for their personal benefit.
    I am sure we can find enough in Canada and if not well it is not that difficult to set up a foreign employee program for that effect. I think that the Taliban may have some extras that fit the bill. They can actually get rid of competition very effectively as well.

    Happy New Year

  9. Pretty funny,

    “it seems evident they have reached a point where they no longer have a plan for the continuing COVID-19 pandemic”

    There is obviously no plan possible, we will have to play it by ear. That probably doesnt turn the crack of those who seek comfort in being slaves though.

    If you think zero covid is a reasonable plan please confirm the exit strategy?

    Also, zero covid strategies kill people in other ways. Why is it acceptable to up the rate of death of other groups to lower the rate of death from covid?

    As far as I can glean, that is morally indefensible.

    1. Don’t worry, Bret Larson. The unvaccinated have first class tickets to the front of the line for PCR testing and the new treatments. You should be fine.

    2. If that were true we would see outbreaks of these deaths in regions where they have been closest to covid 0 from the beginning, and we don’t. We don’t see it in New Zealand, we don’t see it in China, we don’t see it in vietnam. We do see a lot of despair and hopelessness in the countries where covid has been allowed to run wild however. What you are advocating is a baseless conspiracy theory that has actually killed many folks in practice.

    3. You’ve got a couple of valid points here amongst the rhetoric Bret. Zero Covid is lost so it will be or already is endemic here – but that doesn’t mean we just ignore health measures to keep a handle on it. Having a plan is necessary, but as you suggest all plans are subject to change as the situation evolves and new information/technology becomes available.

      You say some people take comfort in being slaves, I say some people take comfort in railing against civilization…

      1. Civilization doesnt mean you need to make your citizens slaves.

        Public health is a balancing act. As soon as you over concentrate on one issue you fail on a host of others.

  10. In the latest episode of “The World According to David Staples” via Twitter Staples denounces the cancellation of the IIHF Juniors tournament. Further to his angry missive, Staples declares that he has had enough of this blind disregard for science and will fight any and all continuing restrictions. He closes by declaring he’s doing this for his five children, who have been robbed of everything.

    Well, that is quite the belch of hot air from Staples. But it should be more concerning to Staples that there appears to be an emerging movement to get Staples fired from his position as a columnist, because, according to a complainant, Staples’ has been since the beginning of the pandemic engaged in a continuous campaign of disinformation and outright lies. The complainant cites Staples’ frequent use of data from questionable sources from parties that are well-known to have opposed any and all public health measures. The complainant goes further to call Staples “irresponsible” and “dangerous” and a poor writer and an active agent against the public interest.

    Wow. Staples’ unapologetic fluffing of the Dear Leader may have got him into hot water with the Journal’s readership, but it could get him a sweet gig in the UCP government communications.

  11. Did we skip the 5th to the 14th letters of the Greek alphabet because Omicron sounds more ominous? Or because it is an anagram of moronic?

    A one sided story is a better way to keep people scared. With temperatures as cold as they are, it’s much easier to self isolate than in warmer temps. I never referred to self isolation because of the temperature in any other post on this topic.

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