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

Never mind the Omicron variant, Alberta, it looks like we’re going to have the Best Christmas Ever.

So brace yourselves. With unvaccinated Albertans now welcome at family gatherings, this could turn out to be a repeat of the Best Summer Ever.

Health Minister Jason Copping (Photo: Alberta Newsroom Flickr).

Premier Jason Kenney didn’t actually use those words at his hastily organized news conference this morning, cobbled together after yesterday’s delays, to announce his government is relaxing some COVID-19 restrictions before the holiday.

“If the message here today was we’re cancelling Christmas,” he huffed at one impertinent reporter, “I think people would tell us to take a hike.”

In other words, why have rules if people are going to break them? This is a persistent theme with Mr. Kenney when it comes to COVID-19 restrictions. 

In addition to dropping distinctions between vaccinated and unvaccinated participants in holiday gatherings, the rule relaxations include an end to the limit on the number of households permitted to take part in indoor holiday get-togethers, although they will remain limited to 10 people. Unlimited numbers of children under 18 are now welcome. 

Dropping restrictions on unvaccinated Albertans will please the Mr. Kenney’s United Conservative Party base, which is rife with COVID skeptics and anti-vaxxers. It should worry the heck about anyone paying attention to the potential impact of the highly infectious Omicron variant. 

To be fair, the premier, Health Minister Jason Copping and Chief Medical Officer of Health Deena Hinshaw gave lots of warnings to be cautious about Omicron. But the impact of their messaging added up to: Omicron is extremely dangerous – so let’s get together and celebrate! 

Mr. Kenney also announced that free rapid antigen test kits will be available starting Friday at some Alberta pharmacies – until supplies run out. The government says it has 500,000 kits on hand, and they’ll be given away on a first-come, first-serve basis. 

Parkland Institute AIMCo report author Bob Ascah (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

When the first media questioner asked Mr. Kenney if right now was really a good time to relax the rules, he responded chippily with another perennial Kenney favourite: “I don’t accept the premise of that question whatsoever! 

He also mentioned “personal responsibility” as an antidote to rule breaking, and complained about the rate at which the federal government was delivering vaccines. So, if you were looking to fill your bingo card with annoying Kenneyisms, the premier pretty well hit them all. 

Mr. Kenney has tried to solve one of his serious political problems: He looked for a way to ensure there will be no Aloha-gate scandal this year. 

In a memorandum to UCP Caucus members yesterday, MLAs craving a dose of tropical sunshine were informed that because there are no longer federal advisories against out-of-country travel, “where all Albertans are free to travel outside the province, Government Caucus members will be permitted to do so as well.”

No sooner did that happen, though, than Ottawa issued a new advisory against non-essential international travel. 

Another of Mr. Kenney’s critical political problems also remains unresolved. 

But fortunately for Mr. Kenney no reporters had questions about how he plans to deal with Brian Jean. The former Wildrose Party leader who hopes to unseat him was chosen Sunday by party members in the Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche riding to be the UCP standard-bearer in a by-election that must be held by March. There is speculation Mr. Kenney may disallow his nomination. 

The only off-topic media question at today’s newser had to do with a report by former Alberta Treasury official Bob Ascah for the Edmonton-based Parkland Institute that called for governance changes to fix the Alberta Investment Management Corp., better known as AIMco. 

Dr. Ascah’s recommendations included removing the Alberta government as sole owner of AIMCo, giving pension boards majority representation on the Crown corporation’s board, and eliminating AIMCo’s monopoly on managing provincial public pensions.

Mr. Kenney glibly asserted that the 460,000 Alberta public employees and pensioners stuck with AIMCo management have nothing to worry about because their defined-benefit pensions are guaranteed by the government. 

Alas, this is untrue. 

As the Local Authorities Pension Plan’s “Myth-Busters” page explains: “LAPP pensions are not guaranteed by government. They are backed by a pension fund in excess of $50-billion, owned by LAPP members and invested on their behalf.” The same goes for other provincial public pensions. 

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  1. Based on the tone and message of Harpo the Younger’s tweet, not “cancelling Christmas” has become the branding for Kenney’s effort to unleash the consequences of the Best Christmas Ever. Of course, Kenney pulled out the script from the Best Summer Ever event and went through the list of rebuttals to the questions of all those misguided skeptics, meaning “that premise is rejected” and “I don’t foresee such an outcome”. What was the cherry on top was Kenney’s multiple shots at PMJT for not preventing the pandemic in the first place. Oh, and Ottawa owes Alberta Ninety-Hundred-Bazillion dollars for their trouble.

    The more I see Kenney do these pressers, the more I think of that quote from Elon Musk, where he called Sen. Elizabeth Warren that parent who screams at everyone whether they deserve it or not. While Warren’s taking Musk (as well as all the mega-rich) to task is justified, Kenney doing it just makes him seem like, to attach the current day colloquialism, a Karen. You know, that demonstrably irrational person who goes off on an unhinged rant at anything and everything that they consider some kind of a personal slight. Since Kenney is so thin-skinned and easily insulted, he should be ramping up the self-victimizing to full-throttle very soon.

    I don’t believe that Brian Jean has received his recognition from Kenney or the UCP in a public statement, yet, so I am presuming that it’s not coming anytime soon. I have no doubt that Kenney has hired a platoon of PIs to investigate every aspect of Jean’s life in the hope that they find one kernel of an iota of a claim of an allegation that impropriety that hands Kenney even the slightest grounds to set aside the nomination and hand it to his favoured candidate. This a tactic straight out of Robert Mugabe’s handbook and he used it often against his enemies.

  2. Being vaccinated doesnt mean you share covid less with your relatives. It just means you get less sick. Based on behaviour, the vaccinated probably spread the disease more.

    Hopefully vaccinated and un-vaccinated people who have behaviour where they may be infected understand this and protect the vulnerable people in their lives.

    1. Ok,

      Once again for the birds in the back. The reason we have different restrictions for vaccinated folks and those who refuse or cannot be vaccinated is not because they spread covid, it’s because they catch it at a much higher rate. We are trying to keep our healthcare system from collapsing.

      I agree, the focus on vaccines as a magic bullet is so very technocratic and as short sighted as those folks typically are. However, public health measures still work. They worked before the vaccines, they work with the vaccines. The reason we are still dealing with this situation has more to do with our own governments inability to enforce said public health restrictions than vaccine uptake.

      We could have had Covid zero, now we have this.

      1. That’s just an outright lie. I know it’s pointless in explaining this to anti-science Covid zealots but maybe someone reading this will see and look into it themselves. This person is totally lying. They take medical advice from journalists and expect everyone else to believe the propaganda as well. In Alberta, there are studies globally but I’ll stick to our own province, the shots provide a statistically insignificant level of protection as they saw a 2% lower infection rate in that group. Stop with the lies. If you are weak and insignificant in your life and want to seize upon this pandemic as a way to hate and “other” a group to gain some sense of importance then at least just admit that. Very cowardly and pathetic behaviour.

  3. A few days ago, Kenney mentioned his own family’s Christmas gathering would not have been compliant under the previous rules. It is probably not the best strategy to change public health rules to accommodate politicians personal circumstances, but regardless it seems like this is where we are now. On that note, I wonder if any of Kenney’s family Christmas party are not vaccinated. I suppose this may make it more difficult for people who really do not want unvaccinated family members to show up, but perhaps they didn’t really care what the rules were anyways. Maybe it would be good to require a COVID test for them in advance, although those rapid tests are not always as accurate as we would like.

    The memo on out of country travel, seems to be a bit like the party trying to cover its you know what. Of course, with the new Federal advisory that doesn’t seem to work so well now. I am sure one big reason the news conference was delayed due was to the evolving Federal situation. If so, one would have hoped the UCP could have also looked at and revised its memo accordingly. So, for now it seems UCP MLA’s are still totally free to travel to warmer places. Perhaps properly tying up loose ends is too much to ask of this group of bunglers.

    At least, Kenney did not have to deal with the embarrassment of having to address Brian Jean and his get rid of Kenney cross Alberta tour 2021-22. If it had, Kenney might have had to say something about not accepting the premise of the question again and in a probably much more irritated tone. Yes, Kenney is probably trying to come up with some way to disallow Jean’s nomination. Some one should probably also ask him about that and see what he says.

  4. Credit where credit is due, Kenney made a excellent argument for not getting out of the CPP. Hard to argue against the economies of scale there.

    It is pretty clear that both the vaccinated and unvaccinated can get and spread COVID, so what is the argument for having different rules? Maybe we should try some early treatments and save some lives instead of doubling down on a failed strategy.

  5. Now that Premier Crying & Screaming Midget has decided to take up the cause of the poor and downtrodden anti-Vaxx demographic, he has declared that anti-Vaxxers are people, too, and deserve to be in on all the fun, just like everyone else. AVLM (Anti-Vaxx Lives Matter) Say their names!

    It has been said many times that doing the same dumb thing over and over again and expecting a different result is the very definition of insanity, I propose something new. Kenney doing the same dumb thing over and over again and expecting a different is just an indicator that he is trying to punish everyone for not believing in his genius and divine mission to destroy PMJT. Well, there’s that 30% of Alberta that is still convinced of that Kenney is some kind of a wizard beyond compare and should be declared the King of Kings. ASAP.

    Further to the exploits of Harpo the Younger, I am reminded of something that Alan Frotheringham said about former Canadian PMs sending their kids to higher education in the US. First, why on earth would you want your kid educated at a nondescript, know-nothing Canadian university when they can get into the big leagues down south? And second, and more importantly, get the kids far away from Canada in case they get into trouble and embarrass the family. In the case of Harpo the Younger, he’s attending the venerable Columbia U, but he’s going out of his way to do stupid shite and telling everyone about it. It looks like this really is a case of like father like son.

    Meatheads R’Us.

    1. “It looks like this really is a case of like father like son.”
      Ben has a long way to go. Have you seen the video of dad warbling Sweet Caroline at the 2015 Stampede barbecue? It’s like getting your tonsils and adenoids extracted with a set of rusty pliers.

      1. Harpo and the “Vingt Cats” (Seriously, that was the name of the band.) made frequent appearances at many CPC events, among them the annual party Christmas party in Ottawa. Attendance was MANDATORY — for charity, of course. The charity was the adopt-a-cat program at the Ottawa animal shelter. Did anyone really think that the CPC would do a charity event for humans? Harpo and family were noted to have adopted some five to six cats and let them run riot at 24 Sussex Drive. (Vingt Cats. Get it?) No wonder the place was nearly condemned.

        1. Since Harpo got whupped in 2015, it’s reasonable to conclude “Vingt Cats” has been disbanded, so to speak.
          Pity. During this festive season the combo could have raised money for strays with a rollicking rendition of “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer.”

  6. These pretend conservatives and Reformers in the UCP simply do not care about who their badly created policies harm. The UCP has learned absolutely nothing from their prior bungling of Covid-19 waves in Alberta. The best, (but not the only example) is their Best Summer Ever propaganda spiel. It turned into a nightmare, that lasted beyond the summer. Best Winter Ever? It will end up being the Worst Winter Ever. Wait and see.
    With AIMCo, and the UCP, $4 billion of people’s pension money has disappeared without a trace. It will never, ever be recovered. Under the UCP’s foolishness, along with AIMCo, almost $2 billion of the Heritage Savings Trust Fund, which was set up by Peter Lougheed, has also disappeared without a trace. The head honcho of the UCP has a history of losing people’s money, or at the very least, he has had a hand in it. This was evident when he was in the CPC cabinet, and he was a partaker of a major blunder, where $35 billion of people’s life savings were never seen again, in the income trust kerfuffle. People’s lives and retirement are being put at risk, with these pretend conservatives and Reformers in the UCP. When will Albertans ever learn?

    1. ANONYMOUS My sister and her husband lost $30,000. because of the lies Harper fed them about not taxing the Income Trusts.

      The big question is how are we going to be able to keep all our doctors and nurses from walking out the door because of the way they have been treated by these fake conservatives. I still remember retired doctor friends pointing out that Canadian trained doctors and nurse are so highly respected that they can work where ever they want to. Kenney has certainly given them no reason to stay.

      1. ALAN K. SPILLER: Well said. In my own family, there are a number of them who were, or still are in the nursing field. They know what Ralph Klein was doing, and it wasn’t good. The UCP are doing the same things as their Liberal turned Reformer hero, Ralph Klein. They want cuts to healthcare, so they can have the excuse to privatize it in Alberta. That’s why the head honcho of the UCP wanted a Liberal, turned NDP, turned Reformer, Janice MacKinnon on his Blue Ribbon Panel. She was part of Roy Romanow’s NDP government in Saskatchewan, and had to cleanup the fiscal catastrophe done by Grant Devine’s PC government. She did so by mimicking Ralph Klein’s bad policies (Mike Harris, the former PC premier in Ontario, and good friend of Ralph Klein, was like that too). She got many rural hospitals in Saskatchewan closed down, and the NDP were defeated. What happens if the UCP gets sued, from their policies, that could end up costing people their lives?

      2. Recent opinion pieces report that Kenney wants $32B for the O & G industry. He wants that money right now. Of course, he could just scoop that amount out of the public pensions. As pointed out, Kenney dropped another falsehood declaring that public pensions in Alberta were guaranteed by the province — they are not.

        Using the $32B is part of the larger plan to nationalize the entire basket of O & G assets, but that sum is not even close to the amount needed to cover the expected premium to be charged on all the assets, and the related environmental clean-up costs.

  7. With regards to Omnicron there doesn’t seem to be much difference. In fact, omicron seems to be spread exclusively by young vaxxed people. If early indications of omicron being mild hold up then a widespread transmission could be just what the doctor ordered as it could lead to herd immunity.
    Meanwhile the definition of “unvaxxed” could be about to change. You will need a booster shot to be considered fully vaccinated.

  8. The bonus touch of inviting as many children as you want over to your Christmas party makes it official: Kenney is the anti-Scrooge. “God bless us, every one.”

    1. Where Kenney is concerned, he would have no trouble snatching away Tiny Tim’s crutches and telling him to stand up on his own and learn the UCP Hobble.

  9. The Premiers comments about covid and his new regulations are at variance with the health authorities from a number of Provinces.

    I fear we are truly headed into ‘the best holiday season yet’.

    Once again, Jason Kenney places political expediency above the health and well being of Albertans.

  10. Given the number of schools with outbreaks plus the addition of the apparently highly contagious omicron variant, allowing unlimited numbers of young children to circulate at family gatherings seems outrageous. What a bizarre policy change…..of course the idea of “unlimited children” falls in line with many of the religious fundamentalist mentalities inhabiting the fringes of the UCP. I propose that we nominate Strange Kenney for a Darwin award.

  11. In a survey done by the Cochrane Eagle newspaper it was asked if you were going to get your children vaccinated and 65% of these mindless Albertans said no. As my wife points out we will likely see another shut down of the classrooms by these stupid adults. They don’t care who they hurt. I doubt Kenney is smart enough to make certain all students are vaccinated.
    But then Albertans have never been considered to be very smart when you look at how easy it’s been for these reformers to treat them like morons and get away with it. I know Ralph Klein had a ball doing it.
    Like Albertans, friends and relatives in Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario have learned what a disaster Reform Party premiers can be.

  12. I don’t understand why he felt it necessary to make any declarations. Is he really worried about the small percentage of people that will vote for him anyway? At risk of angering those that might? Man, the UPC are harebrained.

  13. I just watched a presentation today by the Ontario Science Table on Omicron predictions regarding infections and likely hospitalizations. Fairly scary. This time next week just in time for Santa, based on UK and Danish experiences and findings, we’ll be wandering around in ever smaller circles berating politicians for not having taken action sooner. Denmark, a highly vaccinated country, reported today 9,999 new infections in a country of 5.8 million from Wednesday. It’s been doubling every week since Nov 23. Denmark makes sophisticated medical equipment and can identify covid variant strains rapidly, covering every sample unlike most of Canada.

    I expect Alberta will handily top that 10,000 number in two weeks time, because Denmark is expecting far worse than the current 10,000 per day itself as well, like tomorrow. Sweden(!), hilariously and formerly the Herd Immunity capital of the world, is banning Danish visitors! Luckily there’s a highway/rail bridge, the Oresund, between the two countries, so the Swedes will be able see the zombie Danish hordes approaching and gear up police in Volvo wagons and Hazmat gear to stop them and turn them around.

    It’ll be utter chaos across Canada and the US by Jan 10 is my prediction. Unfortunately, hospitals are seeing more cases in Denmark as well. All the hope that Omicron is mild and not much more than a case of the sniffles seems to have been a chimera or a wild guess because most infections have been in the 20 to 29 year olds so far, and they’re more resilient than oldsters. Wonderful, eh?

    But Albertans like kenney and the troop of stupids intent on having a damn good Christmas regardless of the real world will get a lesson, methinks. Will they learn from it? Not a chance in hell. It’ll all be PMJT’s fault for not getting that vaccine to Alberta sooner. The old BS stance — vaccine shortages — simply does not hold water this time around. Since there are 29 million shots in stock in the country, it’ll be just another blatant lie on kenney’s part which the faithful will nonetheless lap up as gospel. A phone call will get the Fat Man a deluge of vax and he pretends otherwise. What a great leader.

    My brother in Calgary is apoplectic, but assumes the worst. His booster is this Monday, the last in his family, but I myself in NS have to wait till Dec 30 as appointments are clogged due to the delayed rollout for children. The Xmas holidays mean the kids can attend day appointments denied during school days. We’re slow off the mark as usual in NS compared to most places, and you can only get a jab at a pharmacy. All the big old mass vaxx centres of seven months ago are abandoned and we lack any sense of urgency. Great.

    Time to act the hermit, I guess, until the extent of the furore becomes clearer. Then I may laugh or cry, depending.

  14. “Annoying Kennyisms” sounds like a redundancy. Allow me as much with Bingo cards.

    Not in Sudbury (but in Courtenay) and not on a Saturday night (could be any night) the ‘boys’ (veterans and invited guests—me— at the OAP table in a hotel bar) are gettin’ stinko (apparent when the fish stories slur into war stories and my friend, for years the parade and mall Santa with a genuine long, flowing, white beard, leans over and mutters at me, “I was in the war. It was hell. I never brag about it…”), the ‘girls’ (their wives with part-mickies secreted in their purses) come in from Bingo and the men look afright: one wife will call another the B-word because she got a bingo the first one reckoned should have been hers, and somebody calls a cab and drags his ‘better half’ out the door while she stirs her wake of blue air with a swirling handbag. It always reminded me of the only Bingo I ever played—which I will unnecessarily repeat here.

    I worked for a number of years at the old M&B logging camp at Franklin River (gone now, but in its day the biggest camp on the Coast), and about once a month we’d play ‘beer Bingo’ in the gym (which doubled as our union local’s camp committee meeting hall). The prizes were cases of twelve “stubbies” and of course we could buy beers to drink whilst the the numbers were being called out through the thick pall of tobacco smoke. As I recall, it cost a dollar a bottle, the small profit (with the sale of Bingo cards) funding something I can’t recall, it was so far back—like, when ‘buck-a-beer’ Doug Ford (now better known as the D’ohFo), was still in high school peddling dimes of hash. Smart players would hustle their case of beer out the door as soon’s they got a Bingo!, but the greedier ones who stayed to win more than one case would invariably get a lot of uninvited, after-bingo guests show up at their bunkhouse rooms (sharing being mandatory amongst union brothers). Anyway, the last game of the night involved loading up before last call and hanging in for the “black-out” where every square on the Bingo card must be filled to win the grand prize of two cases. Thus it took a long time before somebody would shout Bingo! —and a buccane of cuss words would explode out of annoyed losers. (Naturally some players had already blacked out long before that.)

    So there. My redundancy might look annoyingly long but I offer it only to illustrate how long the list of annoying Kennyisms must be when there are probably enough to fill way more than one, 25-square bingo card.

    To underscore the point, I’ll unnecessarily repeat another story: I dimly recall one beer bingo night at camp when somebody killed the lights in the windowless hall in an attempt to make off with the prizes, inciting a roar of cussing, chairs legs chattering across the floor-hockey court, heavy boots stomping around, glass breaking, and meaty thudding and groaning with cases of stubbies clanking in the pitch black—probably like what Alberta public employees and retirees can expect to hear as the unseen play bingo with their pension fund.

    “Annoying Kennyisms” is certainly a redundancy—I mean, what other kind are there?— but, as I hope I’ve shown, it is an exquisitely succinct one, certainly compared to the number of bingo cards K-Boy will have blacked out by the time voters tell him to take a hike. Then, as the lights are turned back on, a deafening cheer of Bingo! will resound in beaming sunshine. “Everyone’s a winner! Two cases of beer!”

    Woah yeah!

  15. Is Kenney getting this abysmal advice from his senior policy advisors?

    Or are his political instincts that far off reality. His pronouncements may play well in a few rural ridings but that is all. Alberta voters will see this for what it is. An attempt for Kenney to hold on to his few supporters in the Party.

    Kenney is drinking far too much of his own Kool-Aid.

    It will take another month before we see how the UCP has fared in their Q4 donations. That takes us into late Jan early February.

    If the polls are still in the toilet does anyone not think that the UCP Executive and the back room money types will hesitate to pull this plug on this train wreck??

    In the interim Brian Jean will be working hard to harvest the crop of discontent that is growing each day. And if covid takes a turn for the worse in early /mid January that discontent will grow exponentially.

  16. Commenters keep asking why Kenney and his crew cannot go to jail for criminal negligence causing death. Here is an article from the BBC reporting that a Danish Cabinet Minister is indeed going to jail for one of the policies she implemented.

    So it is possible for politicians to go to jail for their policies, at least in Denmark. How could this be? In 1945 it had been 85 years since Denmark had abolished capital punishment. However 1945 was the end of World War Two. Although there had been few collaborators, as in Norway, people were taking the opportunity to kill the few who collaborated and any Germans still hanging around. In response the Danish government restored capital punishment to deal with the worst of the collaborators in a just and lawful way. Once that was done, they again abolished capital punishment.

    The jailing of the Danish Cabinet Minister is the heritage of that time and a good one in my view. Only in Denmark you say? Pity.

  17. A few assorted comments:

    – The thing about public health is, it’s all about communities and populations. So, you put in place measures like physical distancing, mask mandates, work from home orders, capacity restrictions, and mass immunization programmes to reduce the level of virus circulating in the community. Eventually, just as with influenza in 1919, and SARS-1 in 2004, the pandemic just peters out for lack of susceptible hosts to reproduce in. But lift those measures prematurely, as the Kenney Government has done repeatedly over the course of this pandemic, and the virus can circulate more widely and can evolve new, more problematic variants (of course, too many Alberta Cons don’t believe in evolution, but it happens every day in microbiology). The current Omicron variant arose in places in the global south where immunization rates were very low and the virus had lots of susceptible hosts in which to multiply.

    – On the state of the health care system, let’s not forget that despite all the talk of the four — so far — “waves” of the COVID-19 pandemic, the health care system and the doctors, nurses, allied health professionals and support staff that keep it functioning have been running flat out for a solid 21 months since March 2020, without respite. Each “wave” of the pandemic is marked by the rise and fall of new cases being identified, and those who are sick enough being hospitalized. But even as each “wave” subsides, its victims remain in hospital, often for many weeks — and so do all the tens of thousands of others whose care had been paused due to COVID and are then finally brought in to deal with whatever issue they had been living with all that time; and in too many cases, after it had progressed to the point where it was more severe and would take more time and more health resources to manage than it might otherwise have done. So, many health professionals are looking elsewhere for greener pastures. For example, the Government of Nova Scotia has just recently set up a central, single portal health professionals recruitment office to give recruitment and retention the attention it fully deserves: Given how much better that province has navigated the pandemic than Alberta has, one might forgive many highly experienced Alberta health care professionals — a lot of whom (my wife & myself included) hail from the East Coast in the first place — for looking at Canada’s Ocean Playground as an amenable locale in which to run out their careers. And, given the weather at this time of year — it was -36°C in Grande Prairie this week, and today it’s sunny and -1 in Halifax & Kentville, to name a few places — there are a number of other good answers to “why not?”. The answer to that question is likely to be felt most deeply in rural and small-urban Alberta, where health care staffing levels were already on a razor’s edge long before a new virus arose in Wuhan, China.

  18. Kenney simply wants to destroy the public healthcare system
    His commission on its privatization will be astronomical.
    In a true blue slime fashion he is using austerity needed by low oil and choice to lose taxes
    plus the pressure of an unchecked pandemic to attack both people and the institution.
    Vile tiny creature at the helm willing to sacrifice anything for his ideology .

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