Yee-haw! Alberta Premier Jason Kenney in Calgary on July 12, 2021, the day he promised Alberta would never have a vaccine passport (Photo: Chris Schwarz, Government of Alberta).

“Alberta’s Legislature removed the power of mandatory vaccination from the Public Health Act last year and will not revisit that decision, period,Premier Jason Kenney tweeted yesterday.

Just in case any Albertans were in doubt about what he really meant, about an hour later Brock Harrison, Mr. Kenney’s communications director, tweeted the same sentiment. “Not happening in Alberta,” he huffed, including a link to the premier’s tweet.

The premier’s communications director, Brock Harrison (Photo: Twitter).

Both were responding to speculation by federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos earlier in the day that Canada’s provinces will likely introduce mandatory vaccination policies in the months ahead to help cope with soaring COVID-19 caseloads. 

“What we see now is that our health care system in Canada is fragile, our people are tired, and the only way that we know to get through COVID-19, this variant and any future variant, is through vaccination,” Mr. Duclos told reporters in Ottawa. “That’s why I’m signalling this is a conversation which I believe provinces and territories, in support with the federal government, will want to have over the next weeks and months.” 

A mandatory vaccination policy would probably be quite difficult to implement as quickly as needed in the face of the slew of constitutional challenges that could be expected and the need to draft legislation creating space for people with legitimate medical reasons for exemptions. That however, doesn’t mean provinces won’t try to achieve the same thing by making life difficult for anyone who chooses not to be vaccinated. 

Quebec’s requirement, which will take effect in 10 days, that anyone who wants to buy legal booze or pot from government run liquor and cannabis stores must prove they’ve been vaccinated is just a start. 

Clearly both the Liberals in Ottawa and the United Conservatives in Alberta have concluded this is an excellent issue to shore up their core support, so everyone is playing to their bases when they make these kind of statements. 

Nevertheless, Albertans determined not to be vaccinated shouldn’t be too confident Mr. Kenney will keep his promise, something the rest of us figured out long ago. 

Remember, Alberta’s premier was just as firm when he vowed that Alberta would never implement vaccine passports.

Federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos (Photo: Liberal Party of Canada).

“We’ve been very clear from the beginning that we will not facilitate or accept vaccine passports,” he stated firmly at the premier’s annual Stampede Breakfast back on July 12, 2021, less than two weeks after the official Canada Day start of the now notorious “Best Summer Ever.”

Mr. Kenney reminded reporters then too that his government had amended the Public Health Act to remove the power to force people to be vaccinated, which had been on the books for a century. 

“These folks who are concerned about mandatory vaccines have nothing to be concerned about,” he stated.

As was anticipated, though, it wasn’t long after that Mr. Kenney’s Cabinet did impose a vaccine passport – they just called it something else. 

Alberta’s “Restrictions Exemptions Program” was announced on Sept. 15. It allowed patrons to enter businesses like bars and restaurants if they could prove they’d been vaccinated. In September, it even moved online, complete with a QR Code that could be loaded onto your smartphone, just like the vaccine passports in all those other provinces and countries.

So the only thing that Mr. Kenney’s promise yesterday means is that, if and when Alberta has to knuckle under to circumstance or public pressure and make vaccinations mandatory, or so close to it that there’s no practical difference, it won’t use the words mandatory or vaccine.

The Immunization Incentive? Public Health Stimulus? Whatever.

Saskatchewan, of course, will do whatever Alberta does – about two weeks later. 

Love him or hate him, when it comes to Premier Kenney’s promises not to do something, never say never. 

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16 Comments

  1. I’m sure these pretend conservatives and Reformers in the UCP are just trying to save their hides. They have done the worst possible job you can imagine with looking after the Covid-19 pandemic in Alberta. So frequently, Alberta has been in the top spot in Canada for Covid-19 cases. Nothing will get better with these pretend conservatives and Reformers in charge of Alberta.

  2. Perhaps, instead of Kenney, et al, chomping at the bit to jump on federal Health Minister Duclos’s comment re: that it would be up to province’s to decide on mandatory COVID vaccines, we could have had a more, in depth review, from them, of how many COVID cases and deaths there were in Alberta yesterday. We sure didn’t get the usual total numbers and the breakdown of the numbers in separate areas. The day before, Thursday, it was indicated that in our local, rural, Alberta town area (population around 2000) that COVID cases had increased by 20, from 2. But instead, we get this tiresome slamming of the feds by these clowns.

  3. Has there ever been a more irresponsible or criminally negligent government in the history of this province than the current UCP government led by the great prevaricator, Bumbles?

    The sad reality is that the Omicron variant is highly transmissible, resulting in many more infections than previous variants. There are also more breakthrough infections. While it is true that, in general, symptoms appear to be milder and the risk of developing serious Covid symptoms, such as Covid-pneumonia, is less, higher infection rates mean that more people are going to end up in hospital: a lower percentage of a much bigger number of infected people is still a major drain on hospital resources.

    The profile of the people being admitted to hospitals is changing because of changed circumstances. Most of the population is vaccinated with at least 2 doses of AstraZeneca or an mRNA vaccine or one dose of J and J. There is still some lag with boosters. So, hospitals are apparently seeing a change in admissions. More fully vaccinated people are showing up. However, these people tend to have co-morbidities that make them vulnerable. The unvaccinated still reign supreme.

    It is instructive to view the information provided by Ontario’s Covid Science Advisory Table here: https://covid19-sciencetable.ca/ontario-dashboard/. (How I wish AB had something similar, but the government would rather keep people in the dark, it seems.)

    While it may the case that breakthrough infections are going up and that we are starting to see more admissions among the fully vaxxed (defined as having 2 doses), the unvaxxed continue to consume on a per capita basis the most hospital resources. For example, in Ontario there are 153 unvaxxed Covid-19 patients / million in ICU vs 10.7 / million fully vaxxed patients. That is a stark difference.

    The high transmissibility of Omicron is going to cause a lot of sickness among our hospital workers, leading to even more health-care worker shortages, compounding the burn-out and stress these people are already coping with.

    The conditions are right for a perfect storm that can cripple our health care system. And, let’s please not forget that, when Covid patients occupy hospital beds, those are beds that can’t be used for people who need other medical care, such as non-urgent but nonetheless serious surgeries.

    The obvious and biggest impact mitigation strategy is to reduce the threat posed by the unvaccinated. The government may have no choice but to implement wider vaccine mandates and call it by another name, as DJC rightly asserts. But, because of the UCP’s stubborn denials in order to appeal to its minority base, many more people are going to suffer and die consequently than would be the case otherwise were the government to face the reality now for the need for action to reduce the threat from the unvaxxed, rather than later. This is the very definition of criminal negligence.

  4. I always wondered why people that are clearly the antithesis of a true religious person end up being their representatives.
    From the priest pedophiles to Dr. Yee-haw or Dr. No-Yes these people lie, cheat and are racist and claim to be the Christian defenders. They are the ones who understand the poor, the disadvantaged, the sick …blah blah blah
    We all know what their reality actually is. The crusaders carrying a porn flag.
    I wished I could feel more positive about 2022 but unfortunately I think it will be our worse year in Alberta. It would be way better and cheaper for us to give each of them 1 million dollars and buy them a house in the Caribbeans – what a relief getting these saviours out of our lives.

  5. I don’t support truly “mandatory” vaccination, which would mean you would be ticketed, or fines, or arrested, or whatever, for failing to be immunized. I do support the strongest possible restrictions on the indoor public activities of the unvaccinated — as Québec’s Health Minister said, “not immunized? Then stay home”.

    However, we also need to do a better, more proactive job of reaching out to the hesitant and the doubters, and those who have experienced barriers to access, to try to answer their questions, reassure them of the vaccines’ safety & efficacy, and remove those access barriers. The only adults we should allow to remain unvaccinated should the kind of hard-core anti-vaxxers that would have to be dragged kicking & screaming into a public health clinic.

  6. First of all, Kenney’s strong reaction to this idea is not an indication of an opposition to it, as much as a realization of all the political trouble for him from it in particular. He knows that some who support him are adamantly against mandatory vaccination. So, this reaction is more about political survival than principle for him.

    Having been through this before he knows a key part of the response will be not to call it what may offend those supporters. Likely someone in the in the government right now is working on coming up with an innocuous or confusing name for it.

    Perhaps some of those supporters will be easily fooled, but I doubt it, so this is where it gets tricky. They might accept not going to a restaurant or not flying now as a restriction, but more restrictions could make life difficult, not just inconvenient for them.

    I don’t know what Kenney can or will say to them, but it will be interesting to see how successful it is. Also, I bet whatever he does, he will try delay until after mid April after his leadership review. If he does not win that, well then this all becomes someone else’s problem.

  7. It continues to amaze how easy it is to fool Alberta seniors and Jason Kenney has done it once again. While they whine and cry and hurl sarcastic comments at Calgary’s new mayor for raising taxes they ignore the fact that it was Kenney who slashed taxes to benefit his rich friends, costing Albertans the loss of $9.4 billion over the next few years. More than enough to cover tax increases around the province . Instead it has helped Kenney trick seniors into blaming it on our mayors. Too bad our seniors aren’t smart enough to blame the right person.

  8. KJJ is back in Alberta from his starlight tour in the wilds of Montana, so he and his supporters will likely be stirring this pot again.

  9. David, I have a crazy friend who has a crazy take on this immense Covid threat that is basically Jason Kenney’s creation. This crazy friend thinks that after 50% of Alberta’s population was double-vaccinated in mid-July, cases sky-rocketed from under 50 per day to 1976 per day by mid-September.
    https://www.alberta.ca/stats/covid-19-alberta-statistics.htm#vaccinations
    https://www.alberta.ca/stats/covid-19-alberta-statistics.htm#total-cases

    Also, my crazy friend also thinks that the Alberta Government continues to use January 1, 2021 as the starting point for their assessment of vaccine efficacy, when only 9.5% of the population had been completely vaccinated by June 1, 2021. My crazy friend seems to think that the rate of Covid cases, hospitalizations and deaths among the “completely” vaccinated rose at essentially the same rate as vaccination, to the point that there is a higher rate of new and active Covid cases among the “completely” vaccinated, than among the unvaccinated.
    https://www.alberta.ca/stats/covid-19-alberta-statistics.htm#vaccine-outcomes

    I know that we need to have mandatory vaccinations, because it’s just the right thing to do even though there is no evidence in Alberta that vaccines prevent transmission of SARS CoV-2, and over 50% of current Covid hospitalizations are “completely” vaccinated and the elderly, frail, obese and very sick continue to die with Covid in numbers comparable to what has been observed throughout this terrible emergency, but my crazy friend thinks that perhaps widespread adoption of emergency-use mRNA treatments through force of law is a strange response to this situation.
    “FDA has authorized the emergency use of the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine, which is not an FDA-approved vaccine.
    • The recipient or their caregiver has the option to accept or refuse the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine.
    • The significant known and potential risks and benefits of the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine, and the extent to which such risks and benefits are unknown.”
    https://www.fda.gov/media/144637/download

    Also, as the kids went back to school today, my crazy friend says that providing testing kits and medical masks to schools, where apparently staff will stick swabs up the noses of children with any of the terrifying symptoms of Covid, is also a strange response. My crazy friend pointed to this conspiracy theory, that Covid produces less frequent severe illness in children than influenza, and a fraction of the risk to children posed by injury.
    https://www.alberta.ca/assets/documents/health-data-modelling-fact-sheet.pdf

    David, what can we do about crazy people with these unfounded crazy notions about this infernal plague that is going to produce 800 000 cases in Alberta by mid-May, 2020, but possibly as many as 1 060 000 in that time frame, but if we do nothing, will likely produce 1 600 000 in the same time frame?

    If we can get rid of Kenney, will that restore sanity to crazy people who are beset by these delusions?
    Asking for a friend.

  10. why doesn’t Alberta do what Florida has done and allow Vaccines, and make treatment available that are working so well in Japan and India also as I understand it Florida has the lowest infection rates in the USA why does everything have to be vaccines only when treatments work so well and keep hospitals empty.

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