“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.
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.
“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.