There was little informative or edifying about the mostly successful effort by Premier Jason Kenney and three of his senior health care enablers to run out the clock on reporters’ questions at yesterday’s COVID-19 news conference.

Facing not only the potential for difficult questions about the chaos in Alberta’s schools and hospitals driven by spread of the highly infectious Omicron strain of the virus but the danger of embarrassing interrogation about the Madu Snafu, the premier adopted a manipulative approach to journalists. 

Alberta Health Services CEO Verna Yiu, who delivered a gloomier assessment of the next few weeks than Premier Kenney did (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

The first hour of the news conference, observed Mount Royal University political scientist Duane Bratt, who has a talent for pithily summing up such behaviour, was “a filibuster.”

The goal of the filibuster, obviously, was to limit the time available for reporters to ask questions, especially about the continuing uproar over Justice Minister Kaycee Madu’s notorious call to Edmonton’s police chief about his traffic ticket last March.

By having Health Minister Jason Copping (appearing from home in light of his recent positive COVID test), Chief Medical Officer of Health Deena Hinshaw, and Alberta Health Services CEO Vera Yiu help him extemporize repetitively and uninformatively via video for close to a full hour, Mr. Kenney was able to limit the Q&A portion of the news conference to two questions each from just six reporters.

And, as Dr. Bratt observed, since one was from a right-wing news outfit and lobbed Mr. Kenney a softball about Quebec, allowing him the opportunity to rant at length, and the other, in French, was the same as an earlier one in English, there were really only four.

As veteran Alberta political reporter Graham Thomson said on Twitter, “the gov’t has used the pandemic to restrict the ability of journos to hold (it) to account on many issues including, ironically, the pandemic.”

Five of the reporters selected asked questions about COVID, and one asked the money question about Mr. Kenney’s role in the Madu affair – to wit, What did you know and when did you know it?

But thanks to the tightly controlled format of the COVID-constrained conference, it was easy for Mr. Kenney to bat it away with his trademark glib gaslighting.

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

“I do recall at some point last year hearing that Minister Madu had gotten a ticket, had paid for it,” Mr. Kenney said, as if it were the last thing on his mind. “I got fully briefed on all of this, including about the call and the details, on Monday afternoon following media inquiries.” (Emphasis added.)

So those in political circles who are insisting it was the premier who demanded hours after the call that Mr. Madu pay the ticket and drop the matter will have no choice but to accept the premier’s account. Indeed, journalists by tradition aren’t even supposed to mention such suggestions without supporting documentation. 

However Mr. Madu came up with the idea, that strategy has not paid off for him. 

Beyond that short-lived moment of frisson, the most striking aspect of the news conference was the gap between the premier’s characteristic optimism about the progress of the pandemic, and Dr. Yiu’s rather bleaker assessment. 

“If the variant performs in Alberta like it has in jurisdictions all around the world, we can reasonably expect that we may now be beginning on the down-slope of transmission,” the premier cheerfully asserted. 

Mount Royal University political scientist Duane Bratt (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

“It’s reasonable to infer that we are at or recently past the peak of infections,” he said later in response to a reporter’s question. “We can, I think, expect to see, as other jurisdictions have, a relatively low, a significantly lower, impact on Intensive Care than earlier variants.”

In fairness, Mr. Kenney offered some qualifiers, and didn’t quite promise us the best summer ever. 

Dr. Yiu, possibly hampered by an instinct to take questions seriously and provide straightforward answers, was not as optimistic. 

“In the past week we have seen hospitalization numbers increase sharply,” she said. “This week we reached numbers of total hospitalizations with COVID that is higher than at any point during the pandemic. 

“We are not necessarily seeing a spike in the very ill as we did in the fall, but we are seeing a surge in people who may not need ICU care but do need support in Emergency Departments, or in the hospital,” she added. “Our ICU teams can expect to see more patients needing their care in the coming weeks.”

Veteran Alberta political commentator Graham Thomson (Photo: Good question, it’s in the blogger’s files, but it doesn’t look like his work).

Dr. Hinshaw said 3,527 new cases of COVID-19 have been identified, the positivity rate is now 33 per cent, and there have been eight new deaths. A total 1,131 people were being treated for COVID in Alberta hospitals as of yesterday, surpassing the fourth wave peak of 1,128 last September. There are 108 patients in ICU.

Where are Canada’s fierce infrastructure defenders now that truckers are ‘slow-rolling’? 

Who can forget the Conservative hysteria that surrounded the rail blockades two years ago in support of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation’s opposition to the Coastal GasLink Pipeline project running through its ancestral territory in British Columbia? 

Conservative leaders were everywhere, assailing the Trudeau Government for being too soft on the protesters and demanding “national leadership to ensure that Canada is a country characterized by the rule of law,” as Premier Kenney put it.

If nothing was done, they warned repeatedly, the Canadian economy would soon be on its knees. 

The United Conservative Party brought in the draconian and almost certainly unconstitutional Critical Infrastructure Act, supposedly in response to the blockades.

Yesterday, vaccine-resistant truckers across Canada were threatening slow-rolling blockades of critical infrastructure like highways and city streets to protest the appalling thought they might be required to have a COVID-19 vaccine before going to and fro across the Canada-U.S. border. Quelle horreur! 

And yet, other than whining about how Ottawa had no business bringing in the vaccine mandate, there was nary a word from the usual suspects on the right about the threat to our critical infrastructure or the economy imposed by the rebel truckers. 

From Jason Kenney, there was not even a hint he’d contemplate using Alberta’s Critical Infrastructure Act. Whatever could the reason be? 

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22 Comments

  1. Kenney is not about to call out truckers for violating is most favorite piece of legislation, ever. I mean it’s all about protecting infrastructure from eco-terrorists and attacking PMJT, after all. Besides, truckers will get singled out for special treatment because … they have trucks. End of story.

    Kenney is showing some extraordinary acrobatic skills that would place him on par with the Flying Wallendas. I mean being able to stretch and straddle the gap between the well-heeled elites and the salty blue collar types is no small feat — it’s certainly worthy of a nod from Jean Claude Van Damme to be sure.

    The COVID pressers are becoming tiresome affairs that no one wants to see anymore. Dr. Hinshaw pretty much wonders what’s happened to her life, while Verna Yiu seems perplexed that she is left to play the only adult in the room. As for Premier Crying & Screaming Midget, he can’t wait to take those those questions where he gets to dive into his favorite subjects: beating up PMJT and Quebec. In this one, Kenney got to trash both of them at once. No doubt, Kenney rewarded himself for this coup by selecting the finest from his mountain of cough syrup. Such talents cannot go unrewarded. I bet he can’t wait to go AWOL again.

  2. The UCP wants no accountability for its dismal decisions. Dr. Deena Hinshaw is likely going to be thrown under the bus again, by the head honcho of the UCP, and the UCP itself. In addition, we see the absolute hypocrisy of the conservatives and the stance with truckers and the Covid-19 vaccines. What else were we to expect here?

  3. Oh, if there was ever anyone born to filibuster, its is Kenney. He can go on and on, sounding earnest while saying nothing meaningful at all. I suspect he loves the sound of his own voice and believes he is showing everyone how smart he is the more he talks.

    So, I am not surprised that he used “talk as much as possible” as his main strategy to avoid too many probing questions about the embarrassing Madu debacle. Anyone else who has heard Professor Kenney talk should not be surprised either. The guy can be quite the wind bag.

    However, we did get a vague answer about the Madu mess. Kenney had heard about the ticket quite a while ago, but not all the rest of the details. Presumably this means he did not know about the call to the police chief, but gee I don’t think he actually said that. He just implied it and allowed us to assume it. I suspect if pressed the words I don’t recall may be used in the future. I suspect that will be the strategy – stick with vague, while trying to sound clear.

    I also doubt Madu wanted to pay that ticket, but was prevailed on to do so. Of course that leads to more questions. Who pressed him to pay it and did they know about the call to the police chief? I suspect they did and part of the case made to Madu was fighting it would only lead to information about that call coming out. So, best to let sleeping dogs like, as the saying goes. Unfortunately for Madu, they did not remain asleep anyways.

    As for Kenney’s trying to paint a rosy picture of the best spring ever, does anyone really believe him any more? He has become Premier Pinocchio a long time ago.

  4. You don’t have to be a fan of Jason Kenney but what else can he do to stem the virus in the age of omicron. More vaccines, more lockdowns, more passports? Israel is the most vaxxed country on earth (they’re quadruple vaxxed doncha know) with passports and the strongest mask enforcements. Yet Israel has been breaking daily world records for Covid cases lately. It’s too bad Covid has become politicized but it’s like everything else these days I suppose.
    No matter. If you want to know what’s in store for the future look no further than what’s happening in Europe where the medical establishment is saying maybe it’s time to declare an end to the pandemic and learn to live with Covid.
    Dr. Clive Dix, the former head of the UK’s vaccine task force, was quoted as saying,
    “It is pointless keeping giving more and more vaccines to people who are not going to get very ill. We should just let them get ill and deal with that.”
    To that end Boris Johnson is lifting restrictions, vax passports, and forced mandates with the goal of returning things to normal in the coming weeks.

    https://peckford42.wordpress.com/2022/01/14/booster-bust-medical-establishment-changes-its-mind/

  5. The pictures of our illustrious Premier of Alberta these days seem to be capturing the heavy toll of leadership. He is aging like a bottle of cheap wine.

    By some stoke of happenstance I heard his response to the reporter’s inquiry about K.C.’s B.S. Filibuster does indeed capture it best. It reminded me of an interview I heard on ” As it Happens” with another Reform Party stalwart…Stockwell Day, concerning who was on the hook for his defamation legal bills. He talked and talked, obfuscated and obfuscated, never answering the simple yes or no question being put to him. He talked really fast,using as many words as he could,hardly pausing for air and answered nothing. To be honest I felt emotionally drained and physically ill by the time the interview was over.

    Jason Kenney made the point that K.C. never explicitly asked the chief to bury the ticket … so no harm, no foul. There in lies the rub. The Alberta ” Justice Minister” phoning the chief just after getting the ticket is implicit. This is the reason the cunning Jason Kenney had to put K.C. in the corner. It is also this very same reason he needs to be fired but Jason kenney thinks we are all idiots and don’t know the difference.

    1. Imagine how it will be living here under a UCP police force. Last time I was at the Legislature, the uniformed security people were wearing black uniforms. Not a very comforting look if you have any sense of history at all.

  6. When Kenney says that he was only “fully briefed” on the matter last Monday, what does that even mean? It doesn’t mean he was completely ignorant of the matter before he was briefed. Indeed, he says he was aware of the matter. However, he is clearly intent on being vague and ambiguous about how much he knew to avoid any taint of having any responsibility. Yes, more gaslighting and dishonesty from this train-wreck of a government.

  7. The contrast between kenney’s interminable waffling, gaslighting and misdirection with PC premier Tim Houston’s pressers in my province are striking. Unused as they are to a straight-shooting pol, and subjected 24/7 by the national media coverage to the general bovine stupidity of premiers’ utterances from the more populous provinces, it’s the journos here who don’t listen to what has just been said, and then proceed to ask really quite stupid questions.

    Both the premier and the Chief MO explain the situation over and over, and they might as well be speaking in Klingon for what little settles by way of understood logic in the average journo’s brain. “But what about … ?” is the start of many a question. The main one, answered so many times these past few weeks, but answered patiently time and again when some dolt asks it yet one more time, is: “Why isn’t the province collating RAT test positives?” The premier and CMO inform that since Omicron is everywhere, in every nook and cranny from one end of the province to the other, knowing a daily case count is irrelevant, as is knowing where the cases are, because they’re everywhere. Hospitalizations are all that matters. But journalists are apparently unaware of what the definition of the word “everywhere” is. They want numbers to print. The situation means monitoring for hotspots is only useful at LTCs, prisons, etc and of course hospitals. Your average home case and where it occurs is irrelevant to the big picture. Our restrictions are far less than in Alberta or next door in NB and PEI, where a general helplessness on the part of the “authorities” is quite evident. NB is in severe lockdown for all the good it’s done. Of course, the never-ending message of get vaccinated is still the main advice in NS, despite only 20% of the hospitalizations being from the 10% unvaccinated. But you can still go a gym, bar or restaurant where approved protocols as to distancing must be observed, and our schools are open. Nobody has ever complained about truck drivers, which is a red herring to my way of thinking, seized upon by the feds as an example of how yessir, they’ve got our backs even if it doesn’t amount to a hill of beans when anyone seems to be able to be infected by Omicron anyway.

    Which brings up the rather interesting point dealt with in a new, not yet peer reviewed, study reported in Nature yesterday. Omicron apparently evades vaccine immunity or immunity one may have developed from a previous Covid variant infection and recovery. Which helps to explain why so many triple-vaxxed get it anyway. As Fauci said a couple of weeks ago, everyone will get Omicron sooner or later — no doubt he’s kept up-to-date on interesting studies as they develop and are written up. It’s not a consoling thought for older people like myself. Read for yourselves, it’s short;

    https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-022-00129-z

    And wandering about in public after only five days with Omicron is silly as well according to the article. Trust kenney and Hinshaw to get that one wrong as they channel their inner Greg Abbott — they’re reliably incorrect. As is Slow Moe next door, who acts like the amiable village idiot. So, we live and learn in this pandemic. Vaccinations of existing formulations are not stopping Omicron, so there’s mutation for you.

    As for kenney and his travails. Pfft. Showing up to blather at pressers seems to be his latest mode of trying to up his abject popularity level, and to “correct” the record because only tame journos are allowed to lob questions. Yup, Alberta is stuck in a rut of being governed by a supreme egotistical tit. That’s not news. As for Hinshaw, she’s an enabler for kinneys misgovernment and is worthy of zero respect, in my opinion. Alberta is incredibly badly served by such people, it seems to me.

  8. With a positivity rate of 33 per cent, we are in exponential growth. The WHO established that a test positivity rate of five per cent for two weeks should be achieved before reopening.

    https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/testing/testing-positivity

    Others suggest it should be even lower, at three per cent.

    https://globalhealth.harvard.edu/evidence-roundup-why-positive-test-rates-need-to-fall-below-3/

    Here’s how we’re doing in comparison to U.S. states.

    https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/public-health/states-ranked-by-covid-19-test-positivity-rates-july-14.html

    In case the purpose of yesterday’s press conference was to lay the groundwork for tossing all caution and and public health measures to the wind, the premier needs to hold his horses.

    https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/public-health/us-nearing-omicron-peak-mayo-clinic-model-shows.html?utm_campaign=bhr&utm_source=website&utm_content=latestarticles

    “It doesn’t mean, OK, everything’s behind us. People are still going to get infected on the way down — just as many on the way down as on the way up. And some of those (infections) are going to produce severe illness. It’s not something to take lightly,” Dr. Storlie said. “But we will likely not have subsequent peaks. We’re likely going to be heading down for the foreseeable future.”

    We don’t have adequate PCR testing. Modelling cannot be done with any degree of accuracy without adequate data. We are flying blind.

    In other news, Kaycee Madu’s duties as Minister of Justice and Solicitor General have been removed, but his title has not. Think about it. He gets to retain his higher pay grade, while only carrying out his MLA duties. He has not been demoted. He has not been removed as a cabinet Minister. He is still in the UCP caucus. Sounds like a vacation, not punishment: more pay, less work. Kaycee Madu is the elf on a shelf. Haha! The joke’s on us once again.

  9. Ok, gas lighting appears to be a thing.

    I guess you like not having anything to eat and inflation if you think the vaccination status of truckers is a good idea.

    I will admit, the progressives are consistent. Being vaccinated has nothing to do with whether you can get the disease or whether you can convey it to somebody else. But lets make sure it looks like we are doing something by excluding the unvaccinated from working.

    Great idea.

    And, no need for Kenney to say it, I will. This summer will be the best summer ever! You know, just like every other summer for those who make it that far.

    Unless of course the progressive’s get their way and we are all in the gulags. And Kenney is doing a good job making sure that doesn’t happen(or at least the best job possible in the environment where a significant amount of the population want to trade freedom for the appearance of safety).

    1. The purpose of masks, vaccines, distancing and restrictions have always been primarily about one goal. Stopping the overcrowding of our health care system. Flattening the curve as Obama stated back in early 2020. Your post is missing this vital information.

      1. I never said anything about new normal practices. I only commented on the use of the authoritarian tool box to force people to get vaccinated.

        You really think its a good idea to take away people right to work because of their right to decide what medical treatments they accept?

        You really think its a good idea to destroy your economy for any reason?

        The economy is how we pay for our healthcare.

        1. BRET LARSON: If people are very sick from Covid-19, and they cannot work, basically, the economy will turn to crap. Best Summer Ever. That was a made in Alberta, UCP created disaster, of epic proportions.

      2. Your statement is absurd, and in no way rooted in emprical evidence. Nobody, not the esteemed blogger himself nor any of you adherents of the Covid death cult, ever address the fact that the models on which the lock-downs of March 2020 were predicated were wrong by 12000%. The health system was never under any great threat until the restrictions were implemented. My parents are in their seventies and eighties and the restrictions have dimished their health in immeasurable ways. They were isolated, and terrified. My mother is the youngest of ten kids, and has been unable to see her last two surviving siblings during Covid. Do you suppose that kind of thing was good for seniors?
        My sister is a staunch believer and to save grandma and grandpa she stopped letting her kids visit. They live next door.
        At least half of all “Covid” cases in hospital, since the outset, were in hospital for reasons either entirely or partially unrelated to Covid. The idea that even 2000 hospitalizations at any given time threatened a modern health system for a province of 4.4 million is beyond ridiculous, particularly two years into this nonsense. I’m embarassed for you.
        The purpose of masks was to keep you scared of Covid. Every single health authority acknowledged in 2020 that masks could do nothing. Infectious respiratory diseases transmit in conditions of low humidity, indoors, where infectious particles <5um, which will pass through any mask, can travel up to 30m and remain suspended in the air, enter the lower respiratory tract. Magically this science simply evaporated. Until Tam finally admitted, months into this, that aersol transmission is how these bugs actually move around.
        The WHO stated that there was no scientific evidence to support mask use, but mask use should be encouraged because it would make the rubes already wearing them feel better, and it could be a source of economic activity when the really, really poor fabricated and sold masks. This is not conspiracy theory nor misintrepretation, this is what the WHO said early in the Pandemic. It was realized by the completely degenrate health authorities that people were terrified enough to accept masking, so they simply flipped in the early summer of 2020 and decided that masks could magically prevent transmission of SARS CoV-2.
        The great heroin of BC Covid, Dr. Bonnie, had to admit years ago when they were trying to subjugate the nurse's union in Ontario, that there is no scientific evidence that masks work to prevent transmission of repsiratory disease. What a great lady, taking time from here busy schedule to go out to Ontario to try to bring their nurses to heel.
        https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/union-says-ontario-nurses-cant-be-forced-to-wear-masks-in-flu-season/article26306631/
        "Flatten the curve" ranks up there for the all-time ridiculous mantras with "support the troops". I can't believe you people still buy this rubbish. Every aspect of this absurd fantasy pre-dated Covidmania, and you still can't put two and two together.

    2. Hey Brett,

      US border agents require that Canadian truck drivers show proof of vaccination before crossing into their country.

      That means any Canadian trucker who is in the US and wants to come back to Canada has already been vaccinated.

      If you have a problem with this trucker vaccination thing, take it up with United States!

      1. No idea if you are right or not, however, “he did it first” isnt much of an argument to me.

        And misses the point entirely, the only reason to enforce vaccine mandates is make public healthcare affordable.

        Why would the US care if Canadas healthcare system is affordable?

  10. The only thing Kenney is good at is lying, but he does it so well that he can flap his gums for 30 minutes and not say one truthful word.

    Hinshaw’s “concern” grew tiresome a few months ago.

  11. The old phrase “Gish gallup” comes to mind when Kenney gets to a microphone. He is well accomplished at this, as, unfortunately, are so very many politicians of all stripes. We need information, not what comes from his mouth.

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