Alberta Municipal Affairs Minister Ric McIver (Photo: Chris Schwarz, Government of Alberta).

The Kenney Government introduced legislation yesterday to prevent Alberta municipalities from imposing their own mask requirements and proof of vaccination rules to prevent the spread of infectious diseases, in particular, COVID-19. 

By doing so, Premier Jason Kenney has flip-flopped about as much as you can flip-flop on what he was saying not so long ago when rural municipalities were opposed to masking and vaccination mandates. 

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney (Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

Back then, as the premier used to say, “we think a one-size-fits-all approach for a huge vast, diverse, province like this doesn’t make sense.”

But that was then and this is now. 

So, yesterday, Municipal Affairs Minister Ric McIver introduced Bill 4, the Municipal Government (Face Mask and Proof of COVID-19 Vaccination Bylaws) Amendment Act, 2022, by saying, “Alberta needs one clear public health policy. The best way to do this is to make sure the rules are clear, specific and the same for all Albertans.”

This isn’t really about public health policy at all, of course. It’s about saying #$%& you to Edmonton, the only city in the province that hadn’t already lifted its mask mandate when Bill 4 was cobbled together.

The bill is also intended to support Mr. Kenney’s desperate attempt to hang onto his job as premier at his UCP leadership review in Red Deer next month. 

As any student of Alberta politics will understand, those two objectives are closely related – Edmonton being a hotbed of NDP support, and Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi a former federal Liberal cabinet minister, both facts inspire deep paranoia in Mr. Kenney’s inner circle about the motives for anything that happens inside the city’s boundaries. 

Despite the premier’s consistently weak response throughout the pandemic – dragging his heels on introducing COVID mitigation measures and hurrying to lift them, sometimes with deadly results – he is ironically in trouble with his party’s Q-adjacent anti-vaccine base for taking any measures at all to prevent the spread of the disease. 

NDP Municipal Affairs Critic Joe Ceci (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Indeed, he may be in enough trouble now that even the temporary gift of a free radio program from Corus Entertainment, kindly provided to pump a little air back into his rapidly deflating tires, may not be enough to save him. 

Anyway, Edmonton City Council dropped the mask mandate yesterday, eliminating any need for the bill. The UCP, presumably, will press ahead and pass it out of spite.

NDP Municipal Affairs Critic Joe Ceci called the bill “a direct attack on local democracy.”

That this is not a legitimate public health policy intended to solve a real problem is suggested by the extremely narrow scope of Bill 4, focused strictly on stopping Edmonton from having a mask mandate for a few days or weeks longer than the rest of the province. 

Thus, for example, the legislation cannot be used to override the policy of refusing to do business with companies that require their employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 in Mackenzie County, way up in Alberta’s northwest corner. 

NDP Health Critic David Shepherd (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

That kind of municipal overreach is actually dangerous and makes considerably less sense from a public health perspective than a lingering local mask mandate, but it’s beyond the purview of the legislation because anything less would likely rebound to Mr. Kenney’s detriment in Red Deer on April 9. 

Another sign Bill 4 was drafted in haste without a legitimate purpose is its apparent conflict with the spirit of the Public Health Act’s provision allowing the minister of health to “require a public body to make, in accordance with any regulations, a public health plan in respect of a specific issue or geographic area.”

Thankfully, because of its narrow scope, the capacity for real harm from this bill is limited.

The potential for harm caused by Health Minister Jason Copping’s announcement yesterday that Alberta Health Services is being forced to stop requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination by employees is far greater, allowing right-wing culture wars to undermine the safe operation of health care facilities.

As NDP Health Critic David Shepherd observed yesterday, “clinical decisions should be made by health care professionals, not desperate politicians.”

Still, Bill 4 will need to be cleaned up – that is to say, eliminated – during some future Alberta government’s summer of repeal.

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16 Comments

  1. This reeks of how Ralph Klein used to treat municipal leaders who opposed his harmful policies. The UCP are behaving in the same fashion. It’s very undemocratic. We are bound to see another record setting wave of Covid-19 in Alberta, and it won’t be very pretty. The UCP are basically flip flopping. First of all, they were perfectly fine with Alberta municipalities enacting their own Covid-19 guidelines. Now the UCP doesn’t like it when Alberta municipalities are doing it. The UCP also didn’t do what other Canadian provinces did, by implementing Covid-19 regulations across the province. It was patchy, like a homemade quilt. The head honcho of the UCP is in full throttle, and he wants to save his political career. He is trying this by any means possible. He now has his own propaganda program on the airwaves. Very interesting. The lowering of the gas prices is another crafty way to attain votes and respect for the head honcho of the UCP, when his leadership is not getting hugh endorsement, and the UCP’s approval rating is extremely low. It will backfire. It’s a crafty vote buying gimmick. This is money the Alberta government doesn’t have. When oil prices plummet back down again, and the revenue is diminished, the head honcho of the UCP will point his fingers elsewhere, and shout at them. The oil and gas companies will raise the price of gas back up, to recoup their losses, and this will spur more inflation. If the oil and gas companies can’t raise prices on gas, they will lay off employees, to make up the shortfall, and this may also spur another recession. Albertans won’t be the winners here. What else can you expect from these pretend conservatives and Reformers?

  2. The Best Summer Ever seems to have created two major problems for Kenney.

    On the one hand, it invited a perilous uptick in COVID infections and mortality rates that Kenney (while playing Captain Canada) was forced to hammer down with the reintroduction of restrictions. Of course, this action occurred on the eve of a federal election that the CPC was convinced was in the bag. While the action may have saved hundreds of lives, it also grievously damaged Erin O’Toole’s political career and, as some believe, caused the ground swell of FREEDUMB Convoy opposition in Alberta and elsewhere.

    Kenney said at the announcement of the Best Summer Ever there was no going back and the pandemic was endemic…for good Turns out, there was a going back, and only thing that was endemic was Matt Wolf’s career in Alberta. If Kenney had just sucked it up, let the body count rise in the name of FREEDUMB, the UCP base may have been calmed by the notion that so many in their flock had been welcomed through Heaven’s gates. But Kenney chickened out, so kick him to the curb.

    Kenney has pulled his bait & switch stunts too many time already, and everyone knows he cannot be trusted. He’s dumped his bag of tricks too many times, and everyone knows he can’t be trusted. While the bill banning any mask mandates anywhere in Alberta should appeal to he base, it comes off like more of Kenney’s well worn hucksterism and gaslighting. Even if he says he means it this time, he really doesn’t. It just becomes one stunt too many.

  3. I can’t wait for those “Back-to-the-Bible Hour” broadcasts, with old Bill. Let me pull my chair a little closer to the Victrola. We save the radio for Sunday around here. What? It’s not old Bill? He’s dead? I’m not listening to a whippersnapper in short pants, no sirree. It’s Bible Bill for me or nothing.

  4. Let’s hope we don’t end up like Hong Kong, which now has the highest death rate in the world from Covid-19, likely resulting from a relatively low vaccination uptake, among other causes.

    https://www.voanews.com/a/hong-kong-covid-19-death-rate-is-worst-in-world-/6475909.html

    Quite aside from the obvious overreach of this legislation, its conflict with other legislation, and its brazen hypocrisy, the Bill further sends the wrong message that we can relax prudent measures to prevent the spread of Covid in our personal lives. It further encourages people to let down their guard and ignore sound medical advice. This is just another measure of the irresponsibility of the government.

    I have to say I was unpleasantly surprised by the announcement of Bumble’s fireside chats on CHED and CHQR radio stations on Saturday morning to spew propaganda. Can you imagine the howls of outrage if Trudeau was given airtime on CBC radio for a similar purpose? This gift of airtime has a particularly foul funk. Could it be considered a political donation to the UCP? What is the value of the gift? What does Corus get in return? Was some sort of quid pro quo negotiated in secret to secure this airtime? Lots of questions that I think need some answers. At least Ralph Klein, to avoid giving the opposition equal airtime, refused to go on CBC that offered such airtime for free and would instead pay CTV or some other network for his chats about Martha and Henry (who have now retired, moved to BC, and are happy to be paying the PST).

  5. I love your point about how Bill 4 will not affect Mackenzie County’s policy of refusing to give contracts to companies with vaccine mandates. Jason Kenney’s “Alberta needs one clear public health policy. The best way to do this is to make sure the rules are clear, specific and the same for all Albertans.” really should apply in Mackenzie County as well.

  6. Keep kicking your stubby lil NDP legs. We conjobs LOVE watching you walking temper tantrums flail about. You know you’re still ALLOWED to wear a mask, right? Keep your laws off my body or you’ll find abortion BANNED lickitysplit.

  7. Sadly City of Edmonton caved into Vladimir Kenney’s dictator regime. I was hoping the City, or anyone for that matter, would give a great big #$%& you to him. In my view, the UCP (unethical conservative party) will no doubt refrain from kicking him out it will be up to smart alberta voters to do what the party will not.

    Clearly Kenney is in a fight for his political life and having burned so many bridges in the past he is really up against it. The Kenney pennies are a very feeble attempt to buy votes. The tricks that once worked for Klein do not seem to have the same effect today as they did back then. Probably because we have been down this same road before and insanely expecting a different result.

    Demonstrating his arrogance towards civic government is not really come as a surprise, but it does show his true colors. As far as his slogans of Working for Albertans, I have no idea which ones that might be? It certainly is not me, with 35% increase in insurance (both property and car insurance), skyrocketing gas and electricity bills, increased property and income taxes, cost of groceries going through the roof. All the while giving the wealthy business folks a 35% decrease in their taxes and creating zero jobs. Keep on going Keeney, so it will be cheaper to live in Ontario or BC.

  8. One month to go. If K-Boy walks away from review intact, what are the odds of an early election?

    Russia’s giving even bitumen a bump. Will K-Boy be quick to capitalize before it turns into a blip?

    We know K-Boy is a gambler—just not a very good one. Thinking providence owes him a good summer after rolling snake-eyes last year is, for example, not how odds work. But a snap election could be just what an experienced risk-taker needs to beat the odds that, say, another Covid variant might come along that makes Omicron look like the eye of the storm—only, pray, after an election that obviously would need to get done, the sooner, the better. Nothing like a hustler in a hurry.

    Or how’s about a shark-jumping redo that doesn’t make him look like a charlatan—again— at the splashdown end? What are the odds of that? Perhaps just slim enough for Jason to bet heavy? Bookies love a horse like K-Boy.

    But, hey! —with the promise of world oil-price instability swelling bituminous prospects like a Viagra flash-back, the K-Boy might find it hard not to feel Lady Luck and he can pull it off. Lord knows premature electoral dysfunction really only needs one more vote than the opposition has.

    Meanwhile, the shark’s interest rate is going up all the time: better jump on the opportunity before that foregone gas tax revenue gets called in like the high-risk loan it is.

    But, hey, Jason!—no worries! In exactly one month, you’ll know whether to walk away or know when to run.

  9. SO when did the edict about closing down restrictions after the number of people in hospital stayed below 300 per day change? Maybe I have not been paying attention, but I still require that a mask is mandatory for me. It is, after all, a semi-free country where those of us who wish to pay attention to what people with actual training in health matters still supercedes the desperate machinations of some petty politicians.

  10. Came across this story and thought folks here might be interested:

    https://www.msn.com/en-ca/news/other/central-alberta-village-councils-hesitate-at-ndp-hate-symbol-effort/ar-AAUN5qX?ocid=entnewsntp

    “Coun. Ed Cole was concerned about banning symbols, commenting that “…there is a fine line between free speech and hate speech.” Cole” (who is ex-RCMP) “added the protection of free speech is very important and he wouldn’t be happy with any limits on free speech in Canada. ”

    Limits on free speech that currently exist in Canada, and that Mr. Cole may have been called upon to enforce in his RCMP days, include:

    -Copyright protection and the concept of intellectual property
    -Libel and defamation laws that make the accused guilty until proven innocent
    -Laws restricting the use of obscenity
    -Laws prohibiting child pornography (hopefully everyone is okay with this being illegal, but it is silly to pretend this isn’t a limitation on free speech)
    -False advertising
    -Death threats
    -Hate speech
    -The concept of educational curriculums
    -Fraud
    -Yelling “Fire” in a crowded theatre

    For my money, when people claim that free speech is some kind of sacred, inviolable right, they are scamming us. Total free speech is not desired by anyone, everyone wants to limit some people’s speech, sometimes, for some reason. When people use “free speech” to defend the use of imagery such as Nazi and Confederate flags, maybe the only freedom they are defending is “the freedom to incite genocide.”

    When Canadians, as a community, tolerate other Canadians who brandish Nazi imagery, it sends a pretty powerful message to the groups that suffered at the hands of the Nazis – “we value them more than you.” There is no way to display a Confederate flag that does not incite violence against racial minorities in general and black people in particular – when normal Canadians accept the “right” of other Canadians to display these symbols, they send a very similar message. I think it can be convincingly argued that images such as these ARE death threats.

  11. And the title of this new show? Back to the Bumbles Hour with Jason Kenney and his Penny Kenney Choir. Audience? Same as the orthodontist dude. Rock on Chorus. Free is about what this sucker is worth, perhaps less.

  12. Maybe the Premier should change his name to “that was then, this is now” Kenney. I suspect as usual, his current inconsistency is more annoying to those who hoping for some consistency here. However, he has flip flopped on how to deal with COVID so many times he has managed to alienate almost everyone so no one really trusts or relies on what he says or does anymore anyways.

    Perhaps his current desperation to win back some of the people who were against COVID restrictions is just another sign of what most people already knew, he twists around like a weather vane depending on how the political wind is blowing. So, I doubt it will help much with his credibility with those were were against COVID restrictions. I suspect they are as exasperated with him as everyone else.

    However, in this case the people annoyed the most by his latest action were likely not supporters of his so it probably does not do much more damage than what has already been done. Of course, leaving the ever loyal and sometimes steady McIver to deal with the fall out is also a way for Kenney to sort try of distance himself from this self created mess.

    I suppose Kenney probably also feels he has better things to do with his time than take angry calls from big city mayors. He is likely rather preoccupied with making calls trying to round up delegates to support him in Red Deer. It may be the only thing that matters to him right now, so if he is not paying attention to other things and stepping in crap in the race to Red Deer, just never mind the smell.

  13. Will Corus be providing equal air time to the leaders of the other Alberta political parties? If not, how does this not count as a political contribution on their part?
    If the UCP wants to give their leader public air time, they should be paying for it.

  14. “… some future Alberta government’s summer of repeal”. This prospect is, IMHO, very disconcerting, especially if you feel what Albertans need most is good governance. The problem with a highly ideological government like the UCP is what I call “policy whiplash”, with legislative and regulatory policies diametrically opposite between one party and its opposition. First the UCP comes in in 2019 after four years of fairly moderate NDP government — not at all consistent with the image often drawn by its opponents of a hard-left socialist departure from Alberta’s conservative tradition — and radically reverses virtually every progressive change it’s predecessor made to the province’s governance, and in fact often dialed back legislation and policy to be far more right-wing than even the pre-2015 PC dynasty. Look at the UCP’s recent suite of revisions to workplace health & safety legislation for example.

    So, let’s say the next election results in another NDP victory. A lot of the legislation passed during the UCP’s time in government was so odious that the NDP will have little choice but to hold it’s own “summer of repeal”. So, policies that had radically changed only a couple or three years so will have to radically change again. Any work done either within or outside of government to respond to the UCP’s radical agenda will go for nought, and stakeholders will have to start anew. Meanwhile the UCP — or whatever fragmented parties of the right emerge from its post-election self-immolation — will once again campaign on reversing each and every policy decision the NDP takes should it once again win government. This is much different from what we normally see in Canadian politics either at the federal or provincial level, when as a rule not much changes from one government the next, and once a new policy is in place a successor government usually lives with the status quo. The Chrétien Liberals’ failure to abolish the GST in the 1990s is a case in point.

    From a good governance perspective, this kind of “policy whiplash” is unhealthy. I don’t have a solution to propose, since the UCP’s doctrinaire version of conservatism is a key causative factor, and we wouldn’t want a future, more moderate government not to walk back its most offensive policies, but it’s still not good.

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