Alberta Premier Danielle Smith vowed Saturday to take measures to ensure masking mandates for children in Alberta’s kindergarten-to-Grade-12 classes can no longer be imposed. 

Justice Grant Dunlop of the Alberta Court of King’s Bench (Photo: Canadian Underwriter).

“Our government will not permit any further masking mandates of children in Alberta’s K-12 education system,” her edict published on the government’s website read. 

With Halloween right around the corner, this seems like a seasonally appropriate decree.

After all, while the legal foundation for Premier Smith’s directive may be shaky, its message to the United Conservative Party’s increasingly radicalized base is clear: As long as Danielle Smith commands the ship of state, witchcraft trumps science when it comes to health policy.

In the premier’s own words: “The detrimental effects of masking on the mental health, development and education of children in classroom settings is well understood, and we must turn the page on what has been an extremely difficult time for children, along with their parents and teachers.”

In reality, while the detrimental effects on children of mask mandates to prevent infectious disease are questionable, the detrimental effects of COVID-19 infection on people of all ages are quite clear. They die in large numbers.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, who was Alberta’s chief medical officer of health through the pandemic (Photo: Government of Alberta).

More than 5,000 people have died of COVID-19 in Alberta since the start of the pandemic; about 40,000 in Canada. The pandemic continues. 

If nothing else, the unusual timing of Saturday’s announcement signals our unelected premier’s annoyance with Court of King’s Bench Justice Grant Dunlop’s declaration Thursday that the former Kenney Government’s Feb. 8 order lifting the masking requirement in schools was “based on an unreasonable interpretation of the Public Health Act.”

Justice Dunlop said he issued his ruling “for the benefit of the chief medical officer of health and other medical officers of health in considering future public health orders.”

That is, so that health officers understand they have legal authority to declare public health mandates and need not bow to the politically driven wishes of elected officials. 

In her riposte Saturday, Premier Smith said, “I have directed our Justice minister to assess whether an appeal of Thursday’s Kings Bench Court decision is appropriate, and have instructed our government’s ministers of Justice, Health and Education to alert me to any legislative or regulatory changes that may be necessary to reaffirm or clarify our government’s full authority with respect to this and other health and education matters.”

Alberta Justice Minister Tyler Shandro (Photo: Government of Alberta).

If Justice Minister Tyler Shandro’s staff is doing its job, it will inform the minister that an appeal of Justice Dunlop’s ruling by the government stands very little chance of success. Indeed, as a lawyer, Mr. Shandro surely understands this himself.

Sharper legal minds than mine say there is no way for the government to appeal Justice Dunlop’s finding of fact that the cabinet and not Chief Medical Officer of Health Deena Hinshaw made the decision to lift the order. 

Indeed, the only part of the ruling on which an appeal might have some hope of success was when Justice Dunlop sided with the government and rejected the appellants’ Charter argument that their immunocompromised children’s rights had been breached. 

Whether or not the appellants, who also included the Alberta Federation of Labour, could succeed in such an appeal is another question, but not one that helps the Smith Government’s case in any way. 

The second part of Ms. Smith’s statement is more politically significant. 

Klein Government “Learning Minister” Lyle Oberg (Photo: Alberta Teachers Association).

Here Ms. Smith is saying that regardless of the diversionary benefits to governments of school districts like the one she once sat on in Calgary, her government intends to run them all directly from the centre.

Alert readers will recall that in August, 1999, the Calgary Board of Education of which Ms. Smith was a member had become “completely dysfunctional” in the words of its chair. In response, the Klein Government’s “learning minister,” Lyle Oberg, fired the entire board and handed its operations over to a single trustee, retired Calgary chief commissioner George Cornish. 

Ms. Smith was hired days later as a columnist by the Calgary Herald and worked as a strike-breaker through the labour dispute that began in November that year. She did not seek re-election to the school board. 

Back to the future, it remains unclear whether Premier Smith intends to try to extend her anti-masking policy to infectious diseases other than COVID-19, or if it will influence masking procedures in health care facilities.

In addition, it is also possible the government may draft legislation to make the chief medical officer of health clearly subordinate to cabinet. 

Between the lines of her statement yesterday, Ms. Smith was also telling her supporters that Canada’s constitution doesn’t matter, her government will dictate to provincial boards regardless of what the courts have to say about it.

That likely won’t work either. But it will take longer, and be more painful and expensive, to resolve.

Happy Halloween!

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43 Comments

  1. I think I have come up for an appropriate and interesting term to describe Smith (oh, I have some others that might not be printed) – a coercive libertarian.

    It would seem that a more libertarian thing to do would be to allow local governments and bodies to decide what to – for instance masks or no masks. In fact, that sort of seemed to be the approach Kenney took for a while when he let municipalities set COVID rules. Of course, he later backtracked on that when some put rules in place that didn’t suit him, but at least for a while he gave them fleeting power, if only to try get a political hot potato ball out of his court.

    I also wonder how the Danielle Smith of the past, the rookie politician school Trustee, would feel about such a heavy handed approach by the provincial government? Perhaps the smoother talking Smith of the present would say her views have “evolved”. I suppose it sounds better than that was then and this is now.

    Finally, rather than fighting a losing battle in court, why doesn’t the provincial government just ask the Chief Medical Officer to rule on this now? Perhaps they are afraid she still wouldn’t go along with what they want. Aren’t they still planning to get rid of her soon and get a more compliant one to go along with their coercive version of libertarianism?

  2. I guess the comical side-effect of this will be the rising infections, paranoia, and body count that may result. Of course, it’s not like Danielle Straitjacket cares. In her little podcast reality, she not only is the final authority on everything, she is also capable of bending reality to serve her vision. Yes, she truly is a wizard.

    Now, that some polling in her intended riding suggests that she may indeed be running third behind the NDP and AP candidates respectively, it looks like there is a more likely chance that the UCP will repeal that fixed election law and go another year in their mandate. Of course, this will be another effort by Smith to bend reality and buy herself the time she needs to turn her fortunes around. The problem is what is she trying to turn around?

    Does she think that, somehow, there will be a miraculous gift that will secure her victory? I’ve heard of hope springing eternal, but in this instance hope is cashing cheques it can’t afford. Alberta can look forward to more instability and mayhem in its future.

    I’ve noticed that Skippy Pollivere has gone weirdly quiet of late. Maybe he’s wondering what will happen to his fortunes if Alberta falls into the abyss? It’s not like he can count on Doug Ford or Jason Kenney to save his hide. I suspect that neither of these guys have any favor in the CPC that Skippy is stuck with.

    1. Just Me….Skippy going quiet is like the proverbial ” quiet teenager “….methinks that he’s waiting, same as Dani (proroguing legislature timing was ..interesting) …waiting to see what happens next door…

      DJC –and speaking of — if legislature is out, any statements she makes, are just that, aren’t they…(I’m not familiar with the legalese.)…so if I understand this correctly, she can say whatever she wants right now without it having any legal merit?

      1. I’m not sure what you’re driving at here, Randi-lee. It is true that her latest statement, for the reasons Justice Dunlop outlined, is just a promise and an expression of her opinion. It lacks legal validity. But that would be the case whether or not the Legislature was in session. DJC

      1. How about “Look at Ralph, no need to be accurate or truthful, didn’t die from covid!”.

        It’s amazing to me that many people are quite confident that others won’t Google anything that they claim to be true as long as it confirms their own biases, and that they seem to be correct. Sweden has a pandemic, has had over 2 million cases of covid, over 20 thousand deaths, a health care system that nearly broke and, although they didn’t invoke many public restrictions, they did have vaccine passports, restricted travel and recommendations for masking as well as cancelling large events.

        The Swedish system involves a lot of “voluntary” mandates that are official government policy but don’t have sanctions to enforce them. Because of that, a lot of people feel that Sweden can be used to claim that covid is a hoax since they didn’t implement more restrictive policies than other countries and…

        Well, that’s the point where they just have to plainly lie. Sweden has the highest deaths per capita in the Nordic countries. According to the Worldometer website, the latest totals for Sweden in covid deaths per capita put it at number 52 in the world, and they put Canada at 87. Yes, no pandemic indeed.

  3. I found the CBC article, linked below, interesting. In it, law professor Lorian Hardcastle makes the point that, like David said, an appeal would reopen the charter rights question. In the initial ruling Justice Dunlop did not rule the children’s charter rights were not violated because it was only the parents’ say so that claimed the children were immunocompromised. This certainly seems to imply that if the children’s doctors had testified that said kids were, in fact, immunocompromised, Justice Dunlop may very well have ruled that the charter rights were violated. If so, an appeal would give the plaintiffs a second chance to call the children’s doctors.

    Unfortunately, in the CBC story Professor Hardcastle then proceeds to outline other ways the government could implement the same nefarious plot.

    https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/alberta-government-to-try-to-prohibit-covid-19-mask-mandates-in-schools-smith-says-1.6634314

  4. A point that doesn’t seem to get made is that Jason Kenney did not want to impose restrictions. We all remember him promising absolutely that he would never implement a vaccine mandate, right up until he did it. Someone, or something, made him do a 180, and I wonder what it was, and how much longer Danielle Smith would have resisted the same evidence.

  5. Neither existing law nor the constitution mean anything to Smith. After she changes the election date law, who can be sure she won’t ignore the constitutional requirement to hold elections at all?

    1. That is the unasked question about Canadian democracy, isn’t it? What if someone just decides to completely ignore the constitution and suspend democracy? You can hardly call the police when they’re all hard-core convoy supporters. Would the feds have the balls to send it the army? Would the army obey such an order?

      1. Rocky,

        The army is not required. Parliament established the province of Alberta with the Alberta Act and Parliament can repeal the Alberta Act and the Natural Resources Act. In the game of brinkmanship being played by Smith over the Sovereignty Act, she and her handlers have not thought through the consequences. In the case of Alberta snd Saskatchewan, Parliament giveth and Parliament taketh away. Alberta is not Quebec, which agreed to join Canada. This province was created by Canada. The question is “Who has the cojones to consider this option?”

  6. I enjoyed your blog from 1999 describing the mess Dingy Smith was heavily involved with back then. It appears as though the grudge she is holding on to has festered into something much bigger. Seems to me that was a good indication of her perspective. To her credit (not being a good thing), she hasn’t changed her stripes, but it is really scary. A loss in the Medicine Hat by-election would be a good start for all Albertans.

      1. Alas, you don’t have to be elected to the legislature to be appointed to the King’s Privy Council for Canada, which she was when she was sworn in as Premier & Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs. So, yes, she gets to be called, “The Honourable”, even though she doesn’t deserve it.

  7. I think we’re getting to the crux of why DS chose to push Michaela Frey aside and run in a by-election in Brooks-Medicine Hat.

    Let’s say she changes the Public Health Act to remove powers now held by the CMOH, or repeals the act entirely and replaces it and the CMOH with something else. Let’s say cabinet or the premier alone can decide what is or isn’t a risk to public health. Would you want her solely in charge of health decisions facing 4.3 million people?

    https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/wildrose-leader-apologizes-for-xl-beef-tweet-1.1205808

    Is it a coincidence that Brooks is the epicentre of her “let them eat cake” moment — or rather, “let the poor eat tainted meat” scandal? What a perfect opportunity to take on the feds and their powers through the Canadian Food Inspection Agency!

    Meat plant workers headed to the polls in Brooks should think about how the UCP disregarded their safety early in the Covid pandemic. Would Smith (Kenney-2) be even worse? Recalling that Covid is still reaping souls now. What if there is another tainted meat episode?

    In conclusion, thank the stars that Alberta doesn’t have a town called “Walkerton”.

  8. It’s hard to feel sorry for Alberta voters when they had a perfectly good Premier in Rachel Notley, but instead they got Kenney who begat this dumpster fire.

    I expect Danielle Smith will eventually make wearing masks in Alberta illegal. Oh, no that would be crazy right? Surely I must be exaggerating. she would never do such a thing.

    At this point, I’m convinced Premier Loonie Tunes is capable of doing all sorts of crazy thing. Let’s wait and what’s next. I mean it’s only been 2 weeks. We still have another 8 months or more if she decides to extend the deadline for the next election, or if stupid Albertans vote her back in for another 4 years.

  9. So, Danielle Smith wishes to implement “…any legislative or regulatory changes that may be necessary to reaffirm or clarify our government’s full authority with respect to this and other health and education matters.” How will this move to increase and consolidate government power square with her base of libertarian freedumbers who protested that the government over-reached in its efforts to quell the Covid-19 pandemic?

    1. They won’t care because they’re not really libertarians. They’re only libertarian when it advances their Christofascist agenda. They’ll be just fine with big government, and they have a very long list of people they hate, including but not limited to people of colour, non-Christians, feminists, democrats, progressives, gays, trans people, academics, readers, non-English speakers, people with accents, etc. etc.

  10. It appears that while Danielle Straitjacket likes to talk a small to no government line to her base, she is entirely all about the big government. That is big government in the form of her Premier’s Office and all being subordinate to it. Jason Kenney did something similar and walked into one embarrassment after another, until his virtual house of cards collapsed. With Smith, not only will that house of cards be as rickety as ever, when it collapses, Smith intends to distract with her usual victim-blaming tropes and other weird shite.

  11. “experts say most evidence suggests that masking doesn’t harm children
    and it benefits them in more ways than one. Not only do masks protect kids from C19 & respiratory diseases-studies show schools with mask policies in place are more likely to stay open-which decades of research show is particularly critical for kids’ mental health & development”

    But when did the UCP use facts to shape policy?

    https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/article/do-masks-really-harm-kids-heres-what-the-science-says

  12. science trumps witchcraft
    “The positive effects of masking on the mental health (safety and security), development (avoiding disease and premature death) and education of children in classroom settings is well understood, and we must turn the page on what has been an extremely difficult time (trying to reason) for Q-anon, Diagolon, UCP and pandering politicians (of shock jock origins).

  13. Parachute premier Daniel Smith should know that if you pick a scab it’ll only start running. Neither did she waste much time—hers, anyway—jumping into the mire of constitutional and jurisdictional fights with both boots. And now there they are, full to the brim, ready with every slopping step towards The Big Day to make vulgar sucking and spluttering sounds like drowning consumptive coughing rhythmically quenched mid-hack. Whether Smith gets scratched before then or goes into extra innings, the aghast expressions at her first strides out of the swamp will inevitably become looks of pity or disgust as voters amscray, muttering: “ I sure don’t wanna get whatever she’s got!”

    Danielle has good immunity to the verdicts of public opprobrium, yet obviously she’s had an allergic reaction to Justice Dunlop’s directive: her out-of-joint nose hit the ground running in less time than it takes to make toast.

    Smith’s diktat is as uncompromising as “plandemics” and climate-change denial. Between incubating respiratory viruses in the classroom and total lockdowns —real ones like mandatory quarantines, not the minimally inconvenient protocols wussy Freedumbites blubber about—is the middle ground where school kids wear face masks in class during a viral pandemic so they don’t have to stay at home, stuck at the hearth of SoCon ‘family values’ —which’d drive just about anybody as crazy as shuttered-church congregants mentally deranged because they couldn’t paean-petition Jesus to smite the Great Satan, Justine Trudeau.

    Speaking of Trudeau, wasn’t he they guy who terminated the CPC regime when its leader wanted to ban the niqab? Well, maybe Harper couldn’t keep niqab out of Canada but at very least Danielle’s darn sure she can keep ALL face-coverings out of Alberta and do it by building a sort of “firewall”—and making Trudeau pay for it. You know, the guy who bought Alberta a pipeline and made Canada pay for it. Fair’s fair, after all.

    Or is it? Who would ever wish for a Covid spike just so’s to provoke open warfare between Smith’s notional grasp of disease and the epidemiological sciences of public healthcare professionals? As much as some would like to see her put in her place, we have to hope for the best. But is the Smith government even remotely prepared for the worst? A citizen is smart who gets vaccinated, sanitizes hands and, where safe distancing isn’t possible, wears a mask. Covid is still among us and has proven potential to mutate into a more dangerous variant. If so inclined, double that prayer for best outcomes.

    Speaking of facts, It’s been my observation of families with grade-school kids—including those in my own family—that kids are much happier being at school, even when masks are required, rather than being stuck at home 24/7. I haven’t heard one single instance of a kid’s mental health suffering because of mask-wearing. I haven’t heard any other parents/grandparents say their kids are going crazy from wearing masks at school (but I must confess I’ve heard more than a few parents say they were going crazy because they’re stuck at home with the kids all day). Of course mask-wearing at school is a compromise, one that’s good for kids’ social development and mental health (as opposed to the lacquered diorama of Little House on the Prairie), but also good for working parents whose pocketbook and patience are preserved knowing that trusted professionals are taking care of their little darlings so mon and/or dad can go to work and make a living. Smith should know the mental-health argument against Covid protocols—most loudly that prohibiting church gatherings is a detriment to mental health and that outweighs the risk of catching a proven threat to physical health—was facetiously tendentious and as maudlin as it was lame. However, Smith sees that this argument is always made by overtly reactionary SoCons and Freedumbites who got her into the premier’s office through the back door. She obligingly affirms their claim that Covid is merely somewhere between the common cold and a hoax which can be easily remedied with household cleaning products and de-worming pills. Proudly disinterested with anything medical experts have to say about Covid, Smith is now being called upon to present her references of alternative remedies to alternating positions on common colds and hoaxes.

    Speaking of tRump, the disgraceful ex-president was plainly being facetious when he asked his own chief medical officer at a media presser if she thought household bleach might be recommended for disinfecting Covid-ravaged lungs, she affecting a pretty convincing Dina-Hinshaw-caught-in-the-headlights look. The Orange One did have to walk that one back, but with such sardonic insincerity that the makers of Chlorox had to put out a bulletin warning that their product should never ever be ingested— a pretty good metric of the average tRumpublican’s IQ. Once again we marvel at the parallels between the Canadian partisan right and “the best president ever.” For her part, Danielle Smith assiduously fans the Freedumbites’ flame and scoffs at the fact that they can’t possibly garner her electoral success, and for his part tRump flames his fanatics’ true belief that there will never be another clean election. They both believe they haven’t lost yet.

      1. That is truly a very funny idea, “uncreating Alberta”. Makings of a great movie. As to who would do that? the current Federal Government if Alberta went too far. I’m sure the Deputy Prime Minister would have no problem doing it.

      2. Well the bombers who the RCMP arrested and the courts convicted, went to jail. Their families then marched from the Kootenays to the Fraser Valley, where the men were incarcerated. They set up a camp of sorts and lived there for some time The convicted served their sentences. As I recall there was some infighting with in the Sons of freedom churchs which is perhaps why we don’t hear from them any more.
        Sima Holt wrote the best book on the subject.
        The “sytem” violated a number of people’s rights by their actions and don’t believe the RCMP would get away now with what they did back then, i.e. raiding homes of those not involved but simply were extended family of suspected bombers, seizing children and placing them in “camps” because their parents wouldn’t send them to school.
        They blew up all sorts of things, but the bridge was a big deal because it cost a corporation money. I recall one man blowing himself up on the way to set the bomb. that was most likely the man killed in the early sixties.
        It all made a huge impression on me, when I was a kid.

  14. Looks like this no mask mandate is a win, win, win for Smith. Smith’s base will be ecstatic over the chaos she brings to health care and education. When the death rates start to rise she can blame Trudeau, and Notley and with the positive coverage Smith receives from Post Media, she will turn this disruption into one heck of a fund raising campaign.

  15. Yep, the comment Premier Danni has no crazy filter seems to be true, as observing her actions suggest it to be true. Fact: COVID is an airborne virus. Fact: a mask will assist in reducing transmission of viruses and bacteria- hint : why do surgeons wear them whilst performing surgery?

    At any rate, the Premier of Alberta is likely taking garlic cloves hourly and blood letting to improve her physique, and prevent bad humours. What’s next? Bringing back apothecaries?

    Good luck Alberta as you return to medieval times.

  16. DJC, I know you’ve said you don’t control the ads, but I can in no way explain seeing ads for the
    ” Taxpayers federation- defund the CBC” with a picture of JT, without feeling like I/we are being trolled…that’s bad enough,( and my comments would probably not pass discretion) but ads for the “Epoch Times ” I find very disturbing, it was bad enough when they were delivered to households here on the Island, with people not knowing who & what they were about….and the post office passing the buck (literally) except for one scrupulous carrier (I believe in Ont) who complained but was told he had to deliver their paper.
    There is just way too much crazy stuff going on ,and not enough people paying attention or just not getting the information they need.

    1. Randi-Lee: I can probably get the Epoch Times ads cancelled, because it’s one advertiser. General offensive topics, not so much. Sometimes the connections and conclusions drawn by The Algorithm from the ads are funny. The other night I searched “hearing test.” Of course I got ads for hearing aides. But why did I also get ads for Viagra? DJC

      1. DJC , after some deliberation and biting my lip , the imp won…
        Since stats say that we start losing our hearing in our 40’s, I guess the algorithms decided you should “be the man, you want to be ” ,going by the barrage of ads on CBC et al…so…

        And in reference to my first question, re DS, I guess I was just trying to verify that she is just gas-lighting to her base, sort of like the campaign “promises…yada yada….but she would still need cabinet approval to implement said proposals???or does the authoritarian rule..

  17. I was watching Real Time the other evening and during the panel discussion I heard a very interesting comment made by Yuval Harari. He said that the priority of the voters is to select the candidate who will be the responsible leader. Of course, given the voters’ fragile temperament and their tendency to leap into emotionalism, making the rational decision to choose the responsible person to lead may never happen. With Danielle Straitjacket, it’s clear that that small percentage of voters are continually angry and unhinged have decided for everyone else that there will be chaos. And to make things terrible, Smith chooses a cabinet loaded with grifters and climbers who, very likely, have no intention of sticking around until the next election.

    Playing by the rules and doing the responsible thing is for suckers. That is Smith’s message to Alberta.

  18. Ms. Smith is going to do what she is going to do. She most likely thinks this worked for others and it will work for her. Don’t know if she is as bat shit crazy as she appears.

    Once COVID starts its winter run, the hospitals will be over run, people will die, including children and worse people will survive and have long COVID. Ms. Smith will most likely stay the course and blame others for the results of her actions.

    If Smith decides its no masks in schools, we can expect many parents to keep their children home and some teachers will refuse to go to work in the schools.
    Smith ought to realize it could cost a great deal of money to deal with COVID and people who develop long covid. Of course if she changes the health care system everyone could be on their own.

    I remember a time kids were kept in their yards because of polio–no vaccine yet. People died. Kids died of whooping cough also, before the vaccines. During the AIDs epidemic, one of the people I knew had gone to a hundred funerals in a year–all people they knew who died of AIDS.

    I put my”faith” in modern medicine and the vaccines go with it. Following doctors “orders” suggestions, etc. regarding various things which have hit us in North america has kept me alive, well and collecting pensions.

    Smith might want to consider that a lot of people dying isn’t good for the economy either.

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