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Alberta Politics

Kenney delivers bleak message about COVID-19 but falls into old trope about foreign enemies of Alberta oil

Premier Jason Kenney‘s televised address on April 7 was bleak, but he struck the right tone when warning Albertans about the pandemic.

Kenney warned that by the end of summer, the province could see as many as 800,000 COVID-19 infections, and between 400 and 3,100 deaths. Anyone listening to his speech will have heard loud and clear that this pandemic is serious and all Albertans have a role in stopping its spread.

Kenney presented a number of government measures to flatten the curve, including expanding tracking of COVID-19 contacts, encouraging and facilitating safe use of masks, stronger border screening, and stricter enforcement of quarantine rules through mobile devices.

He also warned that the provincial government’s deficit may increase to $20 billion as a result of the pandemic and economic collapse.

It is fair to say that the combined challenges of a pandemic and economic collapse facing our elected officials today are ones that have not been faced in generations. This may be why Kenney has decided to frequently invoke the words and memory of political leaders from the Second World War.

During his televised speech he quoted former American president Franklin Delano Roosevelt, telling Albertans that “the only thing we have to fear but fear itself,” and he and his ministers have frequently referred or alluded to former British prime minister Winston Churchill in their press statements and speeches in the Assembly. The government even named its “Bits and Pieces” program after a Second World War program of the same name.

Our public health care system, government, and society are mobilizing against an “invisible enemy” but while the war-inspired rhetoric is useful for signalling the importance of the situation, it can be taken too far. A public health emergency is not an armed military conflict and fighting a virus is not the same as fighting an invading army – our democratically elected representatives should be reminded of this.

It only took Kenney one breath to shift from warning about the pandemic to returning to his old trope of blaming foreign powers for Alberta’s economic condition.

The Premier repeated his criticisms of Saudi Arabia and Russia for their role in the collapse of the international price of oil on which we continue to over-rely, but then spoke about Alberta controlling its own economic destiny by investing $7.5 billion on the Keystone XL Pipeline.

Kenney is trying to project an image that he is in control of the economic situation, but clearly no one is. And his devotion to the oil and gas industry is a position he has refused to waver from during this pandemic and economic crisis.

No one can blame Kenney for the collapsing international price of oil, but he can be criticized for doubling-down on the oil industry at the expense of other sectors, like the technology companies now considering leaving Alberta.

With projections of 25 percent unemployment ahead, it would be easier to understand why his government wants to help create 7,000 trades jobs to build a pipeline if the same government had not cut funding last week that will lead to 25,000 education workers losing their jobs.

Kenney’s pipeline investment can also be seen as an attempt to save one of the three key points his United Conservative Party campaigned on in the April 2019 election. With jobs disappearing and the economy looking bleak, pipelines might be the only one of the three main campaign promises he has a hope of salvaging in the remaining three years of his term in office.

Categories
Alberta Politics

Thinking of my grandfather, the Canadian Army Engineer

On the eve of Remembrance Day I am thinking of my maternal grandfather, Lawrence Anthony Bradley, who served as an engineer with the Canadian Army in England during the Second World War.

Born in Timmins, Ontario, on Nov. 6, 1917, he left his humble family home in Drumheller at age eleven to work in the lumber camps near Rocky Mountain House. He spent years riding the rails from job to job and later travelled with his brother Henry by covered wagon to homestead in northern Alberta during the height of the Great Depression.

I don’t know if he fully understood how his life would change when he left the farm in the Peace Country in 1939 and travelled to Edmonton to enlist in the army.

Maybe he saw joining the army as his duty to King and Country, or a ticket to adventure and seeing the world, or maybe it was the promise of  three square meals a day? He trained at Calgary and served at Aldershot in England until he lost his arm in an accident. He returned to Canada in 1943.

The loss of his arm never appeared to slow him down – he was an avid gardener and handyman. He became a life-time volunteer with the War Amps of Canada.

He had a kind soul and was a salt of the earth man. It has been almost 15 years since he passed away, but if he was still alive today I would give him a hug and thank him for his service.

My grandfather Lawrence Bradley (sitting on the left).
My grandfather Lawrence Bradley (sitting on the left).
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Golfing at St. Andrews in Scotland. Writing on the photo identifies Wilson, Lowden, and Lawrence Bradley.
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Canadian Army Engineers in Aldershot, England in 1942.
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My grandfather, Laurence Anthony Bradley, served in the Canadian Army during the Second World War.
Categories
Alberta Politics

France honours Canadian D-Day veteran

Lancaster Bomber. Photo © SNappa2006, via flickr Creative Commons
Lancaster Bomber. Photo © SNappa2006, via flickr Creative Commons

Having a large extended family with deep roots in Canada means I have heard many stories about my family’s history, including many tales of those who fought for King and Country overseas.

My great-great-uncle Charles Moreau served in the Lord Strathcona’s Horse during the First World War and another great-great uncle fought at the Battle of Vimy Ridge. Both my grandfathers served in the Second World War and returned to raise large families. More recently, my father-in-law served with the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan.

My great-uncle, Marcel Croteau, 91, is a Second World War veteran of the Royal Canadian Airforce. As a rear-gunner, he flew 39 bomber missions during the war and in 1944 was awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal by King George VI. This past weekend he was honoured by the French Republic by being inducted as a knight in France’s Order of the Legion of Honour.

My first cousin once-removed, Monique Keiran, wrote this column in the Victoria Times-Colonist to honour her uncle’s role in WWII:

More than 70 years ago, Marcel Croteau, a veteran of the Royal Canadian Air Force’s 425 Alouettes Squadron and my uncle, was flying nightly bombing raids over France.

Because of his role in those long-ago missions, Croteau is being inducted as a knight (chevalier) in France’s Order of the Legion of Honour today. It is the highest honour the French government confers.

It is one of many ceremonies taking place this year in which the French government is paying tribute to Canadian veterans who participated in the 1944 D-Day invasion to liberate France from Nazi Germany.

This event is taking place in Sechelt, where 91-year-old Croteau, a former Victoria-area resident, now lives.

The smiles and congratulations of the 100 friends and family who will gather today will provide a marked contrast to the nighttime tensions experienced during the D-Day-related raids.

Read the rest of Monique’s column here.

It is an honour to know about my family’s history and the role they played in these major world events. Canada is the peaceful country it is today because of the selfless and brave actions of the men and women who stepped up when needed.

As we approach the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War, it is more important than ever to recognize and remember the sacrifices paid by our elder generations.