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.

7 replies on “Kenney delivers bleak message about COVID-19 but falls into old trope about foreign enemies of Alberta oil”

In the long run actions being taken by Saudi Arabia and Russia to hollow out US shale oil may actually work out for Alberta. Crystal balling is always a risky business but with “sweet spot” shale oil just about tapped a return to oil scarcity and higher prices is not out of the question with Alberta crude in high demand. Hence Kenney’s rush to invest in Keystone.

This crisis underpins the clear need for a full out privatization of our health care system, pulling Alberta out of the Canada Health Act and finally allowing a system of freedom and choice – not just endless demands for more of our hard-earned tax dollars. In times of crisis, it is crystal clear that the free market creates solutions and an efficient allocation of society’s resources, something that a system monopolized by the government always fails to do.

It always amazes me that some people can take some obvious facts and take some twisted turns and convolutions in their mind and body, shedding facts and picking up lies and end up on their heads and letting the the uppermost apertures spit out odious stuff. their olfactory senses are convinced that the gaseous smell emitted is actually perfume.

I’m pretty sure Canadians don’t find the prospect of being buried three deep in a trench on an island an attractive prospect, but that is the end result of the American private healthcare system in New York City. What an efficient system: no need for funerals, speedy and effective. No American left behind.

Actually, Sir, the free market, and free trade, are the reasons we are in this mess. Globalization has made us dependent on international supply chains originating in low-wage, undemocratic overseas jurisdictions (*cough* China *cough*cough*) for essential strategic supplies and equipment, from pharmaceuticals — remember, generic drugs imported from overseas have been the subject of drug shortages for several years, partly caused by sub-standard manufacturing standards in source counties — to, now, ventilators and N-95 masks.

We need to take back control of our economy from the corporate sector, and rebuild an economy that truly serves Canadians, instead of what we have now, an economy served by Canadians.

As for privatizing health care, just look at the death rates in the Benighted States, where per capita mortality from COVID-19 is triple what it is in Canada, and where long-term markers of the state of a country’s health system, like infant mortality and life expectancy at birth, are far worse than in the rest of the G7, and you’ll see the folly of such an approach.

Michael Binion: Health care is supposed to be for those who get ill, injured, or need medical treatment of other sorts, like dealing with childbirth, not for those who have money. How is the “free market” health care system working out in the U.S.A? It’s not. People over there end up flat broke, and buried in debt, because of medical expenses. The neoliberal failed policies of Ralph Klein, was to lay off a bunch of nurses, and badly neglect hospital maintenance, so that he could try and force private for profit health care on Albertans. Ralph Klein and Don Getty wasted very large amounts of money on blunders, so Ralph Klein had to use health care in Alberta as one of his targets. Jason Kenney and the UCP have wasted billions of dollars on various blunders, and also want to use the healthcare system in Alberta as one of their targets. Conservatives fail to grasp that the problem with corporate welfare, is that eventually you will run out of other people’s money.

Remember when the UCP talking point about the NDP government was that while the NDP had no control over the world price of oil, the NDP’s policies were making the problem worse. I really think that criticism now applies to the UCP.

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