Alberta Politics

COVID was supposed to be Jason Kenney’s Battle of Britain. What happened?

When the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic first hit Alberta many months ago, Premier Jason Kenney was front-and-centre.

Ever the Anglophile, Kenney quoted Winston Churchill and compared the pandemic to the Battle of Britain. Under Kenney’s leadership we were going to fight COVID on the beaches, on the landing grounds, in the fields and in the streets.

He delivered a bleak televised address to Albertans, presented an awkward to watch 54-minute powerpoint display in an attempt to explain Alberta’s pandemic modelling, and elbowed his way to the front of Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw’s press conferences on a weekly basis. It was clear that he wanted Albertans to know he was their Commander-in-Chief in the war against the pandemic.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw and Premier Jason Kenney at a March 15 press conference about COVID-19.
Dr. Deena Hinshaw and Premier Jason Kenney at a March 15 press conference about COVID-19. (Source: Government of Alberta)

In one of his more notable comments, Kenney compared Albertans to a herd of buffalo that “move closely together and go into the storm head on, coming out of it faster, stronger, and united.”

But at some point over the summer, as new cases of COVID dropped into the teens and single digits, Kenney shifted gears. He stopped showing up at Dr. Hinshaw’s press conferences and his government ostensibly shifted toward an economic recovery message. But in reality the UCP government began a game of catch-up after the pandemic delayed the United Conservative Party‘s political agenda by five-months – a political agenda designed for a pre-pandemic Alberta.

Health support workers on a wildcat strike outside the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton.
Health support workers on a wildcat strike outside the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton.

The glorious battle was over and it was time for Kenney’s government to resume its multi-front war with nurses, doctors and health care workers.

Health Minister Tyler Shandro announced plans to privatize large swaths of the public health care system and lay-off more than 11,000 nurses and health support workers. As a result, many physicians have indicated their plans to leave Alberta and health support workers represented by the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees walked off the job at more than 40 hospitals and health centres in a one-day wildcat strike last week.

A sensible political leader would appreciate that picking a very public fight with health care workers in the middle of a global pandemic is a bad way to run a government. But despite his falling approval ratings, Kenney appears to be moving forward as if everything has returned to normal. It clearly hasn’t.

Now the second wave of COVID-19 has hit Alberta. Dr. Hinshaw reported 800 new cases today, shattering previous records. The public health care system is showing signs of strain as nurses and health care workers are over-worked and understaffed, and COVID outbreaks are being reported at hospitals around the province.

The beaches are being stormed, but, unlike eight months ago, Kenney is no longer showing up at Dr. Hinshaw’s press conferences, confidently quoting Churchill or comparing Albertans to buffalo stampeding together through a thunder storm.

7 replies on “COVID was supposed to be Jason Kenney’s Battle of Britain. What happened?”

Kenney only ever has one move, and that’s to blame others. It’s literally all he does. So when the media catch up to him today, if he doesn’t cancel his presser and hide like the coward he is, then we can expect his usual barrage of excuses and blame.

The Auditor General’s report from yesterday, which says Kenney’s government is the most fiscally incompetent regime in Alberta’s history? He’ll probably blame Trudeau, who has nothing to do with it. Spiking COVID-19 numbers and the impending overwhelming of our hospitals? He’ll probably blame Dr. Hinshaw, who can only offer guidance to him & cabinet.

For a Premier who preaches about “personal responsibility”, he is a man who has none. Jason Kenney has zero leadership qualities and Alberta is so over him.

As far as I know, buffalo were never called upon to take “personal responsibility” for being their own contract tracers during a pandemic. I can’t even recall a single bison being called upon to do likewise. Believe me, I’ve Googled it. Turns out, it’s much easier to run bison off a cliff.

What Kenney really meant to say was that individual Albertans need to take personal responsibility to fight COVID on the beaches, on the landing grounds, in the fields and in the streets, and that he’s firing all the nurses so good luck with that.

Kenney is an absolute coward and cancelled his 10 am presser today. It appears instead that he will attend the Covid announcement this afternoon, with Dr. Hinshaw.
At this stage Kenney needs to be ridiculed as the biggest spender ever in AB government, who has tried to use sleight of hand and gross mismanagement of the exchequer, to advance his vile privatization policies.I look forward to hearing him answer fully on why $1.7 BILLION had to be readjusted after the auditor’s analysis.
Let the media ask HARD questions, not ones that he can bluff his way through by deflecting from the serious issues of finances and Covid, and also where are all those jobs he promised? Where is the full disclosure on his supporters, as promised? Why did he sign a big poster saying that he supported our healthcare, yet he is dismantling it daily? Last one….when is he heading out of AB and back to Ottawa??

To sort of paraphrase Churchill, this is not Kenney’s finest hour. COVID numbers now are higher here than BC and probably Ontario’s on a per capita basis.

What happened? Well Kenney was too quick, after some initial good fortune, to declare mission accomplished and take his eye off the ball. WWII was for the UK a grinding years long all consuming battle for the UK. Churchill never let up or lost focus. Kenney could not focus on COVID for more than a few monfhs. He was too eager to resume his other disrupted battles against his list of enemies, real or imagined – doctors, the Federal Liberals, environmentalists and so on.

It is unfortunate he understands his history well, but the present challenges not so much.

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