Alberta Politics

Doing the Minimum: Kenney’s Covid Plan

Premier Jason Kenney emerged from ten days in seclusion to announce new measures in response to the record-breaking daily increases in COVID-19 cases in Alberta.

Far below the “circuit-breaker lockdown” that had been called for by public health experts, the new plan announced by Kenney is mostly previously made suggestions that are now loosely enforced rules with a lot of exceptions. And they are just as confusing at the previous restrictions.

Middle schools and high schools will move to online instruction, but restaurants, bars and casinos will remain open. There was no mention of allowing the federal CovidAlert tracing app to be activated in Alberta, even as our province’s contact tracing capacity has collapsed. And because the contract tracing has largely stopped, it is unclear what data Kenney’s government used when creating these new targeted measures.

The new rules are mostly directed at Calgary and Edmonton, with no face-mask requirements or permanent expanded business restrictions in rural areas. Alberta is now the only province without a province-wide mandatory mask mandate.

The exemptions for rural Alberta communities, as well as exemptions for indoor social gatherings in churches, suggest the the United Conservative Party government is prioritizing appeasing it’s main political constituencies – rural Albertans, libertarians, social conservatives, and industry lobby groups like Restaurants Canada and the Canadian Federation of Independent Business – over taking the advice of public health experts.

Kenney frequently frames the government’s options as either “total lockdown” or “the minimum” measures, but as we know from other provinces and countries there are many actions that can be taken that the Alberta government is unwilling to do.

In a harshly worded column in the Globe & Mail, Andre Picard described Kenney’s announcement as “inaction posing as action, a quasi-libertarian Premier bending over backward to do nothing while pretending to do something.”

The half-measures announced today are undoubtably the result of political bargaining within a cabinet and caucus that appear unprepared or unwilling to take drastic action to protect Albertans by stopping the spread of the virus. It is hard to imagine any past Alberta government, whether it be Progressive Conservative or New Democrat, making these types of concessions during a public health crisis.

During the press conference, Kenney repeatedly spoke about the need to protect the economy and “the poor,” but the economy is people and any economic recovery won’t happen until the virus is contained. Government has the ability and responsibility to provide financial supports for all Albertans who are impacted by COVID-19 restrictions.

True to form, Kenney also took a moment to chastise public sector workers who collect a “public paycheque.” It is notable that none of the measures announced by Kenney were specifically aimed at relieving the pressure on understaffed hospitals and care centres where over-worked frontline nurses, doctors and health workers risk their lives to face the pandemic everyday. In fact, the fiscal update released earlier in the day by Finance Minister Travis Toews actually described public sector workers as a drain on the economy.

The Kenney government had eight months to plan and prepare for a second wave that was widely predicted but it appears that in their eagerness over the summer to shift the political narrative back to pipelines and the economy, Kenney has been caught flat footed.

The UCP government had eight months where it could have supported health care workers and educators, built up contact tracing capacity, and put in place plans for the second wave. But instead the UCP cabinet pulled an all-nighter and threw together a patch-work plan in eight hours.

4 replies on “Doing the Minimum: Kenney’s Covid Plan”

The large congregation church’s with the most space #win the race , go figure ? Praise the lord, & pass the potatoes. UCP is an amalgamation of churches in southern and central Alberta. History , repeats ??

Since when did Jason Kenney want to help “the poor”? Surely he knows that people working in subsistence wage jobs are at greatest risk from Covid-19? These are the people serving customers in stores and restaurants, working in close quarters at packing plants, etc., the people who do not have the option of working at home, and who may live in crowded, multi-generational homes. Where was Jason Kenney when tens of thousands of residents of Calgary’s northeast were hit by a hail storm, with many unable to afford insurance deductibles, due to job loss? Nowhere, that’s where.

Say one thing, mean another. Is it possible that “the economy” is code for “eugenics”?

As much as Kenney tries to spin this, I think this is just a continuation of his existing approach. Do as little as possible and only respond when those efforts are not successful with more stringent measures, but not quick enough or strict enough to actually get ahead of things.

Sadly, I wouldn’t be surprised if by Dec. 15, things are not much better or perhaps even worse. Maybe we will get another lecture on “personal responsibility” from the Premier then and he will express “disappointment” once again. Well, I think there is plenty disappointment to go around. A lot of Albertans are disappointed with the lack of leadership here.

It is unfortunate, but not surprising that some people did not respond as hoped to the previous voluntary measures. Government is around to govern, not offer suggestions and lecture. Try making speed limits and stop signs “suggestions” or voluntary and see how well that goes.

I don’t buy that Kenney was really naive enough to expect the previousl voluntary measures would work. He has been in politics far to long to be so naive. In truth, it was just politically inconvenient for him to act until events forced him to and even then he was reluctant to and delayed it. Will he take “personal responsibility” for the additional sickness and deaths that occurred because of the delays and half measures over the last month? I really doubt it.

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