Alberta Politics

Jason Kenney introduces Alberta’s not-a-lockdown lockdown

Amid a month-long spike in new COVID-19 cases, the Alberta government introduced increased measures and restrictions on businesses that include closing casinos, bar and in-person dining in restaurants, and a province-wide mandatory face-mask requirement. The measures are necessary but come after weeks of feet-dragging by provincial leaders.

Weaker measures introduced two weeks ago proved ineffective but you will not hear Premier Jason Kenney admit it, and you will not hear him call the new measures a lockdown.

Rachel Notley (source: Facebook)

Despite loud warnings from physicians, public health professionals and health care unions over the past month that the government was not taking serious enough action to slow and stop the spread of COVID-19, Kenney’s government attacked and mocked those calling for some of the same measures he introduced today.

At times it has seemed as as though Kenney was more concerned with not doing anything that might alienate elements of his political base than he was in taking measures to actually stop or slow the spread of the virus. This concern about his voter base appears to also include an avoidance of the word “lockdown,” despite it being an appropriate description of what the government has implemented.

The government’s new measures still fall short of the “circuit-breaker” lockdown proposed by health care professionals and the more comprehensive plan proposed by New Democratic Party leader Rachel Notley.

As of today, there are 20,388 active cases province-wide and have been 640 deaths caused by COVID-19.

Still no federal app

The measures announced by Kenney still did not include the activation of the federal CovidAlert app in Alberta. The federal app has become one of the latest targets of partisan attacks against Ottawa, with cabinet minister Jason Nixon referring to it as the “Trudeau Tracing App.”

Despite the adoption of the ABTraceTogether App early in the pandemic, it has proven ineffective and is reported to have only been effectively used 19 times since it was launched in the spring.

Unlike Alberta’s app, the federal app allows contact tracers to track the spread of COVID-19 across provincial boundaries.

Schweitzer shows a little humanity, some leadership potential

Doug Schweitzer Calgary Alberta Conservative
Doug Schweitzer

Along with Kenney and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the press conference announcing the increased measures featured Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Minister of Jobs, Economy and Innovation Doug Schweitzer.

Engaging in a bit of mischief-making, Lethbridge-West NDP MLA Shannon Phillips mused about Schweitzer’s performance and potential leadership ambitions. While Phillips’ commentary was certainly designed to create mischief, she may have a point.

Compared to Kenney, who remains robotic, unemotional and prone to partisan outbursts, and Shandro, who appears to perpetually carry a giant chip on his shoulder, Schweitzer sounded like a real human being. While he does have a serious ‘dude bro’ vibe and his comments today were weighed down by business jargon, he was a much clearer and sympathetic communicator than his two colleagues.

Shannon Phillips NDP MLA Lethbridge West
Shannon Phillips

Kenney has displayed almost complete command and control over the United Conservative Party and Caucus since taking over as leader in 2017, but he has clearly failed to demonstrate leadership during the biggest crisis in a generation. Recent polls show Kenney’s leadership approval ratings have continued to plummet, the NDP are leading in province-wide support, and only 25 per cent of Albertans approve of how the UCP government has responded the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kenney may be in complete control of his party today, but history shows that Conservative parties in Alberta can be ruthless towards leaders who become liabilities at the ballot box. Just ask Don Getty, Ralph Klein, Ed Stelmach and Alison Redford.

5 replies on “Jason Kenney introduces Alberta’s not-a-lockdown lockdown”

Welcome to our stay at home Christmas special this year, called “It’s not a lockdown, lockdown … er really” – brought to you by the UCP.

I do agree that Kenney and his also empathetically challenged Health Minister are not doing us or their party any favours these days. It is a bit sad that the only one who seems to pull off even some level resembling Doug Ford’s connecting with the people is Mr. Schweitzer.

While it is true the PC’s could be brutal with dispatching under performing leaders, I doubt that Kenney’s leadership will be at risk, even if more grim poll numbers follow. First, the PC’s were a party beyond any leader. However, the UCP was very much a creation of Kenney and his like minded supporters – ultimately a political vehicle for an unemployed Federal Cabinet Minister who didn’t quite want to give up his long political career. I suspect while that pool of supporters is shrinking, they will remain in total control of the UCP, at least until the captain either decides to abandon the ship for other safer political waters, or possibly goes down with it.

Hopefully the COVID numbers will finally get better with the lockdown. Oh right, not supposed to call it that.

“…until the captain either decides to abandon the ship for other safer political waters, or possibly goes down with it.”

Its funny, I was thinking about Jason Kenney and the movie Titanic, the other day. In the movie the captain went down with the ship, while the company executive on board surreptitiously snuck onto a life boat.

If the poll numbers stay where they are now, I really can’t imagine Jason Kenney fighting the next election – there will be something else that just needs his attention. Too bad for him he doesn’t have a family he wants to spend more time with.

David: I wouldn’t expect these poorly orchestrated measures by the UCP to be effective. It’s much too late for that to happen.

It was bound to happen. Kenney’s humiliating climbdown–the pain he felt was obvious–at being defeated by a mere virus. This is what happens when ideology collides with objective reality.

I wonder who got to Kenney? Did Deena Hinshaw threaten to quit? Maybe restaurant owners–not their lobby group, the guys who actually own the restaurants–told Kenney “We’re going broke anyway if this gets worse, shut it down NOW.”

As for Schweitzer, he may be a nice guy when you’re having (physically-distanced) coffee, but I haven’t heard anything positive about his abilities in government. He won’t make noises about a leadership race–not if he’s smart. Far, far better to let OTHERS push our buddy Doug into the limelight. The trick is to look reluctant, but without actually resisting the pressure to “step up, you can DO this!”

Kenney’s autocratic command of the UCP would be shaken, even threatened, by a potential rival. It’s too much like a meaner version of Boris Johnson worrying about a flanking move by a Rishi Sunak-like subordinate. Funny thing about Cons–the party of “Follow the Leader” turns on the Leader faster than any other if he looks weak.

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