September 15, 2021
photo above: Jason Kenney speaks on July 12 at the Premier’s annual Stampede breakfast in Calgary. (Jeff McIntosh/CP)
WN: Jason Kenney, a conservative Catholic, should go back and read Proverbs 16:18:
Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.
My wife and I attended a Memorial for her brother at the end of August near Westlock, northwest of Edmonton, Alberta. As we expected, a large majority of attendees failed to wear masks; and several relatives mocked getting vaccinated. “You’re not sticking any of that stuff into my arm!,” was heard directly by us, and likely echoed by most unmasked present.
Many relatives are conservative Evangelicals. It is difficult to fathom that they would have such a virulent disregard for their neighbours. We read below:
We know that the current rate of transmission in Alberta—unparalleled-in-Canada—was largely preventable . . .
Then again, sadly, millions more of our relatives’ ilk (predominantly White Evangelicals–I also a Christian) south of the border have led the way like (though a myth) so many lemmings; continue to do so in their manifest folly. Back in Alberta, we read:
Members of [Kenney’s] United Conservative Party caucus, especially those in rural Alberta, were openly critical of him for reimposing COVID restrictions on businesses, and his crew readily embraced his summer free-for-all plan. His party base, or at least the vocal parts of it, much prefers the Kenney who refuses to provide COVID safeguards to the one who ultimately relents. It’s likely they, too, have dug in further to keep Kenney’s libertarian id ruling the day.
I guess because it is closer to home it galls that much more. But it is way beyond “I told you so!” It is pure tragedy. Amongst the people that should vote Kenney out at the first opportunity, too many are unfortunately seriously ill, COVID-health-compromised going forward, or dead. As we’ve been reading for months: The “fourth wave” is a pandemic of the unvaccinated.
It’s not only the near-total abandonment of public health precautions that has embittered much of Alberta toward its premier, though the outcome of Jason Kenney’s decision led to an unfettered fourth wave, and unleashed the Delta variant with the effect of record-busting pressure on ICUs and the postponement of hundreds of surgeries.
The thing that more profoundly enrages folks in Edmonton, Calgary and elsewhere in the province is the brazen certainty with which he unilaterally lowered Alberta’s defences against COVID. He declared a newly liberated public would enjoy the “best summer ever”—his party sold ballcaps with that slogan—and was fond of adding that Alberta was not just open for summer, but “open for good.” A senior aide boasted to doubters on Twitter: “The pandemic is ending. Accept it.”
It’s as though Kenney felt he had outwitted the coronavirus, conquering it in a way no other political mind was able or willing to do.
Worse than ringing hollow to a provincial hospital network teetering on the brink of disaster, Kenney’s slogans will live on as reminders of his folly, and his astonishingly hubristic miscalculation. He’s like former U.S. president George W. Bush, posing in 2003 on that aircraft carrier with a “Mission Accomplished” banner behind him, three weeks after troops seized Baghdad from Saddam Hussein. The American casualty toll in the Iraq war grew more than fortyfold after that flourish of bravado.
We can hope this pandemic won’t worsen quite on that scale, but Alberta hospitals have nearly eight times more intensive-care patients with COVID than a couple months ago, more than 10 times the number hospitalized and more than 32 times the number of active COVID cases. At least in Bush’s case, the decision to stand before a “Mission Accomplished” banner wasn’t a direct contributing factor to the human suffering that followed.
We know that the current rate of transmission in Alberta—unparalleled-in-Canada—was largely preventable, and we know that other premiers have figured it out: they stuck with consistent rules on masking and social distancing, while maintaining reasonable restrictions to avoid putting large groups of people at risk. To combat this fourth wave, they are introducing limits on where the unvaccinated can go, and under what circumstances. We also know that Kenney himself got these principles in the first wave, when Alberta fared about as well as any province outside the Atlantic or northern bubbles. Then, in the second wave, he mulishly resisted reimposing public-health measures until the system approached a breaking point. Only then did Kenney relent. Having failed to learn the lesson, he repeated this exact pattern in the third wave: relax rules; watch problem build; stubbornly defend freedom; let anxiety and sickness build; then, finally, treat COVID as serious policymakers do. Given the rapid upturn in Alberta’s curve, you might see the current wave as yet another instance of Kenney ignoring the past lesson. In fact, it’s worse than that.
This time—his third successive failure on the same file—he’s dug in deeper. He dropped more rules and declared with even greater certainty that normal is back, brandishing the fallacious idea that Alberta, like Britain, would see a “de-coupling” of case rates and hospitalizations: with widespread vaccination, this theory went, severe cases of COVID would vanish even if infections continued. Then he watched a crisis among the unvaccinated, as in the United States.
(Saskatchewan ranks with Alberta at the bottom on vaccinations and restrictions, tops on hospitalizations and infections, as Premier Scott Moe detrimentally apes Kenney’s COVID approach.)
He has laid conspicuously low ever since, putting the Alberta government into an apparent caretaker mode lest Justin Trudeau weaponize Kenney’s unpopularity against Erin O’Toole and the Conservatives in the federal election campaign. You could forgive Albertans for thinking that Kenney, the former federal cabinet minister, feels greater obligation to the Conservative Party of Canada than to his own citizenry.
It’s also true that polling has shown that Albertans are more likely than Canadians elsewhere to strongly oppose vaccine passports. But that view represents only 20 per cent of the province’s population, Léger reported recently. More than three quarters say they support proof of vaccination. The problem for Kenney? That smaller grouping comprises much of his UCP base. While pandering to this minority is a dangerous idea for his long-term overall popularity—to say nothing of people’s literal health—siding with the majority could prompt attempts to overthrow his leadership.
But [Kenney] has expressed next to no understanding of the plight of the many Albertans who are sincerely anxious about the prevailing risk of contracting the virus, or of unwittingly transmitting it to their loved ones. Through most of the pandemic, he has said little to those who have been sickened, or have watched people they know fall terribly ill or die from this communicable disease. (Though my family has been masked and cautious throughout this pandemic, there’s only so much one can do when coronavirus runs rampant in your city. In the third and fourth waves, I’ve had immediate relatives in Calgary test positive for COVID—a child in one case, vaccinated adults in the other. Thankfully, none has fallen severely ill. But trust me: it’s a terrible ride all the same.)
Nearly 40,000 Albertans have tested positive for the disease we were told was effectively behind us—more than in any other province. More hospitalizations, too. More new COVID fatalities than in Quebec, a province twice as populous.
Add to this the anguish from so many ailing Albertans whose surgeries are being postponed so hospitals have room to treat the unvaccinated sick. This is the misery that Kenney’s policies—or lack thereof—have yielded. This is what he has accomplished.1Footnotes
- There was an update after the article highlighted was posted:
. . . Hampered by the minority of Albertans that form his base, he imposed a complicated and half-baked form of a vaccine passport system, calling it a “restrictions exemption program.” . . . And, in a new development, Kenney offered some form of apology for his excessive optimism that his province had beaten the virus. “It is now clear that we were wrong, and for that I apologize,” he said. But he still insisted he’s handled this pandemic quite well, and clarified he would not apologize for abandoning the public-health restrictions that would have helped keep this disaster at bay.