Alberta Premier Jason Kenney answers questions at a news conference in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020. Premier Jason Kenney is rejecting criticism he waited too long to bring in sweeping lockdown anti-COVID measures, labelling such talk “Alberta bashing.” THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney answers questions at a news conference in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020. Premier Jason Kenney is rejecting criticism he waited too long to bring in sweeping lockdown anti-COVID measures, labelling such talk “Alberta bashing.” THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol

‘Alberta bashing:’ Kenney rejects criticism he waited too long on COVID rules

Alberta’s daily infection numbers have been over 1,000 since Nov. 24

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is rejecting criticism he waited too long to bring in tighter COVID-19 measures as “Alberta bashing.”

The comment came in a radio interview Wednesday with Edmonton’s CHED radio station. Kenney lauded Alberta’s pandemic response in the spring, including when Edmonton held the National Hockey League playoffs in an isolation “bubble.”

That prompted host Shaye Ganam to interject: “Premier Kenney, with all due respect, you’re talking about things that happened several months ago, and we’re in a drastically different situation now.

“Things are far, far worse when you talk about our record in terms of pandemic response. It’s among the worst, especially in Canada.”

Kenney countered: “I don’t accept the Alberta bashing that is going on here.”

The premier said not all people who make up Alberta’s high COVID-19 case counts end up getting sick. He said comparable jurisdictions are facing similar rates and the key metric is death rates.

“The truth is Alberta’s fatality rate of COVID cases, which is the most important statistic, is … significantly below that of Ontario, of Quebec, of Manitoba and only slightly ahead of British Columbia,” Kenney said.

On Tuesday, the premier refused to take responsibility for the growing caseload at a news conference where he announced stricter public-health measures.

“From a health perspective, it’s clear your approach hasn’t worked to date and has arguably even cost people their lives. Do you acknowledge any responsibility and apologize for the way you’ve handled the second wave of the pandemic?” asked Postmedia reporter Sammy Hudes.

“That sounds a lot more like an NDP speech than a media question, Sammy,” replied the United Conservative premier. “I reject the entire premise of your question.

“You have just joined folks who are doing drive-by smears on Alberta.”

Opposition NDP Leader Rachel Notley called Kenney’s behaviour “so thin-skinned and so sensitive” and said it speaks to a fundamental leadership flaw.

“(Kenney) cannot take responsibility for mistakes, and he must deflect and blame and then attack people who raise them,” she said.

“Crises test leaders,” said Notley, who added that Albertans need to trust their leader, which requires frank and respectful dialogue.

“He needs to change direction very quickly, because quite frankly that trust issue itself is going to become one of the challenges that we’re facing as we try to get through this pandemic.”

Alberta reported 20,199 active cases Wednesday with 685 people in hospital — 121 of them receiving intensive care. There have been 653 deaths.

Health Minister Tyler Shandro announced that inoculations using the Pfizer vaccine are to begin next Wedneday. The 3,900 doses are to go to priority medical and long-term care workers.

Alberta’s daily infection numbers have been over 1,000 since Nov. 24 and more than 1,600 a day for a week. On some days, Alberta has led the country in total new cases.

Hospitals have been reassigning patients, staff, wards and spaces to free up more intensive care beds and is negotiating to bring in hospital field tents.

The NDP and hundreds of doctors had for weeks been calling for a lockdown, because case rates were projecting a dire situation.

In response, Kenney banned extended indoor private gatherings two weeks ago and put further limits on customers in stores and businesses. He said it was critical to keep shops, casinos, waterparks, and other businesses open as much as possible to prevent further damage to the economy, community well-being and mental health.

The latest restrictions, in place for at least four weeks, shutter almost all public activities while keeping retail businesses open at sharply reduced capacity.

The NDP said 317 Albertans died of COVID-19 in the four weeks Kenney refused strict lockdown measures.

“Yesterday we watched the premier introduce the very same measures he spent the month of November mocking and labelling as partisan, socialist attacks on the economy,” said Notley.

“COVID is not the premier’s fault, of course. But Alberta’s inability to contain it, particularly over the last five weeks, absolutely is.”

Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said Thursday that the province may consider a regional approach to loosening COVID-19 restrictions if numbers continue to decline. (photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Province further easing health restrictions

Numbers of people hospitalized and in intensive care has dropped dramatically, says premier

(Black Press file photo)
Ponoka Elementary School has three COVID-19 cases, including one variant

St. Augustine School has had no confirmed cases so far in 2020

Ryan Jake Applegarth of Ponoka, 28, is scheduled to appear at Ponoka Provincial Court on March 12, 2021. (File photo)
Discussions about justice continue as Ponoka murder victims’ court cases proceed

Responses to comments Ponoka Staff Sgt. Chris Smiley made to town council Feb. 9

File photo
Alberta’s central zone has 670 active cases

301 new cases identified Sunday

Alberta has 1,910 active cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday. Red Deer is reporting five active cases, with 108 recovered. (File photo)
Red Deer reports 25th COVID-19 death

415 new cases identified provincially Saturday

A ” Justice for Jeff” T-shirt. (Photo submitted)
Rally to be held outside courthouse for slain Ponoka man

At what may be the last opportunity for Jeffery Kraft of Ponoka… Continue reading

(File photo/Lauren Collins Vana)
UPDATED: Ponoka cat owners have until July 1, 2021 to purchase licenses

Town council passed new Animal Control Bylaw Feb. 23

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Time to check the mail: Every household to receive a Canada Post postcard this spring

Postcard can be mailed for free to any address in Canada

A cross-country skier glides along the banks of the Ottawa River in Ottawa on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. Canadians across the country can look forward to a mild spring peppered with the odd winter flashback throughout the first part of the season, according to predictions from one prominent national forecaster. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Mild spring with some wintry blasts predicted for most of Canada: Weather Network

Weather Network is forecasting a slower than average start to spring in British Columbia

AstraZeneca’s vaccines are ready for use at the vaccination center in Apolda, Germany, Sunday, Feb.28, 2021. (Michael Reichel/dpa via AP)
Feds hoping for AstraZeneca shots this week as Pfizer-BioNTech prepare next delivery

The first of those doses could start to arrive in Canada as early as Wednesday

People line up outside a vaccine clinic as seniors wait to get the COVID-19 vaccine in Edmonton Alta, on Friday February 26, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta Health Services head sorry for glitches in vaccine booking system for seniors

AHS president said technical issues have been fixed and a virtual waiting room is in place

Vandalism is shown on Alberta NDP MLA Janis Irwin’s constituency office in Edmonton in this handout photo on Saturday, February 27, 2021. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney quickly condemned vandalism at an Opposition legislature member Janis Irwin’s Edmonton office after the MLA posted pictures showing her front window spray-painted with the words “Antifa Liar.” THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Janis Irwin *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Alberta Premier slams vandalism after slur painted on MLA’s office window

Edmonton MLA Janis Irwin posted pictures showing the front window spray-painted with the words ‘Antifa Liar’

Most Read