When Alberta Premier Jason Kenney spoke to the Ponoka and District Chamber of Commerce in July, he scoffed at questions regarding the Delta variant and the impending fourth wave and vilified news media for “fearmongering.”
To be sure, to be in such a position of power and responsibility during a global pandemic and on the coattails of a downturn of the province’s greatest commodity, oil and gas, is not enviable.
It’s unlikely any one person could make a clear, fair determination of the United Conservative Party’s handling of Alberta’s COVID-19 response until long after the fact; it’ll likely be a topic debated far into the future and perhaps only the history books and political scholars of that time will be able to make any kind of measured conclusion.
Who’s to say for sure, really, in all this mess, what the proper balance of public health measures and personal freedoms should have been, or should be now? Science is happening in real time, and for the most part, those in power seem to be doing the best they can, with the information they have available at the time.
Perhaps developing science or other facts coming to light will make things more clear to the general public in times ahead, or maybe facts still won’t matter as people continue to hold to their own confirmation biases. People will always form their own opinions, rational and based on reality or not.
There’s no saying if we would have been in better hands with a different political party at the province’s helm, either. The NDP, at least according to their frequent press releases, would have pushed for harsher restrictions from the beginning and would have adopted vaccine passports sooner.
One thing that is abundantly clear, however, is that the fourth wave did come, it hit Alberta hard, and the losses incurred may have been lessened if restrictions hadn’t been dropped July 1, 2021.
It’s certainly possible with how easily transmissible the Delta variant was/is, that no matter of restrictions could have contained it; a fourth wave may have been imminent. We can look back and speculate, theorize and form educated projections based on data, but we will never really know.
What we do know, is that Kenney disappeared during the worst of it, and has taken no responsibility for the toll the fourth wave took.
A press release from the NDP Caucus dated Dec. 2, 2021, stated that Kenney and Health Minister Tyler Shandro were both on holiday in August, at the height of the fourth wave.
The NDP only got access to this information now through a Freedom of Information Act request.
Kenney was missing in action from Aug. 11 to 30.
The information obtained through the FOIP request showed Education Minister Adriana LaGrange was the acting Health Minister from Aug. 3 to 29.
In that same period in August, daily case numbers increased from 126 to 960 and the number of Albertans in hospital with COVID-19 more than tripled, according to the release.
The NDP has made a request to the Auditor General’s office to investigate who was legally in charge of the Government of Alberta during that time. The Auditor General’s office is still reviewing their request.
Now, as if this pandemic hasn’t dragged on long enough already, on Nov. 30, Alberta identified their first confirmed case of yet a new variant: the Omicron.
Back at the end of June, the data didn’t support the decision to reopen Alberta for the summer and neither did Chief Officer Medical of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw, according to some reports.
Kenney did it anyways.
Kenney was facing a lot of pressure from businesses that were hurting and from citizens sick of social isolation, to be sure.
Heavy is the head that wears the crown but when you grand royally screw up the least you could do is own up to it and admit it. It might not win you the next election, but it might earn you back some respect.
Mistakes are forgivable. Gaslighting the public and scapegoating others, however, is below the standard we should demand from our elected officials.