He’s tried everything from rolling up his shirtsleeves and pointing at graphs to quoting Franklin Roosevelt (“we have nothing to fear but fear itself”), but still Albertans refuse to give him his due.
Jason Kenney’s pandemic performance gave him a one point bump in approval ratings (from 47 to 48 percent), while Doug Ford shot up 38 points to 69%, John Horgan climbed 25 points to 71% and Quebec’s Francois Legault rose 22 points to 77%.
One lousy percentage point; despite the fact Alberta has the lowest per capita rates of hospitalization and ICU admissions and deaths amongst what Kenney calls “the large-population provinces” (Ont and Que) and is, he says, “essentially” tied with BC.
Perhaps because Kenney continues to say and do things that undermine Albertans’ trust.
Erosion of public trust
In the Legislative Assembly debate on Covid-19 and in subsequent interviews Kenney said:
- Covid-19 is “a form of influenza”. It’s not.
- The death toll from covid-19 from March 5 to May 27 was 139.* Yes, and the death toll from flu in the entire 2018/19 flu season was 30. Covid-19 is much more lethal than the flu.
- Albertans have a very high level of immune resistance, immunity, and resilience against an influenza of this nature. The Buffalo People, or whatever he’s calling us nowadays, are no more immune than anyone else and Dr Kirsten Fiest, a real epidemiologist, says there is limited evidence that people who’ve been exposed to covid-19 are immune and if so to what degree.
- Epidemiologists assessing the threat of covid-19 look at past experiences and our Public Health Act specifically refers to an influenza pandemic. So what, that doesn’t make covid-19 a form of influenza.
- In support of Kenney’s claim of immunity, his press secretary referred to media coverage about people who tested positive but were asymptomatic. Ever heard of Typhoid Mary? Asymptomatic doesn’t mean you’re immune, it means you don’t have symptoms but can still infect others.
- The average age of death from covid-19 in Alberta is 83, our average life expectancy is 82. And your point is?
- The government did not overreact, it did not impose a lockdown. It just asked sick people to stay home and everyone to practice social distancing. It didn’t shut down manufacturing or construction. It didn’t micromanage every aspect of Albertans’ social and economic lives. Huh? Sounds like Kenney is feeling pressure from the Trumpian “LIBERATE!!!” crowd.
Downplaying the severity of the coronavirus does not serve Alberta well. It simply sets us up for a second wave that will be even more devastating to lives and livelihoods than the first.
Pandemic smoke screen
To make matters worse, Kenney’s government is using the pandemic to further his political agenda.
His health minister continues to attack public healthcare by cutting doctors’ compensation (they’re supposed to defend themselves in the midst of a pandemic, right?). His education minister attacked public education by laying off 26,000 educational assistants, substitute teachers, and support staff on the pretext of redirecting $128 million to Alberta’s covid-19 response.
Alberta’s environmental laws have been virtually negated by the Alberta Energy Regulator which suspended environmental monitoring and reporting requirements due to unspecified covid-19 public health concerns. Kenney and the environment minister claim they can’t do anything about it, despite the fact Cabinet and the environment minister appoint the AER board and CEO and can unappoint them in a heartbeat.
Kenney’s energy minister says the pandemic is great for pipeline construction because “you can’t have protests of more than 15 people.” Her comment made international headlines. The environment minister supported her, saying she was simply stating the obvious and the government will do everything possible to get what he called Alberta’s clean natural resources to market. Clean?
It’s happening at a whirlwind pace under the radar, but we see it and we know that taking advantage of the pandemic to promote private interests at the expense of public health, public education, and the environment is unworthy of a democratic government that professes to have the public interest at heart.
And that, my dears, why Kenney’s approval rating is stuck at 48%.
*Death toll is now at 143, one of the people who died was in the 20-29 age bracket.