There are some leaders you’d follow to hell and back, and then there’s Jason Kenney.
On Nov 24 Mr Kenney declared a second covid related public health emergency and outlined restrictions that would go into effect immediately because despite his fervent belief that Albertans would do the right thing, they didn’t.
Mr Kenney advised that after a grueling 8-hour meeting on Monday he and his covid cabinet committee reviewed Dr Hinshaw’s recommendations and developed a new set of restrictions which he unveiled at the press conference.
It was a weird event.
Mr. Kenney said he had “sharp words” with the feds (too slow in approving foreign rapid testing kits, but thanks for the 577,000 domestic kits), he was contemptuous of those with secure pay cheques, particularly secure government pay cheques, who were pushing for more stringent measures, and he displayed yet again his monumental ignorance of constitutional law (no, a government is not required to start with minimal Charter impairments before it can step it up, the legal test is proportionality).
But the most disturbing aspect of Mr Kenney’s remarks is his insistence that the new restrictions are based on data.
Mr Kenney said the restrictions are targeted measures, focused on places “the data clearly showed [covid] was spreading”.
Really? How can the data clearly show anything when Alberta’s contact tracing capability has been compromised for more than three weeks?
Oh, don’t worry, Mr Kenney says. We have lots of data, namely 8 months of contact tracing data, outbreak data, healthcare utilization data, the number of ICU beds, the case-to-hospitalization ratio, the case fatality ratio, and the inferred infection fatality ratio.
Okay, that was quite a mouthful, but I have some questions.
How can we draw an inference from the pattern of infection for the last 8 months when we have no data for the 9th month and we can’t tell if or how the pattern is changing at the same time our numbers are spiking? There’s a hole in the data.
If the outbreak data is relevant, and to cite one example there have been 9 outbreaks at amateur hockey games, why are there exemptions for team sports under certain conditions?
How were lagging indicators—healthcare utilization data, the number of ICU beds, the case-to-hospitalization ratio, the case fatality ratio and the inferred infection fatality ratio—used to develop restrictions which are intended to decrease the spread of covid in the future? None of these indicators pinpoint how covid was transmitted to those who are sick or dying from the infection, do they?
Oh wait, there’s more.
Mr Kenney has another data source. He’s relying on general learnings, academic and global research and experience in other jurisdictions.
I’m sure inference from these data sources is useful, but wouldn’t it be more effective to fix our contact tracing problem by adopting the federal contact tracing app?
Look, Mr Kenney said, this isn’t just a simple mathematical scientific exercise, there’s a balancing function here as well.
Ah, we’re finally down to what’s driving these restrictions. Ideology.
Churches are deemed safer than libraries. Families of 6 can go out to eat in a restaurant but they can’t invite grandma over for lunch. Ten people can gather for a wedding but not a wedding reception…unless they meet up at a bar. Masks are mandatory in Calgary and Edmonton and 22 other towns and hamlets but a person with “a mental or physical concern or limitation” doesn’t have to wear one. I guess this means the guy who complained that breathing in his own breath would give him gingivitis is off the hook.
Okay, let ‘er rip.
We’ll regroup with Mr Kenney on Dec 15 when he’ll tell us whether Alberta’s R number is 1 or higher in which case he’ll impose stricter measures. If we’re lucky he’ll regale us with another over-the-top story about a recent refugee escaping from [insert socialist country name here] who pleaded with him not to destroy her business and throw her into abject poverty.
And he wonders why we don’t trust him.