Alberta is a train slowly emerging from a tunnel, we see the light, the vaccines are coming and most of us will be vaccinated soon. Unfortunately, Alberta is a runaway train and Jason Kenney is the engine driver (also known as the loco pilot in some jurisdictions).
Alberta’s loco pilot is singularly unqualified for the job because he can’t lead.
Leadership requires vision and courage. Good leaders set benchmarks and meet or exceed them. Bad leaders fail and it’s someone else’s fault.
Kenney’s management of the covid crisis is the most important test of his leadership to date. He failed. Alberta has the highest covid rate per capita in North America.
When asked to explain his dismal performance Kenney said Alberta’s rates are sky high because Albertans are “behaviorally different” and Alberta has “a compliance problem.”
It’s not me, it’s you.
What Kenney failed to explain was how his conservative peers, Scott Moe, Brian Pallister, and Doug Ford (Doug Ford for God’s sake!) were able to persuade, plead, and cajole their residents into protecting their health and healthcare systems, while Kenney could not.
Next up, natural immunity
As if that weren’t bad enough, now we have a new concern: It appears Kenney’s reopening plan will be as much of a dog’s breakfast as his plan to reduce the spread of covid in the province.
On April 12 Kenney said vaccines are our path to recovery and freedom. He outlined a reopening plan based on vaccination rate plus “immunity from natural infection” – when half the population has immunity we’ll be able to gather together more, when two-thirds have immunity we’ll start getting back to normal, eg the Stampede and sporting events will be permitted, and when three-quarters are immune we’ll be fully back to normal.
He said about 12% of Albertans have natural immunity.* Where did he get this number? And why does he believe all Albertans who’ve had covid are naturally immune? Chris Mody, head of Microbiology, Immunology and Infectious Diseases at the University of Calgary says while “natural immunity” is likely to provide some protection, it may be relatively short lived.
Leaving aside concerns about the validity of the “natural immunity” argument, and the fact that we have not yet achieved two-thirds immunity and Kenney gave the Stampede and another rodeo the green light to proceed anyway.
Let’s pause for a moment to compare Kenney’s nebulous reopening plan with the specificity of Saskatchewan’s 3-Step reopening plan.
Saskatchewan says it will move to Step 1 three weeks after 70% of people aged 40 and up have received their first shot. It will move to Step 2 three weeks after 70% of the people aged 30 and up have received their first shot, and to Step 3 three weeks after people aged 18 and up have received their first shot. Some experts are concerned Saskatchewan is moving too fast, but at least the idea of natural immunity doesn’t enter into the equation.
Um, wait, uh…
On May 11 Kenney revisited his re-opening plan.
A reporter asked whether Alberta would consider a plan similar to Saskatchewan’s plan. Kenney said the emergency management committee of cabinet tasked the Dept of Health with “beginning to develop a reopening plan” that would track Alberta’s vaccination rate and that the Dept of Health “is at the early stages of developing ah, uh, um, proposals for consideration by cabinet uh, but um, at this point, uh, you know, we’ve, our focus, our immediate focus is just getting through the next couple of weeks.”**
Kenney rolled out a full-blown plan on April 12 and a month later he said the Dept of Health was beginning to develop a reopening plan for cabinet’s consideration?
Which brings us back to the runaway train.
A couple of days after Kenney’s um, uh, ah, press conference UCP MLA Todd Loewen wrote a scathing letter demanding Kenney’s resignation. Following a 7 hour caucus meeting Loewen and another UCP MLA, Drew Barnes, were expelled from caucus.
But the turmoil continues.
And while it’s tempting to indulge in schadenfreude as the UCP rips itself apart, we must not forget we’re stuck on a runaway train watching the loco pilot and his crew duke it out for control of the locomotive.
*Globe & Mail May 6, 2021 A10