Fighting Racism in Kenney’s Alberta

Sometimes it pays to sit through a 53 minute 42 second Kenney press conference because something unexpected will happen at the very end. In this case it happened at the 46:24 mark.

Last week in the wake of the horrific attack on the Afzaal family in London, premier Kenney and justice minister Madu held a press conference at the Al-Rashid Mosque to announce three anti-racism measures. These were:

  • The appointment of a community liaison to connect with minority groups to provide the government “with a range of perspectives and expertise on how [it] can tackle hate-motivated crimes and incidents,”
  • The creation of a Hate Crimes Coordination Unit to work with law enforcement to improve crime mitigation efforts and facilitate training, intelligence gathering and investigation.
  • The implementation of a security infrastructure program to provide funding for security training and facility upgrades for groups that are targets of hate crimes.

The premier characterized these initiatives as “concrete actions” to keep Albertans safe.

Leaving aside the fact that there’s nothing new here (in 2019 Notley’s government created a special unit to fight hate crimes and provided millions to train grassroots groups fighting racism and the feds have provided funding for security infrastructure since 2007) none of these measures address the real problem: how to prevent racism from arising in the first place.

Press conference at Al-Rashid Mosque

Relationships?

Nevertheless, some reporters asked Kenney for his thoughts on how to attack the root cause of hatred in Alberta.    

Kenney said he’d reflected on this question in the 15 years he’d been the federal minister for multiculturalism and immigration. He concluded “the single most powerful weapon against hatred is simply relationships.”  We can have all sorts of government programs but “hatred comes from the heart. The most effective way of changing someone’s heart from hatred to respect to love is through relationships…”   

This is a jarring statement from the man who as a federal cabinet minister promoted the barbaric cultural practices hot line and banned Muslim women from wearing face coverings at citizenship ceremonies.

Later a reporter asked the question again, this time it was directed to Aumer Assaf, spokesperson for the Canadian Islamic Centre.

Kenney responded (under the mistaken impression the question was meant for him) saying people don’t need government programs or government funding to get rid of racism. “It’s got to come organically, naturally from the community.” Government can set the tone but the informal outreach has to come from the community which is why he asked his MLAs to check in with Muslims in their constituencies.   

When the reporter clarified the question was intended for Mr Assaf, Mr Assaf said while he agreed that relationships are very important, “I will challenge the notion that it’s organic.”

Mr Assaf described being a schoolboy and learning that Canada was a mosaic where everyone was equal under the law. He characterized Canada as an exceptional country which has its blemishes but is moving towards goodness, and said the way to move towards goodness is by “trusting one another” and by getting “a really good education at a very young age.”

Education

Which brings us back to the idea of concrete action.  

Last week the Kenney government released the recommendations of the anti-hate crime advisory council (another initiative started by the Notley government).

The advisory council calls for the decolonialization of education and the development of a curriculum with a focus on anti-Indigenous racism, systemic racism, and other forms of discrimination which disrespects the human rights of BIPOC Canadians.

If Kenney truly wants to take concrete action he should scrap the UCP curriculum review and re-examine the curriculum bearing in mind the advisory council’s recommendations and Mr Assaf’s observation that racism can be rooted out by a really good education at a very young age.    

Or Mr Kenney can spin around and around in the vain hope that by some miracle hatred will turn to respect and even love while religious minorities apply for funding to turn their places of worship into fortresses to protect themselves against those who reject their right to exist.

Posted in Crime and Justice, Culture, Education, Law, Politics and Government, Terrorism | Tagged , , , | 18 Comments

Jason Kenney’s Thoughts on Residential Schools

The only reason I’m going to mention the Sky Palace scandal in the same post as the deaths of 215 Indigenous children at a former residential school in Kamloops BC is because the Sky Palace scandal pulled our focus away from Jason Kenney’s utterly inappropriate response to the history of Canada’s residential school policy.

The Goal

Sky Palace Scandal

Let’s get the Sky Palace scandal out of the way first.

Last week Kenney and three of his cabinet ministers enjoyed a lovely dinner with some unidentified guests on the outdoor patio of the Federal Public Building. Dinner was a sit-down affair, complete with white tablecloths, San Pellegrino, wine and Jamison’s whiskey.

It was also a blatant violation of Alberta’s covid restrictions.

Dr Deena Hinshaw said it was a mistake, and that we should acknowledge our mistakes and move on to model the way forward. In essence, she gave Kenney an out—own your mistake and model better behavior in the future—he chose not to take it.

Instead he doubled down alleging:

  • His dinner was “expressly permitted” under the outdoor gathering exemption. Tell that to Dr Hinshaw.     
  • The NDP would want Kenney to move the business meeting inside where there’s a higher risk of viral spread. No, they’d want Kenney to hold the meeting in accordance with the rules.     
  • The NDP is grousing because they want a hard lock-down. Not true and irrelevant.
  • The NDP is hypocritical because they often socialized on the patio. Irrelevant, Covid-19 wasn’t ravaging the world between 2015—2019.   
  • Kenney et al paid for their own food and drink; besides Jamison’s is a budget whiskey. Who cares, still a violation of the rules.  
  • It was take-out not catered. Still a violation.   
  • Next week we could go to Stage 2 and have 20 people at outdoor gathering. That’s nice, this week that many people can’t eat on an outdoor patio.  

This inane exchange took up airtime that should have been devoted to Kenney’s response to the discovery of the graves of 215 Indigenous children.

Residential schools

Kenney said the residential school policy was morally evil, wicked, and unjust.

And that’s where his condemnation ended. God forbid he say a bad word against John A Macdonald or the Catholic Church.

An intrepid reporter asked if he supported the Calgary School Board’s decision to rename Langevin school. Hector-Louis Langevin was John A Macdonald’s public works minister and together with Bishop Grandin helped implement Macdonald’s residential school policy.

Kenney said recognizing the evil of residential schools does not require us to remove central figures of Canadian history. That would be “cancel culture.”

He buttressed his cancel culture argument with a round of “whataboutism.”

What about Sir Wilfred Laurier who increased the “head tax” to restrict immigration from China, and Mackenzie King who prevented Jews from entering Canada in the holocaust, and Pierre Trudeau who imposed martial law in Quebec, and Tommy Douglas and members of the Famous Five who supported eugenics. We’d have to erase them too, right?

No, We’re not talking about erasing people.  

We’re talking about rejecting the idea that people who used the power of the state or the church to forcibly take Indigenous children from their parents and assimilate them into Euro-Canadian culture should be honoured by putting them up on a pedestal and plastering their names on public buildings and infrastructure.  

Yes, we must have a conversation about how to treat historical figures who did reprehensible things or held reprehensible beliefs, but today we’re talking about the 215 Indigenous children buried in unmarked graves at a former residential school in Kamloops and the politicians and clergymen who made it possible.

It’s not enough for Kenney to say he personally believes the residential school system “was unspeakably wicked and unjust” and a “great moral evil.”

Kenney is a political leader. As such he should be among the first to condemn the actions of those who created and implemented the residential school policies of the past and those who allow systemic racism to flourish in Canada today.  

Anything less would be (to use Kenney’s words) a great moral evil.

Posted in Crime and Justice, Culture, Education, Politics and Government | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 60 Comments

Alberta’s Reopening Plan: “The Best Alberta Summer Ever”

“Today we are truly near the end of this thing. We’re finally getting back to normal, and I think it means the best Alberta summer ever.” – Premier Jason Kenney  

Last week Premier Kenney, Dr Deena Hinshaw, and Health Minister Shandro (collectively KHS) unveiled Open for Summer, Alberta’s reopening plan.

Stage 1 starts two weeks after 50% of Albertans aged 12 and over have had their first dose and hospitalizations are below 800, Stage 2 starts two weeks after 60% of Albertans have had their first dose and hospitalizations are below 500, and Stage 3 kicks off two weeks after 70% of Albertans have had their first dose. There is no hospitalization metric for Stage 3.

Restrictions will be lifted as we pass through Stage 1 and 2, culminating with no restrictions (other than some protective measures) when we hit Stage 3.

This should be good news, right? So why do we feel uneasy?

As a public service to her readers Ms Soapbox sat through the three KHS press conferences (again) to try and understand why she’s hanging back from “the best Alberta summer ever.”

The experience was excruciating.

Here’s why.

Who is the strictest in the land?

KHS say Alberta’s plan is more restrictive than the BC and Sask plans, but health writer Andre Picard disagrees. In an interview on The Current, Picard said with the exception of Ontario and Manitoba which are more cautious, the provincial plans are similar. They all aim to be fairly open by July.

Portraying Alberta’s plan as being more restrictive and therefore more cautious than our neighbours is misleading.  

What is the plan based on?

KHS say Alberta’s plan is informed by the experience in other jurisdictions like the UK, Israel, and some US states.

Really?  

The reopening plans of both Israel and the UK are more restrictive. Israel requires citizens to present “green badges” to gain admission to cultural events, restaurants, and health clubs and the UK’s is 4 months long.

The US jurisdictions Kenney relies on had significantly higher covid rates hence higher ‘natural immunity’ (more on that below) and no delays between the first and second doses.

Shandro said the plan is based on what we’ve seen in other jurisdictions around the world “but make no mistake, this is a plan that is tailor made for us.” Ah, that explains why BC cancelled the PNE and Ontario cancelled the CNE, but the Calgary Stampede and the premier’s pancake breakfast are still a go.

KHS’s assertion that Alberta’s plan is based on those of other jurisdictions is not credible.   

Variants and the one dose vs two doses approach

KHS say Alberta could fully reopen on June 28 if we meet the 70% first dose vaccination threshold. They did not mention that variants have become dominant and, depending on the variant and the vaccine, a single dose may provide significantly less protection than two doses.

When pressed on this point they said:

  • The 70% benchmark was chosen because it’s simple and won’t confuse the population. Please! It’s the restrictions, not the benchmarks, that are confusing.
  • The 70% benchmark is supported by “deep analysis” on natural immunity, monitoring spread and getting second doses. Isn’t this work KHS should be doing as a matter of course? Why is it offered as a justification for not including a second dose benchmark? And about natural immunity. Kenney originally said Alberta’s natural immunity was 12%. Last week he said it was 14%. There is no evidence to support why the number is so high if it’s based on how many Albertans have recovered from covid, let alone how long this immunity lasts and how effective it is against the variants.

Albertans aren’t stupid. Please show your work.    

Only anti-vaxxers criticize

The NDP Opposition questioned the pace of the reopening plan. Healthcare professionals like former CHOM Dr Talbot questioned both the pace and the one dose strategy.  

Kenney dismissed these concerns with the glib comment that those who challenge the government’s plan are anti-vaxxers determined to undermine public trust in vaccines to impair Albertans’ fundamental freedoms with indefinite lockdowns.

This is ridiculous.

A responsible government unveiling its reopening plan would set politics aside. It would not muddy the waters with half-baked analogies to other jurisdictions, and it would anticipate and respond to concerns about variants which could lead us into a fourth wave.

Is that too much to ask?

Posted in Alberta Health Care, General Health Care, Politics and Government | Tagged , , , , , , | 72 Comments

Happy Victoria Day

It’s Victoria Day tomorrow.

Ms Soapbox is taking a break this weekend to celebrate the occasion with her family.  

So far I’ve visited with those in our bubble, ordered in from a local restaurant, played Rummikub, cribbage and a weird Hungarian card game that no one knows the rules to, walked the dog and hung around in my garden in the rain (see below).

I’m very lucky to be able to do this.

I hope your Victoria Day is just as peaceful.

Happy Victoria Day.

Tell me, what did you do to celebrate?

Crabapple blossoms from my garden
Posted in Celebrations, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 46 Comments

Alberta’s Um, Uh, You Know, Reopening Plan

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.”**

Um, what?

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

**Verbatim quote

Posted in Alberta Health Care, General Health Care, Politics and Government, Science | Tagged , , , , , , | 99 Comments

Happy Mother’s Day

I’m afraid I’ve lost it.

This was going to be a cheery little non-political post wishing all the moms out there a Happy Mother’s Day…but it went sideways when I saw Jason Kenney’s Mother’s Day news release and YouTube clip.

The YouTube clip got me steamed up when Kenney said moms have had to step up even more this year and he hoped it (this day, presumably) “is a great opportunity to slow down.”

Slow down?

All of you moms who are doctors, nurses, healthcare workers, teachers, school staff, essential workers, moms working from home so you can keep an eye on the kids, grandmas watching the kids so their moms can work, moms who would jump at the offer of $10/day childcare, moms who run small businesses and have been left in a lurch by Kenney’s yes-no-yes restrictions, moms who are caring for loved ones with a high risk of infection from the yahoos Kenney has excused for so long they won’t listen when he wants them to act responsibly, moms who are struggling to convince family members to get vaccinated when Kenney’s MLAs tell them to do their own research, all of you moms listen up: Jason Kenney thinks today would be a “great opportunity to slow down.”

Slow down and do what? Put on your fuzzy slippers and watch soap operas on TV?

Then came the news release where Kenney offered sympathy to mothers and grandmothers in residential care who may be facing Mother’s Day without their families and to Albertans who have lost their mothers to covid or another cause.

That finished me because so much of this heartache could have been avoided.

We’re going to talk about that about another day.

Today, I would like to wish every mom a heartfelt Happy Mother’s Day and let them know that I and many others will fight tooth and nail to ensure your next Mother’s Day will not be as grueling and scary as the last two.

You are in my heart.

Posted in Alberta Health Care, Celebrations, Politics and Government | Tagged , , | 60 Comments

It Must Be Nice, Alberta

It must be nice to live in a bubble where Covid-19 is a hoax created by those who want to infringe your Charter right to swill beer in a pub and Covid vaccines are a plot perpetrated by multi-billionaires who want to track your movements from your house to the mall and back.

Where wearing masks is a sign of stupidity and social distancing is just silly.

It must be nice to have a premier who indulges your fantasies by saying Covid-19 is just the flu, it only kills old people, people with comorbidities, the weak, and you’re strong, you’re special, you’re safe, right?

After a while your premier admits the pandemic may be more serious, but don’t worry, he’ll wait until the absolute last minute to impose tepid public health restrictions and undercuts them repeatedly by defending cabinet ministers and caucus members who urge you to “do your own research” (He says they’re just exercising their democratic freedom to disagree with a public health policy).

Depending on his mood, he’ll praise you for allowing him to infringe your civil liberties (you poor dear) or huff and puff about people flouting the rules that he’s in no hurry to enforce.  

It must be nice to live in a bubble where the premier talks about fictitious kids’ birthday parties with “100% attack rates” (?) and alleges there’s no “direct linear relationship” between the restrictions and viral spread. If there’s no direct relationship between the restrictions and viral spread then there’s no reason for you to respect them, right?

Don’t look now, but your comfy bubble is closing in on you.

Alberta has twice the number of active cases per 100,000 as Ontario, its testing is so backlogged that labs are no longer testing for variants of concern, and AHS released a triage plan that will direct care to the patients with the greatest likelihood of survival.

Dr. Noel Gibney say the existing public health restrictions (the ones you can’t tolerate) are “absolutely not” enough and warns that unless there is a strict lockdown the triage protocol could be activated by May 22.

So go ahead, defy the public health restrictions, hang out with your chums on the beer patio, attend the anti-lockdown rodeo near Bowden with 2000 of your like-minded friends.

Because you’re special, you’re a person of destiny, nothing bad will ever happen to you.

Must be nice to live in a bubble where you’re fed up with Covid-19 and the rest of us have to suffer the consequences of your irresponsible and immoral behavior.

You live in Kenney’s Alberta.

Must be nice.

Posted in Alberta Health Care, Crime and Justice, Culture, Politics and Government | Tagged , , , , | 141 Comments

Kenney vs Freeland: National Child Care

“…this is going to be the most powerful step change in the Canadian economy since we did the NAFTA deal. It will really drive our economic productivity, our growth.” – Chrystia Freeland describing the Feds $10/day child care plan.*

You’d think Jason Kenney, the premier who says the economy is the central organizing pillar of his government, would be delighted with Chrystia Freeland’s announcement that the Feds will spend $30 billion over 5 years and an additional $8.3 billion/year thereafter to boost economic productivity by implementing a national child care program.  

But no.

Kenney doesn’t like it because…

When Rachel Notley asked Kenney to do “whatever it takes to get that $800 million a year from Ottawa for our kids” he said meh.

Okay, he didn’t actually say meh, what he said was if the federal plan is “a cookie-cutter approach, nine-to-five, government-run, union-operated, largely urban care that excludes shift workers, largely excludes rural people, excludes informal forms of child care, [it] would not meet the needs of most Albertans.”**

There are two problems with Kenney’s glib dismissal of the Fed’s program.  

Chrystia Freeland

First, Kenney has no idea what’s in the program so his cookie-cutter criticism is premature and possibly incorrect (it is however, a nice red flag to wave in the face of his supporters).  

Second, Kenney has no idea what Albertans want. This is borne out by the fact that two days after Freeland’s announcement Kenney struck yet another committee, the Supporting Alberta Working Parents Advisory Group, to look at the “latest research, data and economic analysis to consider…initiatives to ensure parents, particularly women, take part in Alberta’s economic recovery.”  I guess he forgot about working women when he put together his $10 billion economic recovery plan last June.

But the Fed’s plan isn’t “flexible”…    

Kenney’s cabinet dutifully echoes his concerns about the Fed’s program. The minister of Child Services and the Finance minister both argue a child care program must be “flexible”.

Laila Goodridge, a UCP backbencher, called upon Nate Glubish, Service Minister, to explain what is meant by the term “flexible.”

Again with no knowledge about the details of the Fed’s program, Glubish said Albertans need “flexibility” because 60% of Alberta’s child care programs are offered by private child care operators.***  

How is this relevant?

Assuming the Fed’s program only applies to not-for-profit child care programs, the fact that 60% of Alberta’s child care programs are privately run does not prohibit Kenney from taking advantage of the Fed’s program for the 40% that are not. And yes, the owners of private child care centres may not be happy that the not-for-profit centres are offering child care at $10/day but hey, it’s all about choice, right?

Goodridge pressed on, she said it was a given that any child care program rolled out in the province must accommodate all families and asked Glubish what the Kenney government was doing to accommodate families requiring overnight and 24-hour care.  

Glubish accepted the premise of the question and said the government had just wrapped up an expression of interest that will add 1500 child care spaces across the province. He didn’t say what they would cost or whether they were overnight or 24-hour spaces.

[As an aside: If it’s a “given” that child care programs must accommodate all families, then surely it’s a given that healthcare programs must accommodate all families, including those who can’t afford to pay for private MRIs or cataract surgery, and education programs must accommodate all families, including those with children with special needs].  

What we know

While there is a lot we don’t know about the Fed’s child care program we know this.  

The Feds intend to negotiate with the provinces and territories to split subsidies 50-50 to reduce average child care fees to $10/day within 5 years. They’re targeting a 50% reduction in fees by the end of 2022.

The Conference Board says every $1 spend on expanding early childhood education results in $6 in economic benefit.

Kenney is all about growing the economy and Freeland has a strong bias for not-for-profit child care programs because “really little people…can’t speak up for themselves.”

Kenney asked the Working Parents Advisory Group to provide advice on how to “leverage federal funds to suit the unique needs of Alberta parents and child care operators.”

Freeland asked Canadians to “talk to people in your town, in your city, in your province…and say that you agree with me that this is the time to really do this in Canada.”  

What we have here folks is Freeland, the woman who successfully took on Trump over NAFTA, telling Kenney she’s ready to address his argument for a made-in-Alberta child care program funded by Ottawa’s dollars.

Let the economic recovery games begin!  

*All Freeland quotes from CBC The Current April 20, 2021

**Hansard, Apr 20, 2021, p 4668

***Hansard, Apr 21, 2021, p 4734   

Posted in Economy, Feminism, Politics and Government | Tagged , , , , , , | 82 Comments

A Man of Half-Measures

“The era of procrastination, of half-measures, of soothing and baffling expedients, of delays is coming to its close. In its place we are entering a period of consequences.”—Winston Churchill.     

Lives and…

When he’s not on the front line fighting covid, Dr Joe Vipond is busy analyzing the data and providing information to help Albertans understand what’s happening to them and their province.  

Dr Vipond’s most recent analysis (posted on Twitter on Saturday Apr 17) states that Kenny’s restrictions are slightly bending the curve, but we are still experiencing exponential growth. Our positivity rate is much too high, we’re missing many community cases, and variants now make up 64.2% of the cases.

Dr Vipond concludes Alberta is heading towards an Ontario-style health care disaster—Premier Ford is so concerned Ontario’s healthcare system will be overwhelmed that he’s asked Alberta and other provinces to send healthcare professionals to help.

Leaving aside the question of whether the government has the power to ship healthcare workers to another province, let alone whether they would be willing to go, Kenney responded that Alberta’s healthcare workers were not going anywhere, they were needed here.

Mr Ford and Mr Kenney

No kidding.

We are staring into the abyss and Ontario is staring back at us.

…Livelihoods

Kenney refuses to implement tougher restrictions. He believes half-measures will protect lives.

At first Ms Soapbox thought this was because Kenney’s real priority is protecting livelihoods. It turns out that’s not entirely the case.  

On Apr 6 when Kenney announced the province was returning to Step 1 restrictions (no indoor dining, restrictions on indoor gyms and retail outlets), he promised additional help for small and medium business owners. These businesses make up more than 99% of all businesses in the province and account for nearly 55% of all employment.  

All in all, the government will provide $751 million in aid.  

This sounds like a lot of money but it pales in comparison to the almost $2 billion Kenney gave to just two companies—$1.5 billion to TC Energy for a pipeline that will never be built and $408 million to Inter Pipeline Ltd for…well, who knows.   

TC Energy

As we all know, when President Biden revoked TC Energy’s permit for KXL, the pipeline went belly up.

In its Annual Report TC Energy says it was “disappointed” the permit had been revoked but its growth platform “remains very strong” and its core businesses and prospects have never been stronger. TC Energy outperformed in 2020 with record earnings and bumped its quarterly dividend up by 7.4%. Its CEO, Russ Girling, received more than $13 million for a job well done.

Alberta’s $1.5 billion is gone…and TC Energy has moved on.

Inter Pipeline Ltd

The Inter Pipeline story is even more unsettling.  

The day before Kenney promised additional financial aid to small and medium businesses, he announced a $408 million grant to Inter Pipeline to support the Heartland Petrochemical Project under a government program designed to attract investment in petrochemical projects. The grant is twice as big as the one the NDP were prepared to provide.   

What’s odd about the $408 million grant is Inter Pipeline’s project is very attractive to investors and is not in financial distress. The company’s CEO describes business as “fantastic” and “extremely profitable.”

Inter Pipeline is, however, fighting off a hostile takeover bid from Brookfield Infrastructure. The only issue Inter Pipeline has with Brookfield’s bid is it’s not high enough. Brookfield says it would consider raising its bid, meanwhile Inter Pipeline expects better bids to come along.

Unlike many of Alberta’s small and medium businesses, neither TC Energy nor Inter Pipeline are suffering as a result of covid or the economic downturn and neither is on the verge of collapse.  

A time for consequences

The question Albertans should be asking themselves is this: why is Kenney throwing billions of dollars at two multi-billion dollar companies when that money would be better spent creating a safety net for small and medium businesses or better yet, protecting the health of Albertans struggling to stay alive in the covid crisis.  

The era of half-measures and baffling expedients is over. The era of consequences has arrived.   

Posted in Alberta Health Care, Economy, Energy & Natural Resources, Politics and Government | Tagged , , , , , | 77 Comments

Does Mr Kenney Lie Awake at Night?

“With respect to MLAs who have stated their position, in this province we believe in freedom of speech. We believe in democracy.” – Jason Kenney after 16 UCP MLAs challenged his public health measures.  

Does Premier Kenney lie awake at night wondering how he got here?

He should, because “here” is a pretty awful place.

The poll

When it comes to how well Kenney is managing the pandemic a recent Angus Reid survey found 45% of Albertans think his public health rules have gone too far; 42% think they don’t go far enough and 75% think he’s doing a bad job.  

And if that’s not enough, 25% of his caucus publicly disagree with his approach and are telling their constituents they will continue to “fight” his public health restrictions.  

We all knew Kenney was a divisive politician. The big question is: how did he manage to polarize Alberta to this extreme over a matter of science, not ideology.

Mr Kenney Makes a Point

Balance

Kenney says the decision to impose public health restrictions is “based on science, data, and expert advice from the chief medical officer.”*

That’s not entirely correct.

Kenney’s so-called evidence-based decision making is warped by his oft-stated desire to find “balance.”  He’s only prepared to impose public health restrictions that reach the right level of balance between lives and livelihoods.

Think about that for a moment.

How many lives must be lost or impaired before the government takes actions that impact livelihoods? Two? Two hundred? Two thousand? 42% of Albertans think too many lives have been lost or impaired already. And Covid-19 and the variants are not done with us yet.    

Now flip that “balance” around. How much damage to livelihoods is acceptable before the government gives businesses the greenlight to reopen? 45% of Albertans think Kenney has already passed the point of no return.  

Basing a public health policy on the belief that lives and livelihoods can be traded off one against the other is immoral. It’s also politically stupid.   

Throughout the course of the pandemic Kenney told Albertans his government’s public health restrictions infringed their Charter rights and freedoms. He neglected to mention that Section 1 of the Charter gives his government the power to curtail such rights and freedoms under certain circumstances. If a global pandemic ravaging the population isn’t one such a circumstance, I don’t know what is.

Nevertheless many Albertans use Kenney’s words to justify their refusal to follow the rules.

So it’s not surprising that 16 UCP MLAs signed an open letter to Albertans saying they were defending the livelihoods and freedoms of their constituents by asking their “Government colleagues” to reject the Apr 6 restrictions.

Democracy in action?

Kenney, the man who was quick to denounce a Bigfoot cartoon, refuses to publicly reprimand the errant MLAs. He says their comments are nothing more than “democratic debate on a matter of public policy.”

Ummm, no.

The errant MLAs were actively undermining public health orders passed by their own government pursuant to the Public Health Act to protect the lives and health of Albertans in a global pandemic.  

This is like the government issuing an evacuation order to get out of the path of a forest fire and a bunch of MLAs fighting for their constituents’ right to stay at home and fry.

Violating the Public Health Act is serious business; just ask Paster Coates of Grace Life Church who has been charged under the Act and will go to trial in May.   

When Kenney downplays the seriousness of the MLAs’ comments, he emboldens Albertans to defy public health restrictions, which supercharges the spread of virus and increases the strain on our overtaxed healthcare system.  

Politics

But the upshot of the MLAs’ open letter debacle is this: what Kenney said in the Legislature is not what he said in private.

Behind closed doors he did not laud the MLAs for exercising their right to free speech and fighting for the livelihoods and freedoms of their constituents. Instead, he told them that if they lacked confidence in the government, he’d call a snap election.

This was a bluff but it likely caught them by surprise.

Now that they’ve had time to think about it, they probably realize their open letter wasn’t a vote of nonconfidence in the government that would trigger an election but a vote of nonconfidence in the UCP leader which, in normal times, would cause the leader to resign and be replaced by someone else.

Kenney expects things to get back to normal by the summer. That will give the errant MLAs (who have no future whatsoever in Kenney’s UCP) and their constituents plenty of time to work on replacing him or defecting to an incarnation of the Wildrose.

Which brings us back to where we started.

Does Premier Kenney lie awake at night wondering how he got here?

He should because he won’t be here for long.

*All quotes from Hansard, Apr 8, 2021, starting at p 4386

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