Kenney’s Leadership Review: The Bedlam Continues

“Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold” – The Second Coming by William Butler Yeats

It’s been a long time coming, but it will be over eventually, not on Apr 9 and not necessarily on May 18, but eventually.

And no amount of maneuvering with mass membership drives or last-minute changes to the rules for the UCP leadership review will change that.

Regardless of how many UCP members vote yes affirming Jason Kenney as UCP leader, Kenney’s days are numbered and sooner or later the UCP will implode.

A long time coming

The fact Kenney finds himself here is no surprise.

From the day he announced he was running for the leadership of the Progressive Conservative party with the sole intention of merging it with the Wildrose Party we could see trouble brewing on the horizon. The UCP big tent may be big, but no tent is big enough for a membership this divergent in values and beliefs.

Soon after Kenney and the UCP formed government, the MLAs became restive. Kenney was a top-down kind of guy, the grassroots guarantee disappeared from the UCP website and those who dared push back were ignored, demoted to the backbenches or thrown out of the party altogether.

Everything is fine, just fine

Throughout it all Kenney managed to retain control of his caucus…and then along came the pandemic and Kenney’s on again, off again public health restrictions.

By April 2021 we were in the 3rd wave. 16 UCP MLAs had publicly rejected the public health restrictions. By May two of them, Todd Loewen and Drew Barnes, were kicked out of caucus for undermining Kenney’s leadership. The calls for Kenney’s resignation grew louder.

On July 1, 2021, Kenney lifted most of the restrictions and declared Alberta was open for summer. Then in the thick of the fourth wave, he disappeared on vacation, and our healthcare system all but collapsed.

In Sept 2021, shortly after he returned from vacation, he reimposed public health restrictions. Dissent within the party grew, but he blew it off saying he was focused on dealing with covid, not internal party politics.  

By mid Nov 2021, 22 UCP constituency associations asked that the leadership review, originally scheduled for the fall of 2022, be moved up and held virtually. The UCP board agreed to move up the review, scheduling a special in-person meeting on April 9, 2022 in Red Deer.  

Dissatisfaction with Kenney’s leadership continued to grow. You may notice a theme emerging here.

Over the winter and early spring something in the range of 200 meetings had been organized by MLAs and party members plotting to get rid of Kenney and the former leader of the WR, Brian Jean won a by-election on the promise he’d oust the party’s leader.   

Kenney remained unconcerned, saying there would always be a “small number of people with truly extreme views.” He was confident he’d prevail at the Apr 9 leadership review.

Then something happened. The anti-Kenney contingent had the wind at their back and the number of people buying party membership soared…

…and on Mar 23, 2022, four days after the deadline for buying a party membership had passed, the UCP party shifted the leadership review from an in-person vote to a mail-in ballot which will be open until May 11. The results be announced on May 18 (baring any unforeseen circumstances, of course).

A basket of deplorables by any other name…

In a recently leaked audio clip, Kenney described his leadership message in classic “us versus them” terms. This is his usual modus operandi although he typically deploys it against the socialists and the Liberal elites, not members of his own party. His assessment that there would always be a small number of people with extreme views morphed into a fear that fifth column of kooks, crazies, bigots, and extremists were laying siege to the UCP.

He’s signaled he’s a bit of a martyr. He doesn’t need this job; he could walk away and take up a position in the private sector where he wouldn’t have to work evenings and weekends—clearly he’s never worked in the private sector—but he’ll stay because he’s the only one who can save the UCP from those intend on stealing its soul. If he steps aside the party would be torn apart. Apparently, it hasn’t dawned on him that if he stays it will be torn apart anyway.   

A slow-motion train wreck

We don’t know how the leadership review will turn out.

We do know that if Kenney is affirmed as leader his opponents will continue to agitate for his removal or hive off and form a new party.

We also know that if Kenney is removed the UCP will call a leadership race, the candidates will turn themselves into pretzels pretending they didn’t really support Kenney in the first place, and the minute the new leader is announced he/she will switch into election mode to prepare for the fight of their lives trying to defeat Notley and her incredibly strong team.

Meanwhile the work of government will grind to a halt.

Ah, the joys of living in Kenney’s Alberta.

Posted in Politics and Government | Tagged , , , | 87 Comments

Short Break

Given world events it’s become a little more difficult to focus on those squawking about their freedoms being trampled and not getting a fair deal from Ottawa.

So Ms Soapbox is taking a short break. Talk to you in 2 weeks.

Take care, everyone.

Susan

Posted in Uncategorized | 22 Comments

Ukraine Under Attack

My parents fled Hungary in 1950. They met on the boat coming over to Canada and were married a couple of years later. I’m a first generation Canadian. Ever so grateful to have been born here.

I can’t write about what’s happening in Ukraine.

But I do know this, we looked the other way in 1956 when Budapest was invaded, and in 1968 when Prague was invaded, and in 1981 when Warsaw was invaded.

We can’t look away again.

Posted in Disasters, Politics, War | 53 Comments

A Traffic Ticket and a Phone Call

On Feb 25, 2022, Premier Kenney issued a misleading press release setting out his rationale for a Cabinet shuffle. Two cabinet ministers, who should have been (back) benched a long time ago, will swap ministries.  

Kaycee Madu will “step aside” from his role as Minister of Justice and Solicitor General to become Minister of Labour and Immigration, while Tyler Shandro (who is currently under investigation by the Law Society) will become Justice Minister and Solicitor General.

Kenney says the switch was triggered by the investigation by retired Justice Adele Kent into Madu’s phone call to Edmonton’s chief of police, Dale McFee, after Madu got a traffic ticket for distracted driving.   

Kaycee Madu and Jason Kenney

Right, let’s see what Justice Kent said.  

The ticket

On the morning of March 10, 2021, a police officer (his name isn’t disclosed so we’ll call him the Cop) observed Madu driving his truck in a school zone. Both of Madu’s hands were on the steering wheel. His left hand was at the 9 o’clock position and his right was on a cellphone at the 3 o’clock position. The screen was facing Madu who was facing right and looking down.  

The Cop pulled Madu over and told him he was being cited for a cellphone violation. Madu had three phones: his Legislator’s phone and his Minister’s phone were in his briefcase, his personal phone was in his left breast pocket. He denied using it.  

The Cop said Madu was “moderately argumentative” and repeated 3 or 4 times that he was the Minister of Justice. Madu says he only said this once, at the end of their conversation after the Cop had written up the ticket. Madu asked for the Cop’s badge number. The Cop gave it to him and told him it was also on the ticket.  

The Cop doesn’t follow politics and didn’t know who Madu was; he later confirmed that Madu was indeed the Justice Minister.  

Phone call to the Chief of Police

Madu called Chief McFee at 9:45 a.m. They spoke for 8 minutes. McFee was on vacation and scribbled notes on the back of an envelope.

McFee said there was some small talk, then Madu raised the ticket, talked about the Lethbridge police running unauthorized surveillance on NDP MLA Shannon Phillips and the possibility he’d been racially profiled. (When Justice Kent asked Madu whether he thought he’d been racially profiled. Madu said he couldn’t comment on the Cop’s demeanor).

McFee refused to discuss the ticket, saying Madu had two choices, pay or go to court. Both Madu and McFee said Madu didn’t ask McFee to do anything about the ticket.

Justice Kent asked Madu why he paid the ticket. He said it was better to pay it and forget about it and in hindsight he’d just pay the ticket and wait the appropriate time before calling the Chief “to discuss the ticket.”

Findings  

Justice Kent made the following findings:  

  • She accepted that as a Black man who was addressing relations between racialized people and the police, Madu could have questioned whether the traffic stop was motivated by race but said there was nothing to lead a reasonable person to conclude Madu had been racially profiled.  
  • When Madu identified himself as the minister of justice he was not attempting to intimidate the Cop in order to stop him from issuing a ticket.
  • There was no support for Madu’s explanation that he called Chief McFee because he was concerned about being illegally surveilled by the police.
  • She accepted that Madu’s reasons to call Chief McFee were in part motivated by the fact he was a Black man and dealing with issues of racism and took that into consideration.

…and here’s where it gets interesting

Based on these findings Justice Kent concluded:

  1. No, Madu did not interfere with the administration of justice because he did not ask the Chief to do something about the ticket.  
  2. Yes, Madu did attempt to interfere with the administration of justice. “There is a process that the Minister knows well to address questions of police conduct. It does not start with a phone call to the Chief of Police. The very fact that the purpose of the call was to obtain assurance that the police were acting properly rather than going through appropriate channels is an attempt to interfere with the administration of justice.”
  3. Yes, the phone call created a reasonable perception of an interference with the administration of justice.

Kenney cites findings #1 and #3 in support of the cabinet shuffle. He never acknowledges finding #2, likely because if he admits Madu attempted to interfere with the administration of justice he should be bounced to the back bench or better yet, right out the door.  And that would be a sorry end to the only UCP minister elected in Edmonton.   

As for the decision to appoint Tyler Shandro to replace Madu as Justice Minister and Solicitor General, Kenney is clearly ignoring Justice Kent’s description of the position.

She said as the “the chief law officer of the province,” that person would be responsible for superintending all matters relating to the administration of justice and must be “held to a higher standard when assessing conduct.”

Shandro is under investigation by the Law Society for numerous complaints about his conduct including the allegation that his conduct brings the reputation of the profession into disrepute. As Rachel Notley recently put it, Shandro is “not really equipped to function in cabinet.”  

If Kenney’s decision was truly based on Justice Kent’s report, he would not misrepresent Justice Kent’s findings, pretending it’s just a perception issue when Madu actually attempted to interfere with the administration of justice when he was responsible for the administration of justice.

Furthermore he would not turn a blind eye to the ongoing Law Society investigation into Shandro’s conduct.

But then again, we’re talking about Jason Kenney, the premier who is still under RCMP investigation in relation to claims his campaign used fraud, forgery and bribery to win the UCP leadership race in 2017.   

Posted in Crime and Justice, Law, Politics and Government | Tagged , , , , , , | 47 Comments

Jason Kenney Reacts to the Emergencies Act

“We needed to see it to believe it.”—Ottawa resident talking about police clearing out Ottawa’s downtown core after 22 days of occupation.

Our trust in government was at such an all-time low that when the Federal government invoked the Emergencies Act, many of us didn’t believe the police would enforce it until we actually saw them moving through the streets of Ottawa one slow step at a time.   

Quick recap: Prime minister Trudeau invoked the Emergencies Act on Feb 14. That same day the blockade at the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor, Ontario was cleared and the following day the RCMP said goodbye (it was touching) to the protesters blockading the border at Coutts, Alberta. And finally on Feb 19 the police began to disperse the protesters occupying Ottawa.*

Incoherent lawmaking

Notwithstanding this dramatic turn of events, premier Kenney is challenging the Emergencies Act in court. He says it’s unjustified and unnecessary because provincial law enforcement is perfectly capable of clearing illegal blockades.

Except it isn’t.

A week and a half ago, Ric McIver, Kenney’s Transportation Minister, wrote to the Feds pleading for help in dealing with the Coutts blockade. He said the RCMP had exhausted all local and regional options and were unable to get their hands on the heavy equipment needed to remove vehicles, tractors, and trailers blockading the border crossing.   

The Emergencies Act provides exactly the kind of tools McIver would need if another blockade springs up or, heaven forbid, some idiots decide to occupy Edmonton, but Kenney doesn’t want any part of it.

Why not?

Recent comments by two U of C law profs provide a clue.

Crisis of confidence

In an ABlawg post Shaun Fluker says the premier is misconstruing the real reason for the proclamation of a national emergency, it’s more than just the blockades and the occupations; it’s a full blown crisis of confidence in government.**

This crisis arises from way the Kenney government imposed covid public health restrictions over the past 2 years and was exacerbated by the failure to use the new enforcement powers the government created under the Critical Infrastructure Defence Act to remove the Coutts blockade. (Indeed, rather than enforce these new powers members of Kenney’s caucus attempted to negotiate a backchannel deal with the protesters at Coutts).

Public health restrictions

Prof Fluker says the Kenney government handled the covid pandemic with almost no regard for basic democratic processes. Public health restrictions were often incoherent and difficult to understand, sprung on the public at media scrums with no advance notice and provided little or no explanation as to why one behavior was acceptable and another was not.

In addition to the failures in due process, transparency, and accountability described by Prof Fluker, let’s not forget the premier’s attempt to appease the anti-restrictions crowd by constantly reminding them that the restrictions he himself had imposed were extremely damaging and a violation of their Charter rights and freedoms.

Add to that Kenney’s condemnation of Justin Trudeau for the federal truckers’ vaccine mandate, his all-for-show trip to the US to meet with various governors to pressure President Biden to lift the vaccine mandate on the US side of the border, and his penchant for retweeting photos of empty grocery shelves and big trucks doing whatever it is big trucks do, and before you knew it, a gang of Albertans were blockading Coutts, some were conspiring to murder RCMP officers, and others were holed up in Ottawa trying to throw the prime minister out of office.

This volatile situation was inflamed by the protesters’ willingness to believe misinformation and conspiracy theories and their utter lack of understanding of the section 91/section 92 division of powers and the Canadian justice system. (No, we don’t have First Amendment rights, no, the police do not have to read us our Miranda rights and no, it’s not a tenet of international law that waving a white tee shirt or undershorts will make you immune from capture, that only works in cartoons).   

Now here’s the kicker, as my former law prof Nigel Bankes recently tweeted, one of the most important accountability provisions in the Emergencies Act is the requirement for an inquiry into the “circumstances that led to the declaration being issued.” Prof Bankes says such an inquiry would most certainly include an investigation into Kenney’s “complete and utter failure to contain the events at Coutts.”

No Emergencies Act, no inquiry. How about that.

Hypocrisy (again)

Kenney is going to court to argue the Emergencies Act is not justified in these circumstances.   

He’s implied that even Tommy Douglas would agree with him because Tommy Douglas said using the War Measures Act in 1970 was like using a sledgehammer to crack a peanut. Given that the present and past federal NDP leaders, Jagmeet Singh and Thomas Mulcair, support the invocation of the Emergencies Act for many reasons including the fact that the EA, unlike the WMA, is subject to the Charter and the Canadian Bill of Rights, Kenney just might have gotten this one wrong.   

Maybe what’s really bothering Kenney is that his attempt to appease his pro- and anti-public health measures supporters blew up in his face while Trudeau’s decision to invoke the Emergencies Act is supported by 66% of Canadians.

Poor Jason Kenney; outplayed by Justin Trudeau again.

*The Ambassador blockade likely would have cleared in any event. Some Coutts protesters said the Emergencies Act together with the discovery of a cache of firearms caused them to go home.

**See also Mr Fluker’s interview with Markham Hislop.

Posted in Crime and Justice, Politics and Government | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 63 Comments

Quick comment on the Illegal Occupation & Blockades

Ms Soapbox is under the weather, as such there will be no blog post today.

I expect to be fully functional next week, at least physically. It will take longer than that to restore my mental equilibrium given the ongoing mismanagement of the occupation of Ottawa, the blockade at Coutts, and the apparent inability or unwillingness of the police to disperse the illegal protesters creating havoc in our towns and cities.

I’m worried.

What happens if the police who have a duty to enforce the laws refuse to do so?

And what happens if politicians are so afraid of upsetting those who support the illegal protests that the best they can muster is a mild request suggesting the illegal protesters leave?

And what happens if the illegal protesters refuse to leave?

We all know the answer.

The people lose trust in the institutions designed to preserve peace, order and good government in Canadian society.

My heart is breaking. It should never have come to this.

Posted in Crime and Justice, Law, Politics and Government, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 78 Comments

Kenney and the Coutts Blockade Public Health Strategy  

In the week of Feb 7, 2022, we expect Jason Kenney to cave to a band of anti-everything protesters staging an illegal blockade at Coutts, Alberta and start lifting public health restrictions.

This decision came about at lightning speed considering what Kenney said about the timeline for lifting restrictions just one week ago:

  • Jan 27 – Kenney said Alberta was at the “highest point in two years” in terms of people hospitalized with covid and now was not the time to relax restrictions; he anticipated relaxing restrictions “before the end of March”
  • Feb 1 – Kenney said Alberta may be able to lift restrictions by the end of February
  • Feb 2 – rural UCP MLAs reached a deal with the organizers of the illegal blockade at Coutts. They’d take down the blockade if the government scrapped the REP (Kenney’s euphemism for the vaccine passport system). Later that day the United Conservative caucus chair disavowed the deal, but noted Kenney will begin lifting restrictions “within days”
  • Feb 3 – Kenney said he’d announce “a firm date to end the REP …” early next week.”  

It took Kenney a week to shift from lifting restrictions “before the end of March” to “within days.”

What happened?

public health restrictions going, going, gone

The stated rationale

Kenney set out his rationale for lifting of restrictions at his Feb 3 FB event. It goes like this:

  • Omicron has proven more transmissible despite vaccines
  • Vaccines are still effective at preventing severe outcomes like hospitalization and death
  • The best thing Albertans can do to help us open quickly and stay open is get their booster
  • The REP led to a major increase in vaccination rates which saved many lives and helped Alberta avoid cancelling thousands more surgeries during the Delta and Omicron waives
  • Therefore we’re getting rid of the REP

Makes no sense, right?

Instead of keeping the REP for another month to incentivize the laggards into getting their boosters and helping Kenney open quickly and stay open, he’s going to get rid of it.

The ‘I’m going to lose my job’ rationale

Here’s a different rationale that may be at play.

The premier’s party was so displeased with his leadership it pushed the leadership review originally scheduled for next fall up to April 9.

While Kenney knew he was losing support he didn’t realize how perilous his position was until a group of UCP MLAs representing the rural caucus entered into an unauthorized agreement on behalf of the government with the organizers of an illegal blockade of a major entry point on the Canada/US border.

This was a clear signal Kenney had lost control of the rural caucus who felt powerful enough to act without his blessing.

Once Kenney realized he was losing control of caucus he had to get it back, so he’s giving the rural MLAs what they want. He’s accelerating the lifting of restrictions to save his political career.

Bottom line: political expediency is driving Alberta’s public health strategy.   

Lifting restrictions

This is not to say the government should not turn its mind to when and how to lift restrictions.

Experts like Dr Tam have suggested it’s time to re-examine all existing public health policies, including provincial vaccine passports, and develop a more “sustainable way” to deal with COVID-19 and future variants of the virus.

Some jurisdictions, like Denmark, are well down this path.

Denmark lifted its restrictions on Feb 1. This is relevant only because Kenney says the first thing he does when he wakes up in the morning is look at what’s happening in Denmark.

He says he’s chosen Denmark as a proxy for Alberta because it mirrors Alberta in average age (true, roughly 42 years) and population (not true, Alberta’s population is 4.46 million, Denmark’s is 5.84 million).

Nevertheless, if Kenney is going to look to Denmark to support his rationale for lifting restrictions, he should bear a few things in mind.

First, as the Danish political scientist, Michael Bang Petersen, said it’s important to interpret the Danish decision in context.* That context includes the fact that:

  • 61% of the Danish population has had 2 shots plus a booster whereas in Alberta the percentage of the population with all three shots is only 29%, and
  • Denmark is a high trust society. The Danes trust their authorities, their neighbours, and society to protect them. The same is not true in Alberta where Albertans are continually ambushed by their government (scrapping the coal policy for example), municipalities are undermined by the province, and Albertans are becoming increasingly polarized.  

Furthermore, Michael Bang Petersen says any decision to lift or not lift restrictions has consequences. It’s important the public understands and supports whatever strategy a jurisdiction adopts.

The Danes understand their government’s strategy and believe their government when it says if hospitalizations rise to an unacceptable level, restrictions will be reimposed.

Not so in Alberta. Kenney’s strategy is based on data and CMOH recommendations that remain cloaked in secrecy. And now it’s being influenced by an unauthorized negotiation between some rural MLAs and the organizers of an illegal blockade.

This is not how a responsible government develops a coherent public health strategy.

Is anyone surprised?   

Posted in Alberta Health Care, General Health Care, Politics and Government | Tagged , , , , , | 69 Comments

Kenney Condemns (sort of) the Actions of the Freedom Convoy

I didn’t want to write about the Freedom Convoy, aka the yahoos who converged on Ottawa to protest the federal government’s truckers vaccine mandate (and everything else covid related) and created a blockade around Edmonton’s Legislative buildings and blocked the international border at Coutts. These bone heads don’t deserve any more airtime.    

But then they danced on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and desecrated the National War Memorial (the one where Cpl Nathan Frank Cirillo, a ceremonial guardsman, was gunned down in Oct 2014), raised Nazi and Confederate flags on Parliament Hill, called for the overthrow of the government, slung their offensive paraphernalia all over the statue honouring Terry Fox, and harassed staff and assaulted a client at an Ottawa soup kitchen.  

The demonstration was a national disgrace. It must be condemned by everyone, particularly our political leaders.

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Many, like Senator Paula Simons, issued a clear and unequivocal condemnation immediately. Others like Jason Kenney waited until the next day, tweeting his disgust late Sunday afternoon.   

 Why did Kenney wait so long?  

Did he not understand how unspeakable these actions were? Or was he trapped by his own words and actions in the two weeks leading up to the demonstration?

The lead-up       

On Jan 15 the Kenney government issued a press release saying 52% of Alberta GDP is delivered by truck (really?). The pandemic and BC floods demonstrated the fragility of the supply chain (true) and his government was doing everything it could to keep the economy functioning and growing (for the sake of argument let’s assume that’s true).  

The government had heard from “transportation stakeholders” (whoever they are) and would “watch closely to monitor the effect of these new federal and US government vaccine mandates and take action as required in the best interest of Albertans.”

This press release is a piece of propaganda because (1) there’s no evidence that the truckers vaccine mandate is, in and of itself, materially impacting Alberta’s GDP and (2) even if it negatively impacting our GDP the provincial government has no jurisdiction over Canada’s relationship with the US so there’s nothing Kenney can do about it.  

Never mind. The purpose of the press release was to signal to the unvaccinated truckers and other unvaccinated Albertans that Kenney has their back.     

Kenney supports the Freedom Convoy  

Kenney did three things to support the Freedom Convoy.

A week ago, Kenney retweeted photos of empty grocery shelves and declared the federal truckers mandate was “making a bad situation much worse”.  He provided no evidence of when or where the photos were taken or why the shelves were empty, and he did not back up his claim that the supply chain crunch had been exacerbated by the trucker vaccine mandate.

Instead he created a false narrative: Empty grocery shelves are a direct result of the federal truckers vaccine mandate.* This was irresponsible.

He praised truckers who kept grocery shelves stocked (90% of them are vaccinated) and said everyone (read: the 10% who are not vaccinated) has the right to peaceful protest. He said he agreed with those who were protesting the trucker vaccine mandate. He said he hoped they’d disassociate themselves from anybody with extreme or hateful views, then acknowledged that in any big social movement there are going to be some people with “fringe views.”**  

Kenney urged the federal government to use common sense, which in Kenney-land means abandon the vaccine policy to appease the 10% of truckers who do not want to get vaccinated. This is ludicrous given there’s no evidence to show that without the unvaccinated truckers our grocery stores would be empty.  

Three days ago, Kenney announced he’d be attending the National Governors Association meeting in Washington DC where he would discuss the US and Canadian government’s policies impacting “many cross-border truckers, causing further damage to supply chains and higher prices for consumers.”

Once again, he would be urging Biden and Trudeau to use common sense. One can only hope his argument for common sense at the National Governors meeting will include more evidence than he’s presented to date.

Kenney’s condemnation

A day after Freedom Convoy protestors desecrated monuments and statues honouring our war dead and Terry Fox, and harassed staff and attacked a client at a soup kitchen, Kenney condemned the desecration of the monuments. He was silent about the Terry Fox statue and the harassment and attack in the soup kitchen.

In his condemnation Kenney said he had said the organizers should disassociate themselves immediately from anyone involved in the convoy who hold or express racists, anti-Semitic, or bigoted views.  

Unless Kenney is referring to a different media event, that’s not what Kenney said.

There’s a big difference between Kenney hoping someone will disassociate themselves from anyone with extreme or hateful views and Kenney telling someone they should immediately disassociate themselves from anyone holding or expressing racist, anti-Semitic or bigoted views.

The first is an ‘it would be nice if you’d…’ sentence; the second is a directive.

Given that Kenney is on record as supporting the Freedom Convoy and given that the protestors’ actions exhibited a shocking lack of respect for Canada’s war dead, Terry Fox and vulnerable Canadians, and a whole host of extreme positions, Kenney’s condemnation misses the mark.

Furthermore, he failed to deal with the Freedom Convoy protestors who blockaded the Edmonton Legislature and the border crossing at Coutts by invoking the Critical Infrastructure Defence Act which he passed to penalize those who lawlessly trespass or jeopardize public safety “by seeking to block critical public infrastructure, including roadways, railways, and other important infrastructure.” One would think the blockading the Edmonton Legislature area and the Coutts border crossing would qualify.

Blather

A responsible premier would determine whether the food supply chain problem is real. If it is real, he or she would develop a plan to deal with it. This plan would be transparent and would assure Albertans the threat of food shortages had been averted and there was no need to panic.

Instead, Kenney amplified Albertans’ fears by retweeting questionable images of empty grocery shelves. He supported the Freedom Convoy when he knew or should have known those with what he calls “fringe views” would hijack the demonstration and turn it into something ugly, and he issued a half-baked condemnation the day after the Freedom Convoy did exactly what everyone expected it to do.

Kenney painted himself into a corner and now he’s trying to blather his way out of it.

*Gary Mason Globe & Mail Jan 28, 2022, A9  

**Kevin Nimmock CTV Journalist Tweet

Posted in Crime and Justice, Politics and Government | Tagged , , , , , , | 104 Comments

A Kenney Style Fireside Chat  

On radio, [Franklin D Roosevelt} was able to quell rumors, counter conservative-dominated newspapers and explain his policies directly to the American people. His tone and demeanor communicated self-assurance during times of despair and uncertainty.—Wikipedia

Roosevelt used radio, a “nascent media platform” to explain complex issues such as the Great Depression, the banking crisis, his New Deal initiatives, and WWII to the American people. His fireside chats were extremely popular and highly effective.

Now almost a century later, Kenney is using another media platform, Facebook, to address Albertans’ concerns about his government’s policies to address covid.

Unlike FDR’s fireside chats Kenney’ Facebook Live chats are a disaster.

“Hello…I’m listening”

At last week’s FB event Kenney made a short speech about Alberta’s improving economy, took a gratuitous swipe at the CBC, pundits and the NDP who love “downtalking” Alberta, then turned to questions from the audience which were posted in the chat box.     

It was a gong show.

Many of the questions appeared to come from unvaccinated, uninformed, and/or misguided Albertans. And while it’s easy to criticize such questions; a premier who uses Facebook to connect with Albertans on a once in a lifetime pandemic should, at the very least, be prepared to respond to such questions in a way that dispels misinformation and fear.  

Kenney’s FB Live Chat

It’s not enough to reel off statistics (the unvaccinated are 17 times more likely to be hospitalized, 39 times more likely to be in the ICU and 16 times more likely to die of covid) because this crowd doesn’t believe the data.

A matter of trust

The data wasn’t their only problem, it quickly became apparent they didn’t trust Kenney.

Why? Because in the early days of the pandemic Kenney staked his position loud and clear…only to backtrack when it turned out he was wrong.     

This created the bizarre situation where the participants used Kenney’s earlier arguments to refute the data. They argued covid is mild, it’s only harmful to the elderly and those with comorbidities, natural immunity is just as good as vaccines, and vaccine passports (or REP as they’re known in Alberta) violate fundamental rights and freedoms.

They refused to believe Kenney when he said Alberta would never impose a mandatory vaccination policy. They countered with (a) you flipped on vaccine passports, (b) you flipped on Open for Summer, and (c) your government forced healthcare workers to get vaccinated in order to keep their jobs.  

Kenney had no response. Perhaps he couldn’t keep up with the comments rolling into the chat box.

Talk to the experts

Kenney urged the unvaccinated to talk to the experts, saying 99.8% of Alberta doctors were vaccinated so there’s a high likelihood their own doctor would tell them to get vaccinated.

They countered with personal anecdotes of doctors who’d told them not to be “lab rats” and told Kenney to talk to their “experts,” people like Robert Malone, a controversial figure who claims to have invented mRNA vaccines 33 years ago. (Tim Caulfield, a U of A prof in health law and policy, described Malone as a disgraced virologist who pushes his false theories on Fox News).

Kenney invoked Donald Trump who said vaccines were the greatest achievement in human history. They rejected the “Trump-card” because Trump also said the decision to get vaccinated was a matter of personal choice.

Some participants went so far as to demand a tax refund because they’d been refused entry to infrastructure paid for by their tax dollars. Kenney failed to point out their tax dollars are not used to build restaurants and movie theatres.   

The best question was the one which asked when covid would end; what would it take for Kenney to give them their lives back?

Kenney stared into the camera for a moment, then said he didn’t know, nobody knows. The memory of Kenney on July 1, 2021 confidently declaring the pandemic was over and Alberta was open for summer came to mind.  

Where’s FDR when you need him?

Instead of reassuring Albertans, correcting misinformation and dispelling conspiracy theories during this time of heightened uncertainty, Kenney’s FB event provided a platform for those who seek to undermine what little the government has achieved to date.

This would never pass muster in FDR’s day. And it would be intolerable now, but for the existence of groups like Protect our Province (PoPAB), a group of doctors and experts who provide timely accurate updates on covid to Albertans, as well as advocate on our behalf.

Alberta is sinking into the narrative that covid is inevitable, we’ll all get it. Now more than ever we need to change the dial, click off Kenney’s FB Live Chat and click onto the most recent PopAB update for science-based information and practical advice to help get us through our day.

PoPAB may not be FDR, but they’re darn close.

Posted in Alberta Health Care, Politics and Government | Tagged , , , , , , , | 38 Comments

The Kids Go Back to School (it’s a matter of “balance”)  

“We’re on the cusp of a generational catastrophe. We need to prioritise children. And yet, for some reason, children are never prioritised. They’re the afterthought of a pandemic.” – Dr Tracey Vaillancourt, Chair, COVID-19 Task Force, Royal Society of Canada

On Jan 5, 2022, after a one-week delay, Education Minister, Adrianna LaGrange announced kids would be returning to in-class instruction because “experts agree and continue to stress the important of in-person learning to the overall health of children and youth.”

This is true, experts do agree that in-person learning offers academic, emotional, social, and societal benefits in addition to academic ones. School is more than reading, writing and arithmetic.

LaGrange also said the government has placed “a high priority on safe in-class instruction and making sure schools have the tools they need to continue providing a world-class education” to students.

There is very little evidence to support this.

Adrianna Lagrange & Dr Hinshaw

What did we get?

Over the last two years the government implemented the following tools/protocols for safe instruction: masking for grades 4 and up, physical distancing, cohorting, enhanced sanitization and hygiene practices, public reporting, contact notification and outbreak definition/alerts, and encouraged school authorities to have proof of vaccination policies for adults. We’ve had outbreak after outbreak, shut down after shut down, so to say these tools/protocols have been less than effective would be an understatement.   

On Jan 5, 2022, LaGrange announced two additional tools to ensure a safe return and quality instruction.

The first was a shipment of rapid test kits and medical-grade masks. Unfortunately some schools won’t get their shipments until Jan 14, four days after the kids return to school, and the number of tests each school receives will only last two and a half weeks.  

The second was a free online tutoring resource for kids in grades 4 and up. This tops up the $45 million earmarked to address learning disruptions for kids in grades 1 to 3.

LaGrange did not mention that the rapid rise in cases resulted in the government eliminating public reporting, contact notification or outbreak definition/alerts for schools.

Nor did she mention that many of the resources provided by the government to teachers and parents, including the 2021-22 School Year Plan and the Parent Guide and the translated versions of the Alberta Health Daily Checklist are out of date, or that the list of mental health resources, a hodgepodge of federal, provincial, and local resources, isn’t necessarily covid specific.  

LaGrange isn’t alone in touting the Kenney government’s “balanced approach”.

In Aug 2021 the CMOH, Dr Hinshaw, referred to the government’s “balanced approach” to the risks children face, noting we’d have to learn to live with covid in our schools.

She committed to closely monitor what happened after the fall term began and assured us she wouldn’t hesitate to consider additional measures and work with schools and local health officials in the event of an outbreak.

Six months later the CMOH is silent while the government removes existing measures like public reporting, contract notification and the protocol for defining outbreaks, leaving parents, teachers and students in the dark.

What do we need?

Alberta is a rich province in a privileged G7 country. If the Kenney government truly prioritizes safe in-class learning it would, as Sarah Hoffman (NDP education critic) said provide HEPA filters, N95 masks, carbon dioxide monitors, contact tracing, contact reports to parents, and funding for additional staff. Instead it’s eliminating some of our existing tools.

Furthermore if it wants children to grow up to lead productive, healthy, meaningful lives it would take a sincere, nonpartisan look at the curriculum because every grade is connected to the others and some parts of the curriculum may need to be lengthened or pushed into the next year to address the disruptions created by almost three years of start/stop, in-class/online education.* An online tutoring program simply won’t cut it.

Lastly, if the Kenney government won’t do it for the kids, it should do it for the economy. Education economists predict school closures of 14 to 16 weeks in a country like Canada can result in a six percent drop in GDP.*

The Kenney government should pull out all the stops to protect in-class learning, instead it’s exposing students and staff to the highly infectious Omicron virus and risking another shut down.

Alberta is the richest province in Canada, and yet it won’t take care of its children.

But you know Jason Kenney. It’s all about balance.

*Prof Prachi Shrivastava, associate professor of education and global development, Western University on CBC The Current Jan 5, 2022

Posted in Alberta Health Care, Economy, Education, Politics and Government | Tagged , , , , | 42 Comments