Jason Kenney is finally back to work—not that it seems to make much of a difference.
Alberta is unquestionably in its fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and our UCP administration is flailing incompetently, when it’s doing anything at all. Last week, the Premier, desperate to look like he’s doing anything, announced a $100 reward to everyone who goes out and gets vaccinated, which had virtually no impact: Alberta’s vaccination rate went up a mere 22% after the announcement, while bolder plans in other provinces were able to get their rates to entirely double.
The Premier finally had to admit last week that we shouldn’t really have ‘opened for summer’ and re-instated masking rules and a few other minor measures on Saturday. Less than 24 hours passed before Kenney’s crew granted exemptions to multiple rodeos. Peak Alberta.
Case numbers are rocketing up again just like they did in the last wave and the healthcare system is starting to seriously choke. You literally can’t get a non-emergency surgery in Calgary right now. Kenney’s doing such a weak job that it’s no surprise that his two-week vacation turned into four weeks plus a long weekend. And it’s not just the Premier who has been absent—Dr. Hinshaw’s COVID press conferences have become a rarity, and nobody in cabinet is really talking, either.
That vacuum is being filled. Out of the legislature, a coalition of healthcare workers has organized their own daily COVID pressers, which they stream online on YouTube. That’s good news. Bad news is that the void is providing even more space for the anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers, whose regular demonstrations in Calgary and outside of hospitals are pretty depressing, faith-in-the-human-race-wise. UCP back-benchers are speaking up for their absent colleagues, like MLA Nathan Neudorf over in Lethbridge, who parroted the broadly-discredited Barrington Declaration last week when he mused that he’d basically just like to see everyone get the virus and let God sort it out.
All that dead air on the government channels has ceded plenty of space to the opposition NDP too. The big messaging push from the dippers over the last week has been in favor of vaccine passports, a proposal that polls quite well with just shy of 80% of the province (but drives the other 20% right up the wall.) Notley’s crew has a lot of company there, including the mayors of Edmonton and all its surrounding communities, who recently wrote to the Premier pleading for this measure. A proposal that is more interesting to me, but hasn’t been getting nearly as much attention, is the NDP call for an independent pandemic advisory panel whose advice would all be publicly available; I doubt I’m the only one who would like to know what Dr. Hinshaw has been telling the government, or what data she’s been sharing with them.
The Alberta Teachers’ Retirement Fund has won significant concessions from AIMCO in a new agreement minted on Wednesday. While the teachers’ pensions won’t be entirely free from AIMCO, the ATRF have secured accountability and transparency measures that they hope will protect teachers’ pensions from any future AIMCO boondoggles.
The United Nurses of Alberta also seem to be scoring some wins at the negotiating tables as the provincial government has relaxed its demands somewhat in advance of upcoming mediation. System stresses brought on by COVID are making it very clear how important it is that these workers get treated fairly. AHS is already stuck hiring contract nurses at salaries way above normal nurse pay to fill staffing gaps provoked by the UCP’s belligerence against public sector workers.
The draft report of Steve Allan’s anti-environmentalist inquiry project identified one NGO that received more foreign funding than almost anyone else, but then tried to redact them from the report. That organization is Ducks Unlimited, and if you’re wondering why they got special treatment, you might be interested to know that Jason Kenney’s former chief of staff, Larry Kraumeyer, just became Ducks’ new CEO.
- This week on the Progress Report podcast, my colleague Duncan interviewed Clayton Thomas-Müller, a Cree activist who has been in the trenches of the climate fight for years and whose new memoir Life In The CIty Of Dirty Water is a must-read.
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