Jason Kenney is trying to kill us

Above: Premier Jason Kenney (PHOTO: Red Deer Advocate)

While there are very very very few political issues about which Jason Kenney and I agree, I have known Alberta’s premier at least in passing for almost 20 years and I have always respected him as a hard-working politician, a competent manager and a generally (generally) decent human being.

This opinion is becoming harder and harder for me to maintain and it should be for you too.

See, if you accept that Kenney is a smart, resourceful politician with a generally decent disposition, and you juxtapose that with the complete and utter failure of his government to respond to this newest covid wave in meaningful way at all, then you can’t possibly come to any logical conclusion other than Jason Kenney is trying to kill us.

While not as robust as some provinces (there was never a moratorium on rental evictions in Alberta, for example, as there was in most provinces), Kenney’s government’s initial handling of the covid pandemic was certainly adequate. Cases were basically consistent with other provinces on a per capita basis.

As the map below shows clearly Alberta is currently second only to Quebec in the scale of how bad things are going on the covid second wave:

And while the data itself is bad, the comparisons between measures being taken by each province are far more worrying.

With less than half the cases per capita in BC and 25% less in Ontario, both provinces – one with a conservative government, the other NDP, I might add – have announced significant increases to the public safety measures being mandated.

While in BC the provincial measures are targeted at Vancouver and the Lower Mainland, certain jurisdictions in ON (e.g., Peel Region) have decided to impose additional measures locally.

But with Alberta experiencing twice as many cases per capita, Premier Kenney appears to be unwilling to do a single blessed thing to slow the spread or flatten the curve.

At his November 12th press conference (where he joined by conference call because he was – I swear ta gawd – isolating at home after being exposed to someone with covid) Kenney once again largely appealed to Albertans “good and common sense” when it comes to taking appropriate measures to combat covid, despite the data quite clearly showing that strategy thus far has been an abject failure.

(Kenney did announce some measures – closing gyms and team sports – and emphasised this was Albertans last chance to behalf like adults without the province stepping in and imposing more restrictions – you know, like every other province is doing already).

Everyone gets that Alberta is a little different. People here don’t just dress up like cowboys for a week every year (something I still don’t understand), they very much think of themselves as cowboys year round. Mavericks. Strong, independent types. Rugged individualists.

So seeing Kenney appeal to personal responsibility isn’t surprising. Seeing him stick to that strategy in the face of clear evidence it isn’t working is appalling.

As an almost automatic result, the absolute most basic, cost free, zero effort most important thing that Alberta’s government could do is – like almost every other province in the country – allow Albertans to use the Track and Trace application developed by the Government of Canada. But that isn’t being done. Why? Because, as Kenney’s cabinet minister Jason Nixon was heard saying in the Legislature the other day, its “the Trudeau tracing app”. Insert eye-roll emoji here.

It is ostensibly impossible to limit the spread of infections if we don’t know where they are coming from. While Alberta built its own app last spring, it has not been effective for a host of reasons. Basically, it doesn’t work.

In fact, tracing is so bad in Alberta (because cases are growing so quickly), Alberta Health Services (AHS) recently announced they basically won’t be doing tracing among the general public any more. Instead they will only focus on tracing among three groups: health-care workers, minors (parents will be notified if their child has been exposed in the school setting), and individuals who live or work within congregate or communal facilities.

And yet, Kenney has steadfastly refused to allow Albertans to use the national app. And with no other valid reason being evident, the dismissive comment from Nixon suggests that this is entirely about petty political rivalries.

Recent polling on support for provincial response to Covid – not a pretty picture for Kenney.

The only conclusion one can come to is that Kenney thinks playing politics with the Prime Minister is more important than taking every available measure to protect Albertans and limit the spread of this deadly disease.

What a petty pity.

But speaking of politics, it turns out that doing SFA for the people you represent isn’t super popular with the electorate. As the bar chart to the right shows, Kenney’s government has the absolute lowest support for their covid response of any government in the country. By quite a bit.

It seems worth noting that the Atlantic Premiers – the region of the country that has implemented a “bubble” that might more accurately be described as Iron Dome in terms of the strictness of its lockdowns and other conditions – have the highest approval of their covid response.

One can’t help but conclude that voters support policies intended to keep them from dying.

Enough is enough: cowboy fantasies and petty politics be damned. It is long past time that Kenney recognizes that Albertans are not acting responsibly when it comes to this second wave and that if the province has any hope of getting our arms around the problem before it is too late, serious measures need to be put in place – now.

Otherwise a lot few cowpokes won’t be around for next year’s Calgary Stampede.