The Prairie Premiers and their wrongness

ABOVE: Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, Manitoba Premier Brain Pallister, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe.

Look, I get I’m beating this drum pretty hard. But the data just keeps piling up.

To wit: in the last couple days, two polls have come out ranking voter satisfaction with the various provincial governments across the county.

Obviously, this is a poll of how people feel about their premiers and how they’ve responded to Covid — no other issue is even close in terms of importance right now.

And the results are, well, conclusive:

Polls released the week of Dec 1, 2020 by Leger (right) and Angus Reid (left).

The Prairie Premiers, Kenney, Pallister and Moe (insert three stooges joke here), are so far down in the polling shitter they’d be lucky to see daylight.

And when you compare their polling numbers to the the Covid numbers in each of their respective provinces, it isn’t hard to see why:

Active Covid infections by absolute number and rate per 100,000 people. The inverse comparison to respective premiers’ polling numbers should be noted.

In the last two weeks, Ontario has gone from  89/100k to 100/100k and Doug Ford – a fellow conservative – is taking some pretty serious measures to address that growing infection rate. And he’s polling in the mid 60s. Alberta, and Premier Jason Kenney, have seen active case rise from  200/100k. It is now 380/100k and Kenney’s polling is at 20-40 per cent.

For five years we were told the only reason Rachel Notley and the Alberta NDP were first polling well and then governing was because there was a divided right – the PCs and Wildrose Parties.

Never in a million years could anyone defeat a United Conservative Party (UCP) in Alberta. Never.

Well, never say never to Jason Kenney!

Yes, I know it’s 2.5 years to the next election and who knows what will happen but as of right now Kenney is making it look like it will be a cakewalk for Rachel Notley.

On Tuesday, in the midst of discussing leaked data from Alberta Health Services showing that current Covid numbers in the province are worse than what had been expected, Notley captured the inane nonsense coming from this government perfectly.

When presented with the data and asked how he could expect Albertans to make the right personal choices he’s been relying on them to make if he hides this kind of modeling from the public, Kenney replied this was forecasting, not modeling.

Notley’s retort? If the premier was “going to debate the difference between forecasting and modelling, ‘then I think they’ve lost the plot.’” Sounds like Albertans increasingly agree that’s the case.

See, Prairie conservatives have become ideologues — much more so than their eastern brethren. They align much more closely with American Republicans than the Progressive Conservative party of, say, Brian Mulroney.

And that’s what we’re seeing play out across the Prairies in terms of Covid response right now: an unwavering obsession with personal responsibility combined with a fixation on saving the economy rather than the people who make that economy work.

This divide plays itself out on a host of issues: the fundamental line between the UCP and the NDP on the oil & gas industry, the role of government services, taxation and just about everything else.

But when applied to Covid, this ideology is killing people on the Canadian Prairies just as surely as it is in the U.S. “red states”.

But back to the polling: beyond gloating about bad results for Kenney et al, those numbers seem to contain a couple of really important, broader points.

First, look at the comparisons between the provinces with the worst Covid numbers and lowest restrictions on their citizenry: in both polls, the Prairie Premiers are all well below 50 per cent approval – perhaps as low as 30 per cent.

Now compare that to the Atlantic Premiers where a New Zealand-style bubble/lockdown has been in place for months: both surveys show the people on the east coast support the work of their governments’ by between 60-80 per cent.

Someone would have to do some pretty fancy mental gymnastics to convince me those numbers don’t clearly equate to Canadians strongly supporting aggressive measures to contain Covid and strongly opposing half-assed, ideological nonsense that favours businesses over individuals.

Second, Canadians get it. This pandemic is serious threat to our health and we need to take some serious medicine to get past it. Jobs can be replaced; businesses rebuilt.

But the people who die from Covid during this pandemic are lost forever. And every death that could have been prevented and wasn’t lands squarely on the heads of our political leaders.

Finally, take a look at this chart comparing the “two Canadas” in terms of infection rates:

Growing up in Nova Scotia I spent decades hearing that about how Canada’s most eastern provinces were somehow ‘less than’ — especially when compared to Western Canada. We were backward and parochial. They were cutting edge and wealthy.

The Atlantic Bubble should lay that idea to waste — especially when compared to what’s happening on the Prairies. Notice that the infection rates per 100k people on the two charts are measured by an order of magnitude in difference. In other words, the scale for the Atlantic Bubble chart is 10x smaller than that of the rest of Canada.

Those are per capital measures. So the relative size of the provinces is irrelevant. Even if that wasn’t the case, the populations of MB, SK and NS are roughly equal.

So what does it all mean? Well, what it should mean is that Atlantic Canada is clearly leading the way in attacking Covid; that the aggressive approach adopted by Atlantic Premiers is widely supported by citizens; and that the half-assed, lackadaisical, business-first approach on the Prairies has Canadians there pissed off and scared.

When I was in politics, identifying who which premiers were in the more enviable position would have been easy.

Not sure what’s wrong Kenney, Moe and Pallister that they’re seeing things differently.