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Alberta: Welcome to your 4th Wave

Left JAB by John Bell

July 30, 2021

So there you have it: the embattled Alberta UCP government of Jason Kenney is so desperate to shore up its far-right anti-vaxx supporters that it has lifted all COVID restrictions just as the number of cases caused by the Delta variant is soaring.

In a grand act of political cynicism, Kenney and his now thoroughly discredited Chief Health Officer Dr. Deeana Hinshaw have condemned hundreds of Albertans to needless deaths, thousands more to vicious illness with possibly life-long ramifications, and the province’s financially strangled healthcare system to overload.

They have announced that people closely exposed to COVID cases will not have to isolate. At the same time the province will stop all contact tracing, and curtail COVID testing for all but the most obvious cases. People with “mild” symptoms do not have to stay at home – they should, but Alberta is leaving that up to them. Even if you test positive for the virus, self-isolation is only “strongly recommended”, not mandatory. COVID is downgraded as a threat, and compared to “other respiratory illnesses”.   

In case of an outbreak in acute or continuing care facilities – hospitals and long-term care homes – testing will be administered on an “as needed” basis. LTC corporations are off the hook.

As for a back-to-school plan, it seems to amount to crossing both fingers and toes, and hoping a vaccine for kids younger than 12 will be developed soon enough to bail them out. But with the province’s high rate of vaccine hesitancy, that day may never come.

Angry Albertans, including many doctors, are calling for Hinshaw’s medical licence to be revoked, with good reason.

Parents are rightly terrified. Edmonton mom Sarah Mackey is talking about getting a leave of absence from work so she doesn’t have to send her kids to unsafe schools: "We are going to be in a position where we don't know how high the case numbers are because they are no longer testing (to the same extent) and so we don't know if school is safe. You can say, 'vaccines are incredible,' but that only works in places where vaccine coverage is high enough to have that mitigating effect." 

Only about 65% of Albertans are fully vaccinated, and the numbers have plateaued in recent reports. The province leads the nation in vaccine refusal.

Calgary’s mayor Naheed Nenshi is perplexed by the UCP’s move. “I just need to understand the rationale there. I guess it means we’re not going to have a fourth wave because we won’t know, because we’re not testing.”

One enraged Alberta twitter account referred to the fact that Covid-19 causes long term cognitive impairment, dropping IQ and causing memory loss. “Shit, we’ve been looking at this as a pandemic. They see it as a recruitment drive.”

There may be some truth to it. Back in June, before COVID began to climb again, Kenney was polling as Canada’s least popular premier. Since then he has attacked nurses with a 5% pay cut retroactive to the beginning of the pandemic. He has accused overworked medical professionals in under-staffed facilities of running a “scam” by logging so many overtime hours. He has relentlessly touted a COVID restriction free Calgary Stampede which was predictably followed by a sharp spike in hospitalizations in that city.

But Kenney has been busy with other important matters, obsessively tweeting about Albertan’s god-given right to own monster pickup trucks.  The day following Hinshaw’s bombshell COVID announcement, Kenney blithely tweeted a link to a movie trailer for a down-market Ghost Busters reboot partly shot in Alberta, inviting Hollywood to come on up to use the scenic splendour.

He doesn’t want to admit the fact that, between throwing away billions of dollars on fantasy pipelines and granting more tax breaks to corporations, he has bankrupted his province. PPE, vaccines, testing and contact tracing all cost money. Kenney would rather condemn people to death than admit his mistakes.

Back in May Kenney declared that this was going to be the “Best Summer Ever”.  The only way to make that happen is to ignore reality, drop all public health restrictions, and the let the chips – and bodies – fall where they may. And if you get sick, and then stagger around infecting others, well that’s just your personal responsibility.

Political shockwaves

You would expect the province’s resurgent NDP would be going for the jugular, and tapping the rage unleashed by Kenney and Hinshaw. Here is former premier Rachel Notley’s response: She was “disappointed” and mildly suggested setting up vaccine clinics in schools in September – strictly voluntary you know. Perhaps someone should tell her there is no vaccine for kids under 12. According to Alberta’s projections, that adds up to just under 400,000 kids. 

Even NDP supporters are astounded by the weak response. Perhaps the timidity can be traced to the fact that the ANDP is doubling the UCP in political donations – and that means big business is turning to the NDP to save it from an increasingly irrational Tory regime. Why rock the boat now? 

At the national level, reports are emerging from CPC HQ that Erin O’Toole and his henchmen are furious and despairing, calling Kenney’s moves “stunningly stupid and shortsighted”. If – when – the Delta COVID 4th wave engulfs Alberta during the federal election campaign, the Tory brand is sure to take a hit all across Turtle Island, even in right-wing Alberta. “That bastard Kenney threw away all the moderate conservative voters today.”

Conspiracy aficionados are even speculating the Kenney acted deliberately to scuttle O’Toole’s chances, so that he would return to federal politics, messiah-like, and pick up the pieces of an already fragile CPC alliance of the right.

Those of us who have been closely following Jason Kenney’s holy political crusade – from his days as a more-catholic-than-the-pope student anti-abortion activist, to his days at the feet of Preston Manning and Stockwell Day, to his time as cabinet level racist and anti-gay bigot in Stephen Harper’s regime – wouldn’t put it past him.


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