There’s a joke about centrists that if they had to choose between putting all babies and no babies into a wood-chipper, they would choose to put 50% of babies into a wood-chipper.
It’s a grim joke, but it highlights the absurdity of what moral absolutists view centrism as.
While that’s been a hot topic in Alberta’s social media discourse between Alberta Party and NDP supporters – Jason Kenney’s pandemic half measures announced this week are a real-life example of what these absolutists believe centrists to be.
Jason Kenney has largely taken a laissez faire approach to Covid19 management. His mantra has been about maintaining the economy, building a wall around vulnerable people, and allowing Albertans to exercise personal responsibility as the primary mitigation and control method for the pandemic.
This seemed to be working to a varying degree of success through the early months of the pandemic (though largely it was actually federal wage and business support that allowed a broad-based lockdown to occur – not Alberta government policy).
As the summer wore on, and Covid fatigue set in, Alberta’s numbers, which were never really stellar, became progressively worse and more and more concerning, coming to a bleak crest this week.
Not only in 14 days’ isolation for his second Covid19 exposure but hiding from public accountability and view for ten days as Alberta set near daily new records for case counts, Premier Kenney was forced to come out of his hibernation and act. Or, at least to give the illusion of action, to control the explosive case growth.
Expecting a serious crackdown and meaningful enforcement, Albertans began to horde supplies including toilet paper, disinfectants, canned goods, and baking supplies – as they did in the spring.
But no such action was to be taken.
Afraid to alienate his libertarian and separatist supporters and unwilling to demure to the calls of ICU doctors, epidemiologists, the majority of the public, and the opposition – Kenney came out to deliver a milquetoast suite of half measures that would make no one happy. Except maybe the virus.
Politically speaking, it’s likely to begin the end of the Premier’s political career.
His Facebook page today was a dumpster fire of people who knew just enough rhetoric, including some spewed by the Premier himself about the Charter of Rights, claiming they were having their rights violated by mask mandates, by being told they can’t have other people in their homes, and being given restrictions on what businesses they can access and how.
Accusations and conspiracy theories were flying, including that Kenney had been compromised by Justin Trudeau, the United Nations and even more far out suppositions.
The one thing that stood out above all is the number of people who were done with Kenney and heading for the Wexit.
There was little support for the measures that Kenney took to be found in those left of him, and even cautiously optimistic moderates or small c conservatives expressed concerns that it was too little too late and just a precursor to a full-scale lockdown being an eventual necessity.
In trying to find a balanced approach between doing nothing to control Covid19 – putting priority on the economy, and locking down the economy to flatten the curve of Covid19 – Kenney has alienated and given ammunition to an upstart Wildrose Independence Party – and further entrenched his opponents who are advocating an aggressive science based approach to protecting human health and lives.
Strong leaders don’t equivocate and have the courage of their convictions when taking a strong stance to advance a public policy objective. A mushy middle approach to governance leaves Alberta’s economy and residents vulnerable.
In the course of time, Kenney’s indecisions today will likely demonstrate that not only were human lives risked by his weak leadership, but his political life too.
Robbie Kreger-Smith is a consultant for restaurants, communications, and marketing with previous partisan political experience in Alberta.