For months the UCP has steadfastly insisted that the spread of Covid19 would not take precedence over the protection of the economy.
Through the course of the summer where distancing was easier and prior to the return of school and more regular work schedules, that approach was moderately effective at preventing a full-blown overwhelming of our health care system and economy.
For a good period of time there’s been a sense that the direction and advice of the Chief Medical Officer of Health – Dr. Deena Hinshaw, was not fully being heeded.
UCP leadership, Ministers, issues managers, and press secretaries all uniformly insisted the Alberta pandemic response was being led and driven by Dr. Hinshaw’s recommendations.
Thanks to a civil service leaker, we now know well that this wasn’t the case.
Unsurprisingly, Dr. Hinshaw was angry at the “betrayal of trust” that occurred with this leak. The government supported Dr. Hinshaw, with Health Minister Shandro coming out of hiding to back his top doc.
But this reaction was a pattern that has become endemic in this pandemic.
We now find ourselves with the highest number of active cases in Canada and near the highest per capita infections in the country, trailing only Manitoba among the provinces.
Yesterday, controversy erupted after an interview Premier Kenney gave on an ethnic community focused radio program in Calgary – in which he pointed blame for the spread of Covid19 in Calgary on the largely South Asian population in Northeast Calgary.
This despite the South Asian community expressing these concerns and looking for support from our province’s leadership upon the late spring relaunch. These issues being flagged were rebuffed by the Premier and his team.
We’ve seen Justice Minister Kaycee Madu try to lay blame for the UCP’s failures at the feet of the NDP.
The blame has been apportioned to include finger pointing at the Trudeau government, China, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam, the World Health Organization, and Albertans who have no choice but to work when experiencing symptoms due to a lack of government support that would enable them to stay at home and prevent the spread of this deadly disease.
The public health response, the preparation for and execution of contact tracing, the resources and staffing necessary for our hospitals and Intensive Care Units, and meaningful measures such as mask mandates are all resources that are within the policy toolbox of a majority government to leverage in an effective response to the pandemic.
The United Conservative government has been more concerned about politics than governance.
This weekend we saw a crowd of hundreds at Calgary City Hall protesting mask policies – despite promises that gathering limits would be enforced with fines and action would be taken to ensure compliance with new restrictions. We saw hundreds of people racing through Calgary’s Chinook Centre Mall for Black Friday.
Curiously, what we didn’t see was the government racing to condemn these groups for not complying with the public health measures. What good are mandatory measures that aren’t enforced when so flagrantly flouted?
What we’re observing in Alberta is a lot of blame, but not a lot of accountability. If the Premier doesn’t do something to change that, expect Alberta voters to hold him accountable in 2023.
Robbie Kreger-Smith is a consultant for restaurants, communications, and marketing with previous partisan political experience in Alberta.