The Alberta UCP Irrational Report for January 25-30, 2021

This post originally appeared in my weekly newsletter, “The MacPherson Missive.” Subscribe for free at: https://jodymacpherson.substack.com/

It’s time for another edition of the irrational report, a recap of the many nonsensical actions of Jason Kenney and the UCP government over just the last week. The government issued 24 official news releases, including six releases about the COVID-19 pandemic and three procedural releases.

The Alberta government started the week off disastrously with a tweet in honour of Holocaust Remembrance Day. Included was a photo of the Premier, grim-faced, holding a blank sheet of paper with the hashtag #WeRemember scrawled on it (not sure if it was actually written with a Sharpie or digitally added later).

Nothing says commemorating the murder of six million people like a generic photo that could easily be re-purposed with a quick edit in Photoshop for any occasion. The Kenney administration is nothing if not stingy with their graphics (and logos).

With all of the issues managers currently employed by the UCP government, you’d think at least one of them would have considered the possible outcome of re-enacting a trite meme on such a solemn occasion. It’s almost as if they can’t read the room – again?

It’s especially confounding after numerous high profile conservative figures in the US were subjected to ridicule for similar pageantry, most notably Donald Trump himself, but also Amy Coney Barrett  who got caught up in it during her confirmation hearing.

The “I’m holding a piece of paper with something written on it” meme is so hackneyed now that it is known as a “dank meme” or content that, “due to overuse or passing trends, has lost its value or currency.” Does anyone think this was a good choice for remembering the Holocaust?

The irony of the whole incident is that last week we also learned the Alberta government paid $28K for a report that suggests climate change reporters are part of a “conspiracy funded by George Soros.” The Soros trope is a well-documented anti-semitic claim based on a lengthy and dark history of claiming successful Jewish businessmen are behind every evil. Kenney should apologize and demand the money back from the author of the report. He may also want to brush up on his history by reviewing the content on the Wiener Holocaust Library website.

Even the Auschwitz Museum reached out directly and suggested Kenney follow them to remember DAILY (they tweet names of Holocaust victims and survivors every day) how anti-Semitism has proliferated throughout history. It continues even today with the Soros trope.

Meanwhile, the government continued its adversarial approach with the Trudeau government with yet another release attacking them on the Covid-19 vaccine delivery delays. The release offered no solutions or reassurances for Albertans and no information on how the provincial government would adjust plans or protect us.

“This is a grim situation that seems to be getting worse every week,” Health Minister Tyler Shandro said on Thursday (Jan. 28).

Does this read like a provincial government doing a good job trying to manage a bad situation? Or is this a release that you’d read from a party with opposition status? Shandro and Kenney don’t seem to realize they are a provincial governing party, expected to work with the feds, not attack them from the point of view of a federal opposition party. They certainly don’t come across as the “adults in the room.” They sound more like they’re having a temper tantrum.

At the same time, a new report came out this week detailing the Alberta government left $300M in federal supports for long term care and essential workers on the table. So, the message seems to be – we want help but not actual help when it’s offered.

In fact, the Covid-19 response this week was particularly confusing. On Wednesday, Dr. Deena Hinshaw said it was important to keep the current restrictions in place a little longer in order to keep healthcare available for everyone. On Thursday, Minister Shandro said it was a grim situation, getting worse. Then, in a late-day news conference on Friday, the government announced things were going so well they were relaxing restrictions on gyms and restaurants.

Also on Friday, the government finally released its plans for responding to the pandemic – 10 months into the pandemic, mind you. However, the plan immediately drew criticism for basing the easing of restrictions not on the number of cases, but the number of hospitalizations, which could be called a lagging indicator.

What this means is that these numbers confirm a problem rather than predict it. A person ends up in hospital usually after a longer struggle, not immediately.

Testing positive is more of a predictive or leading indicator that cases are rising. It would allow the government to get out ahead of the pandemic. We now have good data on the percentage of people who will end up in hospital.

It seems like the exact wrong way to plan for the future. It’s more of a declaration of how they will react. Perhaps it’s intended to be a motivator for people to follow public health orders to receive rewards – but I’m guessing the people who need a motivation like this, probably still won’t follow the rules.

Of course, the government’s numbers are confusing people right out of the gate. According to its own guidance:

“If after three weeks the hospitalization numbers are in the range of the next benchmark, decisions will be considered for moving to Step 2.”

The hospitalization numbers have only recently dipped below 600 – it has been a matter of days. Dropping below 600 or 450 (which is the next benchmark) is what triggers the loosening of restrictions, not the length of time the hospitalizations have been at that level.

It will be interesting to see if the government sticks with its three-week timeframe to make decisions about loosening restrictions. They have not shown that kind of discipline thus far, rushing to reopen as soon as there is a decrease.

Even this week’s benchmark plan appears to have been hurriedly assembled in response to significant backlash in rural areas, where restaurants have been bragging on social media about flouting the guidelines and reopening.

The plan appears to be to push the limits of our healthcare system and put some of our lowest paid workers in harm’s way. Let’s be clear, these changes were made so well-off folks who can still afford it, can sit down and eat at a restaurant (masks must be removed to eat, duh!) in person and be waited on.

If they don’t want to cook their own food, couldn’t they just take the food away and maybe tip more generously? It’s not for the restaurant workers’ benefit, let’s be clear, although conservative Twitter will try to tell you it is. It’s the table service the well-to-do want. It makes them feel important and they care little about the wait staff who they’ll put at risk.

The decision to relax restrictions also came while alarming news was coming out on the new virus variants, in particular the highly contagious South African variant, which at least one vaccine is known to be less effective against. This new variant is now known to be active in at least 32 countries. Alberta has also reported it has found five cases of this variant.

By the way: This raises the terrifying spectre of vaccine inequality both due to the reduced efficacy of several vaccines to protect us from the South African variant and the overall lower efficacy rates of the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Johnson & Johnson will soon be applying for approval in the US. There has already been some discussion about who would receive the one-dose vaccine and why, but some of the rationale is problematic. For example, should unhoused people be given the less effective one-dose vaccine simply because they are thought to be more difficult to track down for a second dose? Is that even a true assumption?

Never mind all that though. Alberta now has its very own parole board. What, you say, in tarnation is that all about?

In this case, Justice Minister Kaycee Madu was honest about why it chose to set up a new parole board, even though the federal parole board still has jurisdiction in Alberta as well. They announced it this week after passing the necessary legislation this past summer.

“Given the lack of action by the federal government in addressing Alberta’s request for a fair deal in Confederation, the Alberta government must continue to assert its jurisdictional authority where it can.”

They’re spending money to own the libs, as they say. So we get two boards now instead of one. Does the Canadian Federation of Independent Business still want to give them an “A” rating for red tape reduction?

The federal board will continue to deal with the inmates serving more severe penalties of two years or more. So, if you’re committing less severe crimes, Madu wants to ensure you’re getting punished to the full extent of the law with this new board, which was a recommendation from the so-called, “Fair Deal” panel.

The Minister is quoted in the Edmonton Journal as saying that the board is intended to make rural people feel “more safe and reassured” that repeat offenders don’t return to the community and commit crimes.

“I think the people of rural Alberta can be sure that we are hearing their concerns.”

He was quick to point out in the same article though, that the board would be “without external influence.” The doublethink required to read those two statements side-by-side is exhausting. This has to be the most irrational move of the week.

Have you had enough yet?

One bit of good news to cleanse your pallet, the government met quietly with parents of children and adults with disabilities on Friday morning to let them know they wouldn’t be proceeding with plans to privatize residential and respite services. “Tears (of relief) were flowing,” according to the CBC.

Back to the rest of the news:

·      Progress Alberta reported that the day that Kenney shut down banquet halls and conference centres across the province, he held a buffet lunch for 12-30 high level officials at Government House.

·      UCP MLA Drew Barnes had to publicly apologize after falsely saying in an interview that COVID-19 tests were only 50% effective.

·      Teachers announced they’re not going to take it anymore and are suing the Alberta government over a Dec. 23 government order, a quaint little Christmas surprise from Finance Minister Travis Toews. The order gave AIMCo a veto over the pension manager.

·      Worries abound over Rick Bell’s head exploding as he writes another opinion column critical of Jason Kenney, ominously warning us that he may have to say, “I told you so” about the guy he originally supported. Scratching my head over that one.

·      The government granted its third extension to the controversial $3.5M Allan inquiry final report. The investigation, which is based on a debunked conspiracy theory and includes anti-semitic tropes, is going so well they need another four months.

To sum up:

Yes, all of this happened again in just one week. Now, as is customary after writing these irrational reports, I’ll need to de-stressing with a long walk. Enjoy this song and take care of your mental health everyone.

Jody MacPherson is a professional communicator, commuting cyclist (currently working from home), and an appreciator of clouds.

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