The Alberta UCP Irrational Report for January 31-February 6, 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 18 official news releases, including seven releases about the COVID-19 pandemic and two procedural releases.

Can we start with the penguins? We know the government is feeling under attack but when students from the University of Alberta built 800 snow penguins on the grounds of the Alberta legislature last week, they were immediately all but destroyed. The students didn’t even have time to get reporters there for a news conference to explain the reason for the protest.

The snow penguins had signs with the hashtag “DontFreezeOurFutures” to protest provincial cuts to post-secondary education. Infrastructure Minister Prasad Panda said the penguins were a “tripping hazard” although the students claim they were deliberately kept off walkways for this very reason.

Was this a precursor to how the government plans on enforcing the controversial Critical Infrastructure Defence Act? Bill 1 was one of the first pieces of legislation Jason Kenney’s UCP government passed into law and critics say the bill suppresses the public’s right to protest and is an example of government overreach.

Nothing like the unnecessary destruction of a bunch of snow penguins to signal the UCP government intends on using every means to silence critics. And the message was received loud and clear. Note also (for your patriarchy files) in the tweet thread below how the computer science guy challenges the female PhD in molecular biology with a reference to “March of the Penguins”). Hilarious. Not.

The province announced the expansion of eligibility for reimbursement for Albertans self-isolating in an assigned hotel. It was expanded beyond the province’s two major cities to the rest of Alberta and to First Nations and Metis communities. Which begs the question – why were they excluded to begin with?

This week’s news was a series of breaking stories showing a pattern of the government waiting for catastrophe before taking action – an ongoing strategy revealed by Kenney back in October.

On Tuesday, the media reported that the Alberta Union of Public Employees called on Alberta Health Services to take over operations at four long term care facilities in Calgary and Strathmore. More than 40 residents have died and 350 staff and residents have had COVID-19.

On Wednesday, the government announced $68.5 million in support for continuing care, addiction and mental health treatment. Alberta still has more than $300 million in funding available through a commitment to cost-sharing with the federal government. We all know how much Kenney detests working with the Trudeau government though, so that money is still waiting to be accessed. Although Kenney did say they have finally applied for the funds. We’ll see what happens.

Unfortunately, 1,086 of the 1,660 reported deaths due to COVID-19 have been in long-term care facilities or supportive home living sites. Again, the government had to wait for a catastrophe before it acted.

In just one of the many heartbreaking stories of this pandemic, Global reported on a woman in Calgary who has spent her 12 years caring for others in long term care, contracted COVID-19 and died.

Meanwhile, the government is going ahead with plans to reopen restaurants and gyms. Today, they also announced a surprise expansion to the reopening plans which were just announced last week. The new plan allows children and youth to participate in training for team-based minor sports and athletics even though games continue to be prohibited. Many groups like Hockey Canada were caught off-guard and had only recently decided to cancel their seasons.

Gee, it’s almost like the government is doing things without consulting with people. Does any of this sound rational?

As cases of the new COVID-19 variants increase, most experts predict a surge of cases. The government continues to use a lagging indicator – the number of hospitalizations – which almost guarantees Alberta will always be putting lives at risk with a reactive rather than a proactive strategy.

Businesses are starting to join the call for a COVID zero plan also. The Edmonton Independent Hospitality Community released an open letter to the government this week.

With restrictions being loosened this coming Monday, February 8, it’s time to consider the recurring theme of individual responsibility. Surely it means more than just following public health orders? Kenney and the UCP have an unusual take on personal responsibility. It’s as if they don’t understand that following the rules (and laws) is only the beginning. Some might argue they even have trouble following the law.

There was a thoughtful essay about this in the New Yorker magazine this week. In New York, the on again, off again closures have people reeling. Helen Rosner worries that a chaotic narrative contributes to the feeling that it’s up to us instead of governments to fix a collective problem. She explains it this way:

“…we’re left with a pervasive sense that, in the face of government mismanagement and indifference, it is up to each of us to save what those in power are allowing to die: if the businesses we love close down, it’s our own fault; if the people they employ are out of work, it’s our own fault.”

This does serve a conservative narrative and definitely here in Alberta, where we have an anti-government government in power, the downloading of responsibility could play into their ideology in a self-fulfilling way.

On the flip side of this, we shouldn’t ignore the more impactful message of the essay which is: “just because we’ve been given permission to do something doesn’t mean that it’s the right thing to do.” Somehow, that message has been lost on those flocking to restaurants, gyms and other crowded spaces as soon as restrictions are lifted.

Or maybe not if you are the religious type. “Love thy neighbour” seems to have fallen out of favour with some Alberta churches as another congregation is welcoming over 300 people to Sunday services, openly defying public health orders. AHS was tight-lipped about it and Dr. Deena Hinshaw refused to comment on individual cases. Nothing quite says “good Christian” like openly breaking the law and endangering lives.

In other fights the government is picking with various people:

·      The rhetoric heated up between the provincial government and southern mayors over the new 911 dispatch centralization. Four mayors called for an investigation while the province dismissed the idea.

·      The vaccine roll-out war of words continued with finger pointing between the province and the federal government. Reports are coming in from Ontario of queue jumping by the wealthy and I’m bracing for this to continue as various groups jockey for a vaccine that is in short supply at the moment.

·      Two more Muslim women were attacked in a hate-motivated crime in Edmonton while the report of the Anti-Racism Council is still not released, even though the report was submitted. You would think this would become a priority given the news.

·      The Premier’s message for Black History Month (which is happening now) was that Black history is an “ongoing story of the challenge of racism – stubborn, pervasive and pernicious” and yet his government seems determined to continue that story by holding back the council’s recommendations to combat the problem.

Finally, there’s an editorial in the Medicine Hat News you should read. It’s about Kenney’s gaslighting which continued this week with his statements about the coal policy. His claim is that the policy was unnecessary and out-of-date. He even blames city-dwellers for “looking down” on rural families and putting out incorrect information. Kenney is definitely not above pitting rural and urban Albertans against each other to sow confusion. The problem is that rural Albertans are some of the most upset by his actions.

Just this week, the backlash from rural cities, towns, counties and other prominent Conservatives continued to gain momentum as MP John Barlow of Okotoks joined the opposition to Kenney’s coal strategy. Scientists in Saskatchewan are now raising concerns about the risks to their province’s water supply, which largely flows from rivers impacted by the Grassy Mountain Coal Project.

Albertans, meanwhile, are being led to doubt our own sanity by the premier, while the truth is obscured by lies.

“At this stage in his time here, he is so positive of his ability to manipulate our reality, he now thinks he can tell us the sun is shining during a downpour.” (Medicine Hat News editorial)

The government signaled yesterday it may reinstate some protections it removed when it rescinded the coal policy but angry stakeholders are saying they just don’t trust them.

A nap isn’t going to work for me this week. I’m going to work on some photography projects next to take my mind of things for awhile.

Here’s a song that is cheering me up:

Jody MacPherson is a professional communicator, commuting cyclist (currently working from home), and a wearer of wool socks.

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