Your terms of reference for the UCP government April 12-18, 2021

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

This week was one for the history books. Conservative party members across Canada must be suffering from severe whiplash. On Thursday, Conservative Party leader Erin O’Toole shocked many by announcing – if elected – his party would introduce their own version of a carbon tax.

This, less than a month after the conservative premiers of Alberta, Ontario and Saskatchewan were publicly expressing their disappointment with the Supreme Court ruling that the carbon tax was constitutional. Heck, Kenney went further and claimed the court was granting the federal government some sort of new powers it didn’t deserve.

“We will continue to fight to defend our exclusive provincial power to regulate our resource industries,” Kenney said during a press conference.

One would think he would be plenty upset with his federal counterpart, O’Toole, whom Kenney endorsed in the party’s leadership contest.

Also, it was only last month that Conservative delegates at the party’s policy convention rejected adding a line to their policy book that the party believed “climate change is real” and is “willing to act.”

Then to add insult to injury on Friday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford sent a letter to Alberta asking for help with healthcare resources as the province is being hammered with a third wave of COVID-19 and a neverending wave of incompetence by the Ford government.

Kenney politely declined.

In fact, all conservative politicians have declined Ford’s plea for help. The only help seems to be coming from Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government and the Liberal premiers of Newfoundland and Nova Scotia (albeit, no vaccines to spare from NS).

With all this backtracking on climate change policies, backstabbing on jurisdictional issues and a complete lack of back-up for a flailing Ford nation, it’s easy to forget what else went wrong this week. So, here’s a painful reminder of the irrational actions of Alberta’s Kenney government this week.

There were only 17 official news releases, perhaps an indication of just how badly this week has been for the UPC, since they are normally pushing out releases at a much more frantic pace.

The week started out with Kenney and Minister Tyler Shandro trying to shift focus to the vaccine roll-out as new clinics opened and the Telus Convention Centre in Calgary began mass vaccinations. They probably wanted to put the disastrous weekend of anti-mask protests behind them as quickly as possible.

However, failed CPC leadership candidate Maxime Bernier had other plans. He showed up in Edmonton for a large protest at the Legislature where the crowd chanted “Lock her up,” referring to Dr. Deena Hinshaw. All the best people were there, clearly.

In typical Kenney fashion, the day started with an announcement of changes to the Public Health Act, removing the government’s power to order mandatory vaccinations. This was clearly an olive branch to the conspiracy theory crowd.

Then by the end of the day, Kenney took to Twitter to condemn the MAGA-like mob at the Legislature and the attacks on the Enoch Nation the day before.

Hard to take Kenney seriously on anything he’s so mealy-mouthed. On the one hand he’s removing the mandatory vaccination powers which were just fine as is, on the other hand he spent the week begging people to get vaccinated because it’s so important.

He says many of the protesters are “unhinged conspiracy theorists” but then goes on to say their actions do a “disservice to their own cause.” Their cause IS the conspiracy theory and an underlying belief in white supremacy, but Kenney continues to give them credit for a noble purpose that simply isn’t there.

As the COVID-19 case numbers continued to climb, the government announced additional money for Alberta’s struggling small businesses (not nearly enough), the United Nurses of Alberta reported that nurses are required to use vacation or unpaid leave time to get vaccinated and Astra Zeneca vaccine appointments were going unfilled.

By the end of the week, with reports of at least one blood clot case in Alberta, fears about the vaccine were spreading in some circles, while others were more afraid a growing vaccine hesitancy could jeopardize any chance of the province bending the curve of rising COVID cases.

Note: Count me as an Albertan more afraid of catching COVID than getting a blood clot from the vaccine. I was pretty much first in line to get my dose of the Astra Zeneca vaccine this past Monday. There’s a fantastic article from MSNBC News about the failure to explain the risks and to put them in perspective. The article talks about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine but the argument applies to all vaccines. As many women who take the birth control pill will tell you, women have had to deal with these risks for decades.

“Informed risk is an inherent part of modern medicine. Making informed decisions and weighing the risks of some potentially very scary side effects are things we routinely ask of people who regulate medical conditions — or who, in the case of the pill, can get pregnant.”

By Wednesday, the government was walking back its insistence that schools stay open as both the Calgary school boards had come to them requesting grades 7-12 shift to at-home learning. By week’s end, Fort McMurray’s junior high and high schools followed suit.

News also emerged of an outbreak of COVID in the Premier’s office. Rachel Notley’s chief of staff and Kenney’s director of communications began a war of words on Twitter that illustrates just how bad relationships have gotten under Kenney’s leadership.

Things got even worse for Kenney this week when he tried to shift attention from in-school transmission in Athabasca County, now a COVID hot spot. He publicly claimed it was a children’s birthday party in Athabasca that led to the small rural community’s giant outbreak. When reporters tried to track down the facts, the whole story fell apart.

The mayor of Athabasca says it led to a lot of worried people in her community. Colleen Powell chastised Kenney for “saying things you don’t know.”

Phew. Are you done with this week yet? But wait, this also happened:

NDP MLA Thomas Dang also spoke out about the racist account, which had been suspended by the end of the day, but not before it was noted that half the followers of the account were either UCP staffers (19, including an MLA) or CPC staff/MPs.

“Racism and racist violence are on the rise in our society. Several Albertans have been violently assaulted recently in hate-motivated attacks. Anti-Asian racism has surged during the pandemic. This is unacceptable and I will always confront it,” Dang’s statement said.

Besides racism, covering up a COVID outbreak, lying about a superspreader event, vaccines going to waste and a homegrown MAGA rally, a few other things happened early in the week that barely made it into the news cycle:

  • Jason Nixon, Minister of Environment and Parks announced changes to the Public Lands Act, including a new requirement for a $20-30 pass to camp on public lands.
  • Alberta joined Ontario, New Brunswick and Saskatchewan in announcing their intention to bring nuclear power to their provinces, in Alberta it will probably generate power for the oilsands.
  • Francophone schools and four First Nations joined the long list of school boards unwilling to even pilot the UCP’s notorious new draft curriculum. The Facebook group opposed to the curriculum is now almost 40,000 strong and yes, they have lawn signs.

Meanwhile, Energy Minister Sonya Savage tried to quietly add the terms of reference for the coal policy consultation to the government website, and then, things really blew up.

Albertans opposed to coal development have been sharing their letters to MLAs on Facebook. This group is also nearing 40,000 members and it sounds like MLAs are getting quite the earful. I recommend checking out the posts for some smart and thorough commentary about coal and the environment.

By contrast, the responses received from the MLAs are also being shared and are mostly boilerplate answers with a lot of NDP bashing.

The NDP’s bill – the Eastern Slopes Protection Act – was allowed to move forward from a committee dominated by the UCP, much to the surprise of many. This next week will surely see some sparks flying as MLA’s will vote on April 19 whether to allow a debate on the bill.

Alberta has become a province where lawn signs opposing the government’s policies are plentiful and pretty much permanently displayed. There’s no need for polls to tell us Kenney and the UCP lack support, it’s everywhere for all to see.

The week wrapped up with this being the top tweet, a reminder of just how badly Kenney’s policies have panned out:

Now for some good news, I’m happy to announce that I’ve found the man I’m going to marry. He combines my two passions – cycling and men who cook.

Take a look at this video and see if you don’t agree this would be my perfect match:

To end the newsletter this week, here’s a video of my co-workers and I in a typical Teams meeting (just kidding – we never swear).

Jody MacPherson is a professional communicator, commuting cyclist (currently working from home), and is awaiting delivery of two lawn signs – one on the coal fiasco and the other on the curriculum disaster. Sigh.

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