A week of apologies, arrests and advertising, May 10-16, 2021

This post originally appeared in my weekly newsletter, “The Missive” on Aug.15, 2021. Subscribe for free at: https://jodymacpherson.substack.com/ or access background info and special content with a paid subscription.

I’m back and I can’t believe how tough it was to drag myself back to my computer to chronicle another irrational week in Alberta politics.

Well, I take that back. I can believe it. We’re all pretty tired of the UCP roller coaster and with each passing week, I give up any hope that things will ever be normal again. I’m not talking about the pandemic. We will get back to almost normal – eventually – on that front. What I fear is that Jason Kenney and the UCP have damaged this province in so many fundamental ways that it’s going to take a long time to recover.

There were 18 official news releases, only four of which were related to COVID, an alarming lack of transparency given how much is going on with the virus and the vaccine roll-out.

We started the week with an announcement on Tuesday that the provincial government was not content to make a mess of things provincially, they’ve also decided to get involved with Calgary’s municipal government.

Doug Schweitzer, Minister of Jobs, Economy and Innovation, announced a working group to put forward recommendations for the future of Calgary’s downtown core. Notably missing from the working group was any representation from The City of Calgary.

This is a pattern we’ve seen before – the Supervised Consumption Site panel that wasn’t allowed to look at the positive outcomes, the MacKinnon report that looked at the budget but wasn’t allowed to consider the revenue side and recently, the coal consultations which aren’t supposed to consider land use or water.

Now we have a group creating a “road map” for the downtown core without including all of the work already done by City council and administration. Not only is this a redundant effort but also a politically-motivated waste of time and money.

It’s worth noting here that the UCP’s approval is around 30 percent these days, with Jason Kenney’s personal approval even lower, particularly related to his handling of the pandemic.

Recent Citizen Satisfaction Survey results from the City of Calgary show 74% of Calgarians believe Calgary is already on the right track to be a better city in 10 years. Fifty-two percent believe Calgary is moving in the right direction and 72% are satisfied with how the City is run by Council and Administration.

I’m sure Premier Kenney and the UCP will put together a super plan though. Their record so far is great.

Also on Tuesday, investigative journalist Kim Siever released an analysis of job creation from Alberta’s oil and gas industry. He shows us that since 2014, the industry has increased annual production, but with about 41,000 fewer jobs. It is pretty clear that no additional jobs will be created by the oil and gas industry, no matter how much the UCP government wants you to believe this to be true.

“And if they’re producing more now than ever before but with fewer workers, what guarantee will there be that giving them tax breaks, lowering their royalty rates, and otherwise subsidizing the industry will lead to more jobs?” asks Siever.

On Tuesday evening, the Town of Fairview’s emergency department had to temporarily close due to a lack of doctors.

The Moms Stop The Harm group tweeted that a former client has died from a drug overdose after the closure of Edmonton’s Safe Consumption Site.

The Alberta Teacher’s Association released an Environics poll that found fewer than one out of five Albertans believe the government’s draft K-6 curriculum will give students the knowledge and skills they need to succeed.

The government, however, is showing no signs of going back to the drawing board, in fact, they’re doubling down with a paid advertising campaign. Heckuva a way to spend our money – trying to convince us that a Franken-curriculum that pretty much no school division wants to even touch, is somehow a good idea.

On COVID, Alberta’s hospitalizations haven’t been this high since January, just after the Christmas holidays. If it weren’t for the fact that vaccinations are going so well, we’d really be in deep trouble.

Despite the relief vaccinations bring, it should be noted that we are early in the roll-out and what we’re seeing right now are the easy-to-convince people showing up in large numbers.

Alberta does have a high number of vaccine-hesitant people and to reach so-called “herd immunity,” we need as many of those able to get vaccinated (12-years and up), signing up and showing up for their shot. We could get derailed if the Whistlestop Café crowd gets too big and blocks our recovery.

Don’t even get me started again on the giant, scary needle graphic the UCP is putting out there to encourage people to get vaccinated in another new marketing campaign.

Speaking of the Whistlestop, the CBC ran an interesting piece about another café in Mirror Alberta – one that is quietly following the rules.

The cafe is doing just fine when they are allowed to open. They are not getting arrested or creating a pandemic panic. Further adding to the chaos this week, many high profile church leaders and self-promoting anti-mask and anti-vaccine protestors found themselves charged and even arrested while the Premier cheerfully promoted the Calgary Stampede. He even announced he was asking the federal government for a special exemption.

Did I mention that while the focus was on planning a giant party, it also came to light that the Alberta government missed an opportunity to submit a request for more federal judges to help ease caseloads in the province? The Justice Minister must have been too busy writing his apology letter for accusing the federal Liberals, the opposition NDP and the media of wanting a healthcare disaster.

Kenney seems bound and determined to hold the Calgary Stampede in early July despite the fact they’re arresting people for similar smaller gatherings at the same time. Does he not see how bad that looks?

People were not overjoyed at the thought of a COVID Stampede.

If you’ve never been to the 10-day Stampede, picture masses of people in cowboy boots, exchanging every sort of bodily fluid on the dance floor and in the back alleys, scarfing down unhealthy food and downing beer like there’s a shortage.

The rodeo events at the heart of the show cram people together for hours in a stadium. It’s hard to imagine how this could be done safely, even if about 60% of Albertans are half-vaccinated by then.

The week ended with the Legislature still closed due to safety issues, two more rural hospitals had to temporarily close their emergency departments and a private UCP caucus battle was opened up for all to see.

On Thursday evening someone inside the meeting was leaking what was going on to the Western Standard in real time. The right-leaning news website was tweeting out the party’s internal squabbling for all to witness. It was an embarrassing social media spectacle that shows just how dysfunctional the governing party has become.

At the end of the day, the caucus kicked out two members, including MLAs Drew Barnes and Todd Loewen. Both had criticized Kenney’s leadership. A vote was taken but the results not released, suggesting it may have been close…a bad sign for Kenney.

Alas, some good news for the environment this week. The federal government decided to declare plastics “toxic” despite years of intense lobbying by the plastics industry. There was also pressure from Alberta which is hoping plastics made from petrochemicals will provide up to 90 per cent of the oil and gas industry’s future growth.

“I think the days of waiting for recycling to work are over. We need to reduce the amount of plastic that gets put on the market and therefore, into the environment. We need to find alternatives to plastics in many cases.”

Karen Wirsig, program manager for Environmental Defence

The move opens a pathway to future regulation, including bans on single-use plastic items.

**There’s no space for bike news this week, but I should have some updates next week. There is a lot of exciting stuff going on with cycling right now.

Here’s a video about of the importance of reaching out and making connections, even during the pandemic:

Catch up with you next week my friends.

Jody MacPherson is a professional communicator, commuting cyclist (currently working from home), and once wrote freelance articles for the Calgary Stampede, but ironically, has rarely attended.

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