The Irrational Report, July 13-21, 2021, featuring your favourite cabinet ministers

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.

It turns out a lot happened while I was taking a mini-vacation to Grande Prairie to meet my newborn grandson (my first!) last week. The government churned out 33 news releases and only one of them was a COVID update.

The flurry of activity began on July 13 with the announcement of lifting of COVID restrictions in supportive living, long term care facilities and hospices. The restrictions will be eased by July 31 in a two-phased approach. This does reflect the fact that 87 per cent of those over the age of 70 are fully vaccinated.

The same vaccination rate is not applicable to Stampede-goers who were much younger and flocked to the event in Calgary despite fears of the Delta variant. Attendance was down 59 per cent from the last Stampede in 2019 but Calgary still saw about 528,998 visitors to the grounds.

Like many residents near the Stampede grounds, I left town and avoided most of the cowboy mayhem, but not before I witnessed a lot of drunken scootering and even some old-fashioned puking in flowerpots.

Rumours swirled about fake vaccination papers and bribes at the door to Nashville North, the country music tent on the Stampede grounds. The Calgary Stampede denied everything.

Social media served up some choice images of the party atmosphere, where masks were nowhere to be seen and physical distance was definitely not on the minds of attendees. Performers at the event, received a lot of negative pushback for appearing at one some were predicting to be a “superspreader” event. Some performers even had their feelings hurt.

On this past Saturday evening, there was barely a yahoo to be heard. Although businesses did report a small but welcome boost from the event, the crowds had really dwindled during the last few days. Usually, the partying continues well into the final days. I think we can blame the wildfire smoke for the late stage fizzle as the air quality meant it was actually unsafe to be outside.

Nevertheless, Alberta’s Premier was encouraging people to do just that and the Calgary Stampede opened up the gates to everyone offering free admission on the final Sunday.

In the days since the 2021 Stampede started, everyone is closely watching the COVID numbers and it does appear there has been an increase in cases. It’s debatable though whether the increases are due to Stampede or due to the dropping of mask rules by both of the major cities. Edmonton’s numbers also appear to have gone up.

The vaccine lottery was a total waste of $3M as the number of first dose vaccinations barely budged. Many people who attended the Stampede may have only been partially vaccinated.

While I was away, there were several major announcements this week that riled people up:

·      Yet more surgeries will be contracted out to private healthcare operators. It’s super important to Jason Kenney that wealthy folks are able to conveniently skip to the front of the line for healthcare apparently.

·      Finance Minister Travis Toews updated on the ongoing health care negotiations with AHS employees (including nurses) by saying thank you for their hard work during the pandemic but called for a wage reduction. Yes, you heard that right.

·      The Associate Minister of Natural Gas and Electricity Dale Nally really made everyone’s day when he announced a rate increase on everyone’s electricity and natural gas bills to cover those who were unable to pay during the pandemic.

·      Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Devin Dreeshen shocked many by announcing a new 20-year forestry management agreement with Crowsnest Forest Products. The agreement was negotiated with zero stakeholder consultation and covers a lot of the contentious Eastern Slopes where opposition to coal has been significant.

Not to be outdone by her cabinet colleagues’ “happy” announcements, Education Minister Adriana LaGrange was so impressed by the work done on the draft K-6 curriculum that she has invited the same eight people back to work on the grade 7-12 version.

Strangely, the Alberta government was talking very little about the fact that the town of Lytton in B.C. literally burst into flames and disappeared due to a wildfire. The entire province has been declared a disaster zone due to the wildfire situation and yet Kenney was still tweeting about a lack of pipeline capacity as climate change is devastating the planet. He never could read the room.

Energy Minister Sonya Savage also doubled down on oil and gas with a statement complaining about the federal government’s new engagement process on a “just transition” for workers. When I first saw the headline on the release I thought maybe Alberta was finally going to address this issue…but of course, no. The statement slammed Ottawa for even starting to talk about a transition plan. Alberta totally has its head in the sand.

Speaking of dismantling, reports were rolling in from all over the province of bed closures at hospitals due to staff shortages. Also, there were reports in the media that overdose deaths continue to skyrocket in Edmonton.

Not to worry though, I’m sure newly appointed Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Mental Health Mike Ellis is on top of things? Although, he was just on a tour of the Medicine Hat Recovery Centre where he tweeted out private information about a patient. Yikes.

On the anti-racism front, Justice Minister Kaycee Madu was all over that file this week. In an act of pure genius, he has written a letter to the federal government about — legalizing pepper spray? He also created a Hate Crime Coordination Unit to well, coordinate Calgary and Edmonton’s hate crime units. Wait, what?

Can’t go without mentioning Environment and Parks Minister Jason Nixon who gave us one free day in Kananasksis this week. That marketing idea wasn’t exactly warmly received. Social media users responded as you would expect, given that many previously enjoyed the park for “free” (or at least, without paying that extra user fee) 365 days per year.

So far, 21,500 day passes and 55,600 annual passes have been sold since June bringing in $5.7 million in revenue for the province. Sounds like there is a lot of work to be done on the trails out there. I sincerely hope that is part of the plan with this new influx of cash.

I’d like to end this week’s newsletter with at least one piece of good news:

Creating an Alberta Police service and an Alberta Pension Plan will not be on the ballot this October. However, the Alberta government release says both are undergoing “further analysis” before next steps are determined. It may not be the end of these terrible ideas, we’ve just been given a reprieve.

If any of this week’s news rubbed you the wrong way, I hope to make it up to you by reviving this viral K-Country video to cheer you up:

Jody MacPherson is a professional communicator, commuting cyclist (currently working from home), and is afraid of both bears and pepper spray.

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