Oh, the irrational was out in full force this week August 5-15, 2021
This post originally appeared in my weekly newsletter, “The Missive” on Sept. 5, 2021. Subscribe for free at: https://jodymacpherson.substack.com/ or access background info and special content with a paid subscription.
It’s hot, smoky and headache-inducing. And I’m not talking about the weather in Calgary this weekend.
I’m talking about the unnecessarily overheated, secretive and confusing way the government’s key spokesperson on COVID-19, Dr. Deena Hinshaw is handling the fourth wave of the pandemic. But also, how Jason Kenney’s COVID Cabinet has largely abdicated their responsibilities.
It could be either because the cabinet is tired (too much cheap whiskey?) and out of ideas or – and this is where it gets terrifying – they refuse to even pretend to care anymore. The air may be thinner up there above the peasants in the Sky Palace.
How about both? That’s also a possibility.
This past Friday’s news conference was particularly bad. Dr. Hinshaw certainly appeared exhausted and annoyed when questioned about the government-led attacks on the integrity of those calling for more caution. The media questions were cut-off abruptly after she took the microphone to address a political question. The elected official in the room, Minister Adriana LaGrange, should have answered the question.
As has been pointed out by others, Dr. Hinshaw is not elected, she’s appointed. And she should be free to give advice on public health without fear of backlash from the public. That’s all out the window now, though. The lines are so blurred.
In this news conference, she should not have commented on the actions of her boss’s staff. It clearly puts her in a conflict of interest but nevertheless, she chose to wade into the question of ethics. The role confusion throughout the pandemic has been a major issue and this was just another example.
On top of everything, her answer was surprisingly petty. She appeared angered by the suggestion that she should not only admit she was wrong but that others were right.
She would say only that both sides are “not perfect” and have been wrong. Those who challenged the decision to rush ahead with a return to normal suffered open attacks on their integrity by people in positions of authority in the government. It sends a strong message of silencing dissenters and attacking private citizens. This is not building bridges, by any stretch.
So, while railing on about a loss of civility and divisiveness, Dr. Hinshaw refused to recognize her own words were further adding fuel to the fire.
Yes, hundreds of protesters were relieved to hear Dr. Hinshaw back down on plans to severely restrict testing and remove quarantine requirements. Their daily protests certainly had an impact but the main reason for the flip-flop was the rising number of hospitalizations (up more than 60%) in Alberta and the alarming number of children being hospitalized in the United States in states with low vaccination rates.
By the way, one of the three demands from protesters – tracing – was not reversed. Contact tracing will continue its slow collapse, having never reached any reasonable level of effectiveness. Albertans didn’t fully embrace the province’s tracing app largely due to distrust in the government and also the utter futility of the whole exercise. The province ramped up its contact tracing so late into the pandemic, most schools, businesses and others were forced to do their own anyway. Contact tracing will continue for outbreaks in high-risk locations like continuing and acute care facilities.
Protesters will take a few days to enjoy this victory, but they won’t be resting for long. They were also confronted with the reality that despite Dr. Hinshaw’s expressed concern about hospitalization numbers and new evidence emerging about the threat of the Delta variant to children, schools are opening in mere days as if back to normal.
Yet, Education Minister Adriana LaGrange was almost gleeful in her announcement after she took the microphone following Dr. Hinshaw’s cautionary remarks.
It was truly a headspinner.
“Thanks to the power of vaccines, and the dedication of Albertans, parents, students and schools staff can look forward to a normal school year this September, which includes a return to in-person classes, field trips, team sports, extracurricular clubs, school celebrations and reconnecting with friends and colleagues. International student programs, work experience and graduation celebrations can all continue as they normally would. And all with no restrictions!!”
“I’m very much looking forward to a normal school experience this fall and I know there are many, many Alberta parents and students who are also looking forward to it.”Alberta Education Minister, Adriana LaGrange
The two statements were in stark contrast. Dr. Hinshaw sounded reserved, concerned and cautious. Minister LaGrange came across as buoyant, worry-free and proceeded to throw caution to the wind. Yes to field trips, club and celebrations! Yes to returning to normal! One was left wondering whether she had heard a word of what Dr. Hinshaw had just said?
If there’s anything I’ve learned in my 30+ years as a professional communicator, it’s that a lack of clarity, contradictory statements of a lack of transparency usually lead to disagreements and conflict.
Think of any meeting you’ve been in where a leader wasn’t able to clearly articulate something, wasn’t consistent in their answers or was unable/unwilling to share background or context. In most cases, everyone leaves the meeting with their own conclusion and this often leads to disagreements as people lobby for their interpretation as the correct one.
This is what we have happening in Alberta right now. Although I used to believe this was due to not knowing any better, I’m no longer certain this isn’t a deliberate strategy. The UCP appear to be skilled at being unclear, inconsistent and obscuring the truth. They could be simply leveraging their natural talents for what Dr. Hinshaw has me now thinking about all the time — wickedness.
Let’s look at what else happened this past week to perhaps determine whether there may be a concerted effort to miscommunicate in order to divide Albertans.
Still no agreement with Ottawa on childcare
Alberta is one of the few provinces left without an agreement with Ottawa on affordable ($10/day) childcare. When Quebec announced its agreement on August 5, Minister of Children’s Services Rebecca Schulz issued a statement crying foul.
Alberta wants a no-strings-attached agreement with Ottawa whereby the money is transferred into general revenue without conditions. However, Quebec already has an equivalent childcare program that meets the goals of the federal initiative so the funds were earmarked for that. Shulz took to Twitter to complain of a double standard even though Alberta has nothing like the Quebec program in place.
This was obviously a misrepresentation of the facts.
Employment numbers for July – claiming victory prematurely
Statistics Canada released the labour force survey numbers for July. Kenney and Minister of Jobs, Economy and Innovation, Doug Schweitzer were quick to take credit for the monthly gain and try to claim victory on the jobs front. Yes, 20,000 new jobs were created last month compared to the previous month. However, independent journalist Kim Siever was able to explain what the numbers actually mean on one of several breaking news blog posts this month (check out this one on UCP nepotism).
“Remember, however, that these 308,900 new jobs follow two months of record job losses. Between February and April last year, Alberta lost 360,900 jobs, which means that there are still 52,000 lost jobs that haven’t recovered. About 1 in 7 of the jobs lost during the pandemic shutdown—14.4% actually—remains unfilled.”Kim Siever
A sleight of hand with the jobs numbers for sure.
Oops, they did it again – lying about nurses
As nurses set up information pickets across the province on August 11, Finance Minister Travis Toews issued a statement claiming the nurses union had rejected mediation. Turns out that wasn’t true.
Also, a story about hiring contract nurses swirled around on social media. Would you be surprised to discover that AHS was advertising a higher hourly wage for privately contracted nurses than nurses currently make. All while asking existing nurses to accept a wage rollback.
Caught red-handed paying more for private healthcare providers.
Code Red for climate but Alberta says it’s ready to increase fossil fuel production
According to Energy Minister Sonya Savage in a statement this week, Alberta is so ethical that all US President Joe Biden has to do is say the word and the province’s energy sector will ramp up to contribute to the worsening climate crisis.
“Alberta’s government will continue to push for new pipelines and new markets to support the industry, the jobs and the prosperity it creates.”Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage
With the world on fire, heatwaves killing people, drought devastating prairie farmers and sea levels rising, you’d think the UCP could read the room, but nope.
“…our industry is at the forefront of innovation and technology to reduce emissions and produce oil with the lowest carbon footprint.”Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage
Literally no one – no one believes this.
Let me know what you think —is the UCP communication just incompetent or is it a concerted effort to mislead?
Climate calamity of the week: This is one of the most alarming articles I read this week about the ocean and what is happening with the Gulf Stream – TLDR: It may be collapsing, which would be catastrophic.
Before you read that article though, here’s the new Lizzo release to lift your spirits. Warning: Explicit language and plenty of big girl awesomeness.
Jody MacPherson is a professional communicator, commuting cyclist (currently working from home), and has been wrong at least once in the past.