Erratic decisions as per usual, Aug. 25-Sept. 5, 2021

This post originally appeared in my weekly newsletter, “The Missive” on Nov. 19, 2021. Subscribe for free at: https://jodymacpherson.substack.com/ or access background info and special content with a paid subscription.

Erin O’Toole finally allowed Premier Jason Kenney to return to Alberta and already we want him to take Kenney back.

Kenney says he was at work on Tuesday and by Friday he had unleashed another round of erratic public health orders with the help of Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw.

The Sun’s Rick Bell reported there was a tense caucus meeting on Thursday where he sat outside for hours hoping to get a scoop to no avail. However, he did report this:

“They jawed over it. They pushed and pulled and wrestled not only with the virus but with the politics of the situation.

We are a little more than a couple months and a universe away from Kenney’s proclamation of Best Summer Ever, when almost all restrictions were sent packing, the worst was thought to be over, far better times were ahead and the Best Autumn Ever and the Best Winter Ever would follow.

All that was missing was the Mission Accomplished sign.

For some in the Kenney ranks, sad, shocked, disheartened, gut-punched, it now feels closer to Mission Impossible.”

Rick Bell

The next morning, the details were finalized by cabinet and sadly, it appears there was no serious consideration given to a vaccine passport. Instead, Kenney decided to go with an upside down version of “Ralph Bucks,” where the undeserving get $100 for digging their heels in and not getting the vaccine.

It happened like this: Kenney appeared at the podium on Friday looking grim and a little unwell. He did not look like someone who had a restful vacation, even though he was gone for about 20 days (no one knows for sure how many days he took off or where he went).

Since he trusts no one enough to make them Deputy Premier, he fled the province (rumoured to be somewhere in Europe) having left no official leader in charge. He later said on a Facebook live event that he checked in regularly on his “personal time” as he called it. The man is the ultimate micromanager.

The big announcement was that Alberta’s “best summer ever” and early opening for the Calgary Stampede was an abject failure. In response, Kenney and the UCP caucus decided to give $100 to everyone who is eligible for vaccination (but has refused to do so thus far) if – and it’s a big if – they get the shot.

In addition to the terrible message this sends, the evidence shows these kinds of incentives DON’T WORK. Those who haven’t gotten the vaccine yet are truly afraid to get immunized. They’d rather ingest horse dewormer than take the vaccine. A hundred dollars isn’t going to convince them. Kenney insists, however, that the money will help those in rural areas get to a vaccination site (seriously?) or encourage low-income Albertans to make time for the shot (if they can get the time off work?)

Of course, it’s unlikely they have the slightest clue about the unvaccinated 25%, who they are and their actual reasons. Gathering information and listening to Albertans is not their strong suit. Just ask the tens of thousands of parents and teachers who are trying to send a message on the K-6 curriculum. The UCP is stubbornly disconnected from reality on every front. The circles they run in are not representative of the general population.

Take, for example, Lethbridge MLA Nathan Neudorf who seems only concerned with businesses staying open and keeping the economy going. He is comfortable with COVID-19 accelerating in unvaccinated people because as he explains, the virus will eventually run out of people to infect and then decline. Neudorf is still spouting a variation of the discredited Great Barrington Declaration when the majority of unvaccinated people in Alberta are CHILDREN under the age of 12. This guy should be fired for incompetence. He can’t even keep up.

Also, masking in indoor spaces is back on. But not for schools. Or churches.

Of course, as was previously the case, only those of us who actually care about other people will follow the masking rules. The government won’t enforce them and those who don’t care will continue to go wherever they like without masks.

Conspicuously missing from the news conference was any mention of providing people with improved, official proof of vaccination (as required to travel).

There can be no denying this was a political decision, since the data is clear that issuing vaccine passports significantly drives vaccination numbers up.

Kenney claimed in the news conference that they had tried “everything” and “left no stone unturned” in trying to convince people to get vaccinated.

Of course, there is one giant stone they refuse to acknowledge, even though it’s sitting out there on the horizon as obvious as the famous Okotoks Erratic.

Dr. Hinshaw was asked by a reporter why Alberta is not considering a proof of vaccination and she gave a garbled non-response, then grabbed her mask and bolted from the lectern as they immediately terminated the news conference to avoid follow-up.

Seriously, why would you want to be on the side of these people at all? As if to provide further proof of how confused the government is about it’s own health orders, they’ve already started issuing exemptions for – get this – rodeos in rural Alberta.

Overall, Alberta’s COVID numbers are the worst in the country. On Friday, Dr. Verna Yiu, the CEO of AHS who says she is “honoured to have the best job in Canadian healthcare” (according to her Twitter profile) announced:

“Up to 60 per cent of surgeries are estimated to be postponed in the North zone next week, while as much as 50 per cent of surgeries or procedures may be delayed in the Edmonton zone, stated an AHS news release.

Central, Calgary and South zones will see about 30 per cent of its surgeries, procedures or outpatient visits affected. As well, planned endoscopy procedures in those three zones will be postponed by 30 to 40 per cent.”

Dr. Verna Yiu

Between this unfolding disaster and the ongoing protests at Alberta hospitals by the “anti-everything-that’s-good-for-society” crowd, Dr. Yiu may not feel she has the “best job” right now. She hasn’t tweeted anything since July 1, which is when the province opened up fully and everything went alarmingly sideways. And with good reason. As of Thursday, there are 487 people in hospital being treated for COVID-19, including 114 patients in ICU. Alberta’s ICUs are at 95 per cent capacity.

While Kenney was “away,” Dr. Yiu announced mandatory vaccinations for all Alberta Health Services workers, a move that deserves applause. One does wonder though whether her decision had support from the political bosses. It seems unlikely. Albertans can thank her for doing the right thing regardless. Dr. Hinshaw should take note.

One other major admission from this week’s news conference was the reason no news conferences or briefings were held why Kenney was away. As many had speculated, it was purely due to politics. Kenney stated for the record that it is a tradition not to make any big announcements involving multiple levels of government during the campaign period.

That may be partly true, but we haven’t had an election in the middle of a pandemic that has killed 4.5 million people all over the world in 18 months (not since 1918 anyway) either. Surely, this tradition could be set aside due to exceptional circumstances?

One of the most noteworthy developments since the last newsletter is the emergence of a vocal coalition of medical professionals, academics, researchers and data scientists under the banner of the “Protect Our Province Alberta” on Twitter.

The group began holding live news conferences on Monday, August 30 to fill the vacuum left by the Alberta government and the Chief Medical Officer of Health.

Among the topics discussed in the livestreams emerging out of @PopAlberta so far are: airborne transmission of COVID-19; back-to-school safety; vaccine inequity; long COVID; proper masking protection and the importance of taking a COVID-zero approach.

Albertans have not been given the latest information about how COVID-19, especially the Delta variant, is actually transmitted by aerosols. It’s shocking that AHS recently tweeted about the “possible role of aerosols” when the science on this is considered strong.

Not only do the POP Alberta livestreams cover the most up-to-date scientific studies and data, but they also provide – GASP! – graph and charts. Experts are on line to explain them and answer questions from the public and the media.

At the Friday Alberta government news conference, Dr. Hinshaw apologized for not having her data available on screen. With the full resources of government behind them, this medical officer can’t even offer a slide show. Viewers were directed to the website for later viewing.

The worst communication fail though is the fact that she only Friday provided the background data for the decision to open up the province fully. This was delivered weeks after it was promised.

As for the evidence Dr. Hinshaw used to make the decision, the reviews have not been good so far: https://twitter.com/dani_susanna/status/1433951410735902721

Strangely enough, the Friday news conference with Kenney, Shandro, Dr. Yiu and Dr. Hinshaw did not include an ASL interpreter, which is shocking considering the gravity of the announcement. The POP Alberta livestream on the Wednesday before was notable in that a favourite ASL interpreter used by the government was on hand for their translation.

Finally, the Protect Our Province livestreams have all begun with a land acknowledgement, a practice that was discontinued when the UCP government was elected in 2019. They put the government to shame, on every level.

In light of some of the vitriol directed at healthcare workers this week, I thought I would end with a tribute video. This is a lovely song @fromthepoint posted on a thread via Twitter this past week. Know that your sacrifices are profoundly appreciated by the vast majority. Thank you so much.

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