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Coronavirus pandemic? What a peculiar time for the health minister to pursue a fight with Alberta's physicians

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Image: Tyler Shandro/Twitter

Hey! It's Friday the 13th in the age of the coronavirus. Are you feeling lucky?

Apparently Tyler Shandro and Tara Jago are.

Leastways, Alberta's heath minister and his "issues manager" were yesterday when, global coronavirus pandemic and all that stuff notwithstanding, they were busy on social media yelling at Alberta's physicians and their supporters for not knuckling under to the United Conservative Party's compensation rollback demands.

"Spending is out of line with comparator provinces," huffed Jago in an epically ill-timed tweet that set off the mother of all ratios. She was repeating a UCP talking point that may have had some currency a couple of weeks ago but, rather like the stock markets, has lost a certain amount of value in the past few days.

For his part, Shandro offered a patronizing tweet discourse trying to explain why he's right and the Alberta Medical Association is wrong about his planned pay cuts while the docs are rolling up their sleeves to cope with COVID-19.

Meanwhile, Premier Jason Kenney was in Ottawa, apparently more worried about the parlous state of the oil industry than the actual physical health of Albertans, demanding more money from the federal government so that the UCP can continue its campaign to have the lowest corporate taxes in North America.

As for requiring, even temporarily, that workers who have to take time off to "self isolate" or recover properly get paid sick leave, Kenney didn't seem too sure about that. He thought employers could be counted on to do the right thing.

Seriously, what's wrong with these people? Like Donald Trump, as long as Twitter's up and running, they just never stop campaigning and gas-lighting, even when they have a majority government and three years left in their mandate. Under the current frightening circumstances, it's bizarre.

You'd think they'd want to take a breath, put their ideological projects on the back burner for a few months, talk sweet to the province's furious doctors, not to mention the other health-care workers who are almost as mad, and try to help the rest of us ride out the storm as safely as possible.

I can assure you that’s what a majority of the population of Alberta wants right now at this disturbing moment in history.

Meanwhile, Alberta's chief medical officer of health called for all gatherings of more than 250 people in the province to be cancelled -- with a few political-sounding exceptions, like church services, in addition to some practical ones, like grocery stores.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw's statement also applied to any event with more than 50 people that includes international participants, health-care professionals or high-risk populations such as seniors.

Hinshaw also recommended that Albertans not travel anywhere outside the country, including to the currently mismanaged United States, and if they're coming home from anywhere, that they isolate themselves for two weeks, long enough to induce cabin fever in most of us.

This was phrased as a request, not a demand, possibly a failure of nerve by the political level of government. Nevertheless, the decision appeared to be greeted with relief yesterday by most Albertans -- although that consensus is bound to fray if the situation drags on, as seems likely.

Linda Silas pauses campaign lead CLC to focus on coronavirus response

Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, a politician of another sort was demonstrating what politicians ought to do in circumstances like these.

Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions president Linda Silas suspended all campaign activities in her bid to become the next president of the Canadian Labour Congress to focus on concerns related to the coronavirus crisis in Canada.

"Let us be clear: Linda is still in this race," her campaign said in a news release. "But Linda believes we must all turn our focus to the larger challenge facing Canada and the world."

As it happens, in her current elected position, she is ideally positioned to do that, already leading an effective campaign to keep health-care workers and the rest of us safe in the face of COVID-19.

"Linda's leadership is a model for all of us in this crucial moment," the news release said. The premier, his health minister and their various issues managers would benefit from taking note.

David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions at The Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. This post also appears on his blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

Image: Tyler Shandro/Twitter

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