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Leaked modelling forecasts Alberta intensive care units will be packed by mid-December

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Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notley. Image: Screenshot of Alberta Legislature video/YouTube

In the first unauthorized information leak of December, Alberta's NDP Opposition revealed yesterday Alberta Health Services case modelling projects that about 775 Albertans will be in hospital with COVID-19 in just two weeks.

More than 160 of them will be in intensive care units, further straining the overstressed provincial health system's ability to cope, Opposition leader Rachel Notley said.

Alberta's United Conservative Party premier, Jason Kenney -- who is apparently prepared to do almost anything to keep the province's bars, restaurants and casinos open -- has been claiming for more than a month the province doesn't have any recent coronavirus caseload modelling.

"Yet the premier has indicated that he will not even review his grab-bag, lack-of-evidence, inconsistent measures until December 14," Notley told reporters outside the legislature's chamber yesterday.

"Health care workers are already exhausted and overwhelmed, hospitals are already nearing the brink, we're already running out of oxygen," the former NDP premier said -- the last point a nod to the previous day's leak, the last one in November, that oxygen use in several major Alberta hospitals is now being rationed because of the number of COVID-19 cases.

Two weeks of COVID case modelling may be all her party could get its hands on, Notley added, but "I do believe that they probably have information for more than two weeks."

Of course the government does. And when governments pursue unpopular, clearly dangerous policies, and hide the facts about them, as Kenney's UCP has been doing, public spirited leakers will leak. So expect more of the same.

And when those leakers leak, paranoid and secretive governments like Kenney's will accuse the leakers of personal betrayal and virtual treason.

That is what UCP officials were doing at the end of last week when leaked audio tapes of senior officials meeting revealed how cabinet has ignored the advice of Chief Medical Officer of Health Deena Hinshaw while using her expertise as a shield against criticism of their half-hearted pandemic-control measures.

Well, whatever the Kenney government says to defend its efforts to control COVID while hurrying to reopen the economy, it's pretty hard to claim they're a success by any measure.

November was the worst month so far in Alberta since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. There were 6,002 active cases of the disease on the first day of the month. There were 16,628 on the last day. The province regularly set new infection records throughout.

As for the premier himself, a new Angus Reid Institute survey suggests he's the second least popular premier in the country, with only 40 per cent of Albertans approving of the job he's doing.

That had even usually compliant political columnists assailing him for coddling his party's far-right base -- apparently anti-maskers to a man and woman -- while he refuses to implement sound and popular public health measures to suppress the virus.

But just because November was the worst month of the pandemic so far, there's absolutely no reason to believe it'll be the worst month of 2020.

After all, there are still 30 days left in December!

Kenney's strategy for fixing the pandemic is the same as his plan for fixing the economy after collapse of the fossil fuel industry. He's waiting for a COVID-19 vaccine to make the pandemic go away, just like he was waiting for Donald Trump's re-election and a couple of new pipelines to make Alberta great again.

If they both fall through, he's got a fall-back plan: Blame Justin Trudeau.

So what could possibly go wrong? Other than Christmas and New Year's, of course.

Surely by New Year's Day Mr. Kenney will be even less popular than Manitoba's Brian Pallister, who according to the Angus Reid pollsters is right now the Dominion's least popular premier.

Ecojustice vows to press on after court denies bid for injunction to halt Alberta inquiry

Ecojustice Canada Society vowed Monday to press on after the Alberta Court of Queen's Bench dismissed its application for an injunction to suspend Alberta's fatuous Public Inquiry into Funding of Anti-Alberta Energy Campaigns until the inquiry's legality can be established.

The Ecojustice court challenge will continue, executive director Devon Page said:

"This inquiry is nothing more than a political stunt, without a legitimate objective or transparent fact-finding process, and Ecojustice remains committed to challenging the inquiry's legality in court in the coming months. Canadians should be free to criticize Alberta's unsustainable oil and gas policies without fear that judicial processes will be manipulated to silence them."

The court found that the harm posed by the inquiry is "speculative" until its much-delayed public report is released.

MP accuses premier of 'heartless disregard' for front-line health-care workers

New Democrat Heather McPherson, Alberta's only non-Conservative member of Parliament, has called on Premier Kenney to access Ottawa's temporary wage top-up for essential workers.

"I implore you to set aside your differences with the federal government and access the $300 million in federal funding still available to top up the wages of Alberta's essential workers who are risking their lives for us during this pandemic," the Edmonton Strathcona MP urged the premier in an open letter Monday.

After an official inquiry by the federal NDP last week, Finance Canada revealed Alberta has been dipping into the U.S. Republican playbook and refusing to touch the federal money, presumably to avoid having to give Prime Minister Trudeau some of the credit.

The UCP may also be reluctant to give health-care workers even a temporary raise when their longer-term plans for cuts to their wages.

Kenney's "heartless disregard" for its front-line health-care workers "doesn't have to continue," McPherson said in a statement.

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.

Image: Screenshot of Alberta Legislature video/YouTube

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