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COVID surges in Alberta and there's still no sign of the premier nor health minister

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Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, as he appeared the last time he was seen in public (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

Alberta's premier hasn't been seen in public since Aug. 9.

But he's just on holiday, Jason Kenney's spokesperson says. "He is of course still able to fully communicate with his cabinet and senior officials as required," Jerrica Goodwin said in a statement yesterday that, seemingly, was intended to reassure us someone's still in charge.

"In fact, he has participated in numerous briefings on important subjects, including COVID-19, while on holidays," she added. That, at least, would suggest he's not in intensive care.

The prevailing wisdom is the premier's hiding out to avoid having to answer questions that might prove embarrassing to the federal Conservatives' election campaign.

Speaking of COVID-19, there were 1,120 new cases of the disease confirmed in Alberta yesterday and the province leads the country in active cases -- 9,066 of them.

We're clearly at the start of the fourth wave of COVID everyone but the premier and his officials predicted when the government announced we were "open for good" and gearing up for "the best summer ever." You know, the scenario Kenney and his experts just didn't see happening when he was asked about it back on June 18.

No one in the United Conservative Party government will say how bad they think it might get. The fourth-wave modelling information Chief Medical Officer of Health Deena Hinshaw promised she'd publish soon still hasn't been released.

On Aug. 13, she told a news conference her staff was "working hard on a synthesis of all that evidence in a form that we can release publicly." On Aug 19 they were still "moving through all of the processes that are necessary in government" to get it released. Yesterday, reporters were told it would be available "in the near future."

In the meantime, pandemic modellers in British Columbia say they expect Alberta's infection rate to double in about a week.

Health Minister Tyler Shadro, who has been MIA since July 28, did show up after a fashion yesterday, telling Albertans on social media that there's no way the province will provide them with a vaccine passport.

"The Alberta government has not and will not mandate a so-called 'vaccine passport' for domestic use," he tweeted. "But some Albertans, for whatever reason, are still hoping to receive a more formal document," he added, rather sneeringly. Well, if you're one of those un-Albertan Albertans, you can print a copy of your not-very-official looking MyHealth website record on a piece of cardboard and see if anyone believes you.

So while Alberta's government is not doing or saying much useful about the surge in COVID-19 cases, what is it up to?

Well, Indigenous Relations Minister Rick Wilson made it clear Alberta won't be recognizing the federal government's new Sept. 30 statutory holiday, the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. Nope, the UCP won't introduce legislation to enshrine the solemn holiday in Alberta, Wilson said via his press secretary. They'll leave it up to employers to decide if they'll honour the occasion. The Alberta Union of Provincial Employees quickly filed a grievance against several public health care employers.

At least the UCP hasn't followed the example of those southern U.S. states that timed state holidays honoring confederate military men to coincide with January's Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Presumably Alberta won't be announcing Colonialism Day, or perhaps Dominionism Day, for Sept. 30 just yet.

Meanwhile, Justice Minister Kaycee Madu yesterday announced the appointment of a "chief firearms officer" to subvert enforcement of federal gun control legislation.

Teri Bryant, a gun collector and former University of Calgary business instructor, will lobby the federal government for weaker firearms legislation and spout nonsense about getting a "fair deal" for the richest province in Confederation. She will "demonstrate that public safety and a flourishing firearms community are mutually complementary goals," the government's news release stated oxymoronically.

Bryant will begin her duties with a province-wide tour of Alberta shooting ranges.

I tell you, people, you can't make this stuff up.

If Alberta were an independent country, they'd be writing pieces in the New York Times and Foreign Affairs Magazine about how the place was on the verge of becoming a failed state!

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: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr


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