The University of Lethbridge -- now able to demand proof of vaccination and make students wear non-medical masks. Image: Josh*m/Flickr

The universities of Alberta, Calgary and Lethbridge announced a joint back-to-school vaccine strategy yesterday that will require everyone on campus who can’t prove they’ve been fully vaccinated to undergo rapid COVID-19 testing.

“Students, faculty, and staff who are not fully vaccinated, and those who would prefer not to disclose their vaccine status, will need to regularly complete a rapid screening test and receive a negative result before they participate in in-person activities,” read the news release published by the three post-secondary institutions.

What’s more, the release said, non-medical face masks must now be worn in all public indoor areas of the three universities’ campuses where physical distancing is not possible.

Wait! Rewind!

How can this be? Just three weeks ago, university administrators were telling nervous professors it was simply impossible.

“There is no mechanism that would allow institutions to require students to be vaccinated for in-person attendance on campus,” Taylor Hides, press secretary to Advanced Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides, said on July 29.

Well, that was then and this is now. Last Friday, Chief Medical Officer of Health Deena Hinshaw walked back most of the province’s risky July 28 plan to ignore the Delta variant and announced instead it would put off suspending testing, contract tracing and mandatory isolation until the end of September.

Will everything change again at that point — presuming the Delta variant fourth wave isn’t packing the province’s hospitals again with unvaccinated Albertans?

Probably.

After all, the federal election called by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Sunday is scheduled to take place on Sept. 20. As noted in this space on Monday, that was the moment that Alberta Conservatives who had been declaring the pandemic to be all but over and Alberta to be open for good changed their tune to a dirge about cynical Liberals calling an election in the midst of a deadly pandemic.

Looks like masks and restrictions on university students’ freedom to infect their fellow scholars with respiratory illnesses will have to remain in place at least until the election as Canada’s Conservatives blame the prime minister and pray for a repeat of yesterday’s Nova Scotia election at the end of next month.

The triumphant Bluenose Tories are not quite the sour prairie reactionaries who dominate the federal Conservative Party led by Erin O’Toole, but just the same, last night’s majority outcome must be making the prime minister’s inner circle wonder if they chose the right moment to call an election.

It’s said here a nice surprise on Sept 20 would be an unexpected election victory by Jagmeet Singh’s New Democrats with the Liberals reduced to a capable opposition.

No Alberta Senate election voting on First Nations reserves

There will be no voting in Alberta’s supposedly crucial Senate nominee election on First Nations reserves in the province.

While not exactly a secret, this troubling fact seems to have escaped mention by the United Conservative Party government that is pushing the Senate vote or notice by the media. Arguably, it completely invalidates whatever dubious legitimacy the constitutionally meaningless Senate election might have.

Senate vote candidate Duncan Kinney — who is campaigning on abolishing the unelected upper house of the Canadian Parliament — tweeted yesterday that he’d finally gotten through to the Municipal Affairs Department to ask where on-reserve voters could go to cast their Senate ballots.

The answer: They’ll have to make the trek to a neighbouring municipality, which in some cases may not be an onerous requirement, but in many will make voting all but impossible.

“This excludes around 150,000 people from the process,” Kinney said.

Alberta’s United Conservatives: finding new ways to suppress the vote.

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: Josh*m/Flickr

David J. Climenhaga

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 with the Globe...