Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro and other United Conservative Party officials reacted with predictable belligerence yesterday to federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu’s letter chiding them for abandoning such public health measures as COVID-19 testing, contact tracing and mandatory isolation.
In a nine-part tweetstorm, Shandro accused the federal Liberals of treating Alberta as their favourite punching bag — ironic for a leading light of a political party that has attacked the same Liberals day in and day out for nigh on three years.
But there was barely a line in the minister’s cringeworthy tweeted complaints that didn’t seem ready made for a sly Liberal campaign to use Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s unpopular policies to embarrass and undermine federal Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole.
“The feds’ own track record on decisive action on COVID-19 has been atrocious — from leaving borders wide open in the early days of the pandemic to failing miserably on quickly procuring vaccines,” Shandro claimed in one part of the thread.
Well, no one can say the UCP lacks chutzpah. Ottawa’s response to the pandemic was so atrocious that Canada has now vaccinated more citizens than any other wealthy nation in the industrialized West.
“It’s beyond ironic that at the very time Min. Hajdu was sending her supposed letter of concern, her boss is preparing to crisscross the country for his opportunistic election,” Shandro huffed.
This appears to be a key UCP talking point. “You can’t claim concern about COVID today and then call a national election tomorrow,” whined Kenney’s communications director, Brock Harrison, in outraged tones. “That’s called hypocrisy.”
Well, as the Twitterati were quick to respond, that’s hard to justify when your boss has just declared that COVID has been vanquished and we can all get back to normal. Some might even call it a trifle hypocritical.
“I find it disheartening that Ms. Hajdu would choose to play partisan games by rejecting scientific evidence for the purpose of scoring cheap political points,” Shandro concluded his tweet stream on a similar note, also not without similar irony.
After all, we still don’t really know what the scientific rationale for Alberta’s policy change is and the UCP proclivity for trying to score cheap political points on the Liberals at every turn is legendary.
As for Shandro’s insistence that Chief Medical Officer of Health Deena Hinshaw’s decisions “are in line with the science,” the good doctor’s likewise qualified counterparts in other Canadian provinces appear to disagree.
“I think it’s pretty clear that it’s premature to say that the pandemic is over and we can treat COVID like it’s the same as any other respiratory virus,” Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health said just yesterday. “We will not be following those steps,” Robert Strang added firmly.
Readers will note that Premier Jason Kenney and Shandro are always careful to make sure Hinshaw gets the credit for the controversial plan. You can’t be too careful when COVID counts can go up dramatically in a day, and there’s no way they want to have to wear it if things go south again.
In the meantime, daily big-city protests against the government’s decision to abandon basic public health measures continue to draw crowds. The UCP continues to govern as if it were an opposition party, unsure whether the government it opposes is the one in Ottawa or the NDP members across the aisle in Edmonton.
And the suspense continues over whether or not Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will call an election, forcing Alberta Conservatives to continue advocating laughably contradictory positions.
In other words, the Best Summer Ever ™ continues apace. Eyerolls all ’round.
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 credit: Chris Schwarz/Alberta Newsroom/Flickr