Alberta Premier Jason Kenney at yesterday's COVID-19 news conference (Screenshot).

Jason Kenney held a news conference about nothing yesterday.

Alberta’s premier said he’s “very determined” there will be no additional delays and schools will reopen as planned on Monday, the continued rapid spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 notwithstanding. It doesn’t sound as if much has been done to make schools safer, so teachers will just have to suck it up.

Unlike other jurisdictions, no additional measures to control transmission of the virus will be implemented. So hard-pressed health care workers will have to suck it up too.

Kenney urged Albertans as he habitually does to behave responsibly, get their boosters, reduce their social contacts, and take a rapid test if they can find one. We’ll all need to suck it up.

And while he said he’ll be meeting his COVID Cabinet Committee today, there was no indication any decisions will be made or new policies implemented by the United Conservative Party government.

So, not nothing, exactly. Just the same old, same old.

If you were thinking of a certain TV sitcom often described as a show about nothing, the effect was similar, but not identical.

No comic genius like Larry David is plotting clever dialogue behind the scenes. There is no jangly music between the premier’s meaningless responses to reporters’ non sequiturs.

The only time Kenney showed much animation yesterday was when he pivoted in response to a journalist’s question to crossly blame Calgary City Council for the breakdown in negotiations with a group of penny-pinching billionaires to build a new arena for the Calgary Flames with public money. (Ken King must be spinning like a top in the Flames section of paradise!)

Still, things are happening because nothing is happening.

For example, last Friday pregnancy services were temporarily shut down at the Fort Saskatchewan Community Hospital because too many staff were off sick with COVID. The facility has since reopened, but it’s probably not the last time something like that will happen at an Alberta health care facility in the near future.

But there’s nothing you can do about that either. So the effect is alarming, not amusing.

Kenney and his cabinet have taken the same approach to the pandemic, in other words, as Alberta governments have traditionally taken to low fossil fuel resource prices: they’re praying for things to improve.

They pray for higher oil prices so that they can declare their stewardship a financial success; for lower hospitalizations because of Omicron’s presumed reduced lethality so that they can declare their crisis management an epidemiological triumph.

In other words, as was once said, unfairly, of Progressive Conservative premier Ed Stelmach: No plan … no plan … 

Why schedule a news conference when there’s so little to say that the government can’t even be bothered to compose a news release? (And who ever heard of that?)

Well, I suppose Kenney needs to demonstrate to Albertans that notwithstanding his plummeting approval rate and all the talk of rebels in his caucus he’s still the premier, still in charge.

And Chief Medical Officer of Health Deena Hinshaw, who co-starred with him in yesterday’s unfunny episode of Kenney, is needed to read out the grim statistics.

COVID cases are breaking records again, she said. There are 34,276 known active cases in the province now, although there are probably many more. 

There were nearly 13,000 new cases reported between Dec. 31 and yesterday. As of yesterday there were 436 people in hospital with COVID. There have been 12 COVID deaths since Dec. 28, including a child under 9.

Thursday’s 4,614 new cases broke another daily record.

Even Kenney admitted that despite Omicron’s apparent less lethal nature things are likely to get worse before they get better. “We are all concerned that even a very small fraction of people being hospitalized on a huge number of people who’ve been infected can put unacceptable pressure on the health care system.” 

But maybe next summer can be the Best Summer Ever.

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...