Alberta NDP Economic Development Critic Deron Bilous. David J. Climenhaga/
Alberta NDP Economic Development Critic Deron Bilous. David J. Climenhaga/

Astonishingly given its record, Alberta’s United Conservative Party government has actually upgraded its easy-to-forge vaccine passport in jig time!

There’s only one problem. It doesn’t work. 

But don’t worry, we’re told by our dependably undependable government, it’ll work “soon.”

Two weeks ago, “Jobs, Economy and Innovation” Minister Doug Schweitzer promised Albertans they would have what the Kenney government insists on calling a “restriction exemption program” thingy by Oct. 1. 

So, I guess they can say they delivered … even if it doesn’t work. 

NDP Economic Development Critic Deron Bilous was not impressed. “The UCP has had weeks to develop a secure vaccine passport system,” he said. “Every day without one further risks public health, the personal information of Albertans, and damage to our economy.”

Meanwhile, the NDP noted in a news release, Quebec, Manitoba, and British Columbia have all introduced working QR codes for proof of vaccination. Saskatchewan also launched a QR code system that works on Wednesday even though it announced its system a day after Alberta. 

Alberta Health (the government department, that is, not the massive health care agency with a confusingly similar name) blames the delay on smart phone makers’ policies for approving apps. This doesn’t explain how Quebec, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and B.C. all managed to avoid that problem. 

“There is no reason for the delays from the UCP,” Bilous said. 

In the meantime, the government says, Albertans can continue to use their old, forgeable vaxxports. In fact, they’ll almost certainly continue to be used by some Albertans until the end of the pandemic, whenever that is. 

This may prove that Gresham’s famous law applies to more things than money — that is to say, bad vaccine passports debase the good. 

Alert readers will recall that back in the summer and fall of 2020, the Kenney government promised to let Albertans access Ottawa’s COVID Alert app because the province’s ABTraceTogether app was useless. 

It’s a moot point, I suppose, now that tracking apps have pretty well been abandoned as ineffective, but the federal app still hasn’t been activated to work in Alberta.

Maybe it just wasn’t fun anymore: Stephen Mandel quits AHS board

Stephen Mandel has quit the board of Alberta Health Services. 

No reasons were given in a note sent to employees, physicians and volunteers by AHS Board Chair David Weyant, a copy of which was posted online yesterday by Progress Alberta’s Progress Report.  

Best known as a three-term Edmonton mayor from 2004 to 2013, Mandel was the unelected minister of health in Progressive Conservative premier Jim Prentice’s cabinet for eight and a half months in 2014 and 2015. That gig ended when he inconveniently failed to win a seat in the 2015 provincial election and, even more inconveniently, the NDP won a majority. 

Soon thereafter, in February 2018, Mandel was made leader of the Alberta Party in some kind of insider shuffle, hard to fathom since the party had a perfectly good leader in Greg Clark at the time.

Mandel quit that job in June 2019 after the Alberta Party failed to win a single seat in the provincial election the previous April. 

By September he’d been appointed with great fanfare to the AHS board by former health minister Tyler Shandro. He was touted by a Kenney-friendly columnist as “a symbol of cross-party co-operation during the health-care upheaval to come.”

His appointment proved, I wrote at the time, that failure is no barrier to success in Jason Kenney’s Alberta. 

As it turned out, though, the health care upheaval that came wasn’t the one that everyone expected in the fall of 2019. So maybe being on the AHS board just wasn’t any fun anymore. 

Whatever happened — other than COVID-19 and the related implosion of the Kenney government, that is — it looks like Mandel, 76, has moseyed off into the sunset once again. 

Weyant praised him for efforts to persuade AHS to “capitalize on its extensive real-estate holdings.” (Say what?)

Of the famously irascible former politician, Weyant said diplomatically, “I will miss Stephen’s candour, dry wit, and the ease with which he spoke his mind.” 

Canadian Energy Pipeline Association folds its tent 

A sign of the times, perhaps, The Globe and Mail has reported that the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association has pulled its own plug and will cease operations by Dec. 31. 

The end of CEPA, the Globe intoned, “underscores the seismic shift under way in the energy sector” as fossil fuel corporations and investors alike pivot to green energy and attitudes. 

CEPA’s board made the decision to close up shop, the Globe said, when three major energy companies walked away. 

But, but, sputtered pipeline advocates in Alberta, we still need pipelines for … hydrogen! 

Whatever will the Kenney government have to say about this, not to mention the UCP’s petro-separatist caucus, which still dreams of founding a petro-republic in Wild Rose Country fuelled by carbon? 

Presumably the crack staff of the Alberta Energy War Room, authors of the Choose Friendly Oil campaign on a couple of electronic billboards south of the Medicine Line, will have to step up and fill the gap.

That should work well.

David J. Climenhaga

David J. Climenhaga

David Climenhaga is a journalist and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. He left journalism after the strike...