It seems appropriate that the United Conservative Party has chosen “Alberta on the rise” as the theme of its 2021 annual general meeting in November.
“Alberta is OPEN! Come join us in person for the AGM this fall,” the UCP’s convention website pleads. (Emphasis added.)
Call the UCP tone deaf if you like, but as one wag of my acquaintance tartly observed yesterday, this could be the theme for the whole UCP government!
Temperatures are rising. So’s the deficit. And, above all, COVID-19 hospitalizations and ICU admissions are rising so fast they’re breaking records!
Over the long weekend, Alberta posted 4,903 new cases of COVID. That’s close enough to 5,000 for government work, as my mama used to say. Thanks to lackadaisical testing, it’s a certainty that the true number is higher, possibly dramatically higher.
The province is not only leading the country in new COVID-19 cases, but active cases as well, the CBC reported yesterday, of which there are 15,486 across the province.
By comparison, the broadcaster noted dryly, “Ontario, a province with more than three times the population, has less than half the number of active cases.”
Wild Rose Country leads all other Canadian jurisdictions for active cases per 100,000 people by a considerable margin as well, 349 compared to a Canadian average of 97. This is well ahead of our neighbours and closest competitors, the Northwest Territories (301), Saskatchewan (270) and British Columbia (113).
New cases in Alberta could climb to 6,000 a day by the start of next month — and with schools now open, without mask mandates in many locations, and the well-known infectiousness of the Delta variant of the coronavirus, they probably will.
If they do, the provincial health care system, which is in critical condition now, may succumb.
This was all foreseen and publicly forecast in July when Premier Jason Kenney declared the province “open for good,” promised us the best summer ever, and spent most of August out of sight if not out of mind, on vacation at a still-undisclosed location.
Kenney returned at the start of this month long enough to be caught grabbing a shawarma and to infuriate the province by announcing $100 for any vaccine-resistant holdout who would volunteer for a COVID inoculation, and then fell silent again.
Well, who can blame him? Our Mackenzie-King-like premier’s dream of becoming prime minister of Canada seems to have drifted away like so much campfire smoke in a breeze and his exit plan to get back to the bright lights of Ottawa now depends on the success of Erin O’Toole, the colourless federal Conservative leader.
Under those circumstances, his nature notwithstanding, silence befits Alberta’s premier.
Better to suffer in silence, at any rate, than to have voters in other provinces connect such large and closely located dots as Kenney, O’Toole, Stephen Harper, the cultivation of anti-vaxxers and mask resistors, and Alberta’s soaring fourth wave of COVID infections.
Even unco-operative MLAs in Kenney’s own government caucus can’t goad the premier into speaking his mind.
Airdrie-Cochrane MLA Peter Guthrie publicly apologized yesterday to his constituents for the premier’s reopening strategy — not because it is so obviously a spectacular failure, but because it’s not as wide open as residents of Guthrie’s mostly rural Calgary area riding would apparently like to see. He also urged the minister to ignore the pleas of many Albertans to create a “vaccine passport.”
This must have been embarrassing, but the premier, uncharacteristically, kept his own counsel.
Neither Kenney nor whoever operates his normally frenetic Twitter account has tweeted anything since Friday. His Facebook account has also been inactive for four days.
Fitting, then, that Kenney’s smirking image on the sign-up page for the UCP’s celebration of Alberta on the rise appears to be fading into invisibility.
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