It’s almost magical the way something can be true one day in Alberta and the complete opposite is true the next.
Readers need not be particularly well informed to recall Premier Jason Kenney’s confident pronouncement that a constitutional principle prevents MLAs from being held to the same standard as Alberta civil servants when it comes to having to be vaccinated to go to work.
After all, the premier explained this to us with his usual easy certainty only last Thursday.
That was at the news conference he called to announce there was a new vaccine requirement for direct government employees who want to get paid.
Braced by a reporter who boldly asked if the rule was good enough for the unelected geese, would it also apply to the elected ganders, Kenney adopted a pedagogical tone to explain to us Parliamentary dummies that there’s a constitutional principle elected members can’t be kept out of the Legislative chamber.
“We are trying to sort out how you apply a policy like this while recognizing that longstanding constitutional principle,” he intoned. (Emphasis added.)
Yesterday, however, government House Leader Jason Nixon blithely told reporters that all politicians and political staffers would be required to be fully vaccinated or provide a negative COVID-19 test every 72 hours if they want to sit in the House.
After all, he explained, accurately enough, the House gets to set its own rules and “ultimately answers to the 87 members of the Legislature.”
So much for that Parliamentary convention that Kenney so confidently referenced.
The new rule will include two MLAs kicked out of the United Conservative Party caucus for criticizing Premier Kenney for not letting Alberta open wide, the pandemic be damned, Nixon noted.
So it will be no problem to prevent rebel MLAs Drew Barnes from Cypress-Medicine Hat and Todd Loewen from Central Peace-Notley from entering the Legislative Chamber if they won’t vaxx up.
Anyway, according to several news reports Nixon said that “all of the government caucus has received one vaccination except one individual who is working through a medical process with their doctors.”
This represents a significant change from last May, when 18 or 19 members of the UCP caucus, depending on whether you count Lesser Slave Lake member Pat Rehn, who was temporarily expelled from the caucus at the time, were refusing to say if they’d had a vaccine.
NDP MLAs revealed last week that all of the Opposition caucus and all New Democrat political staffers were fully vaccinated and demanded the same from the government.
Meanwhile, at yet another COVID-19 news conference yesterday, Kenney glibly brought back a few measures to control the rapid spread of COVID-19 in schools, which until a few days ago the government had insisted wasn’t a problem at all.
“To protect our children and school communities, Alberta’s government is taking action to give schools the supports they need,” the premier said in a news release as if the government were right on top of the situation.
This doubtless caused hundreds of Alberta schoolteachers to give their heads a shake and wonder where the heck Kenney was when school reopened last month.
Public reporting of COVID-19 cases in schools will also resume today, Kenney said, never mind why it was stopped.
Accompanied by Health Minister Jason Copping, Education Minister Adriana Lagrange, Chief Medical Officer of Health Deena Hinshaw, and Alberta Health Services CEO Verna Yiu — a large enough retinue to lend some credibility, I guess — the premier also revealed some slightly revised rules for gatherings during the next likely province-wide super-spreader event, Monday’s Thanksgiving holiday.
Many of us may find it disheartening to hear the premier constantly gaslighting us like this, day after day.
Still, I suppose we can take some comfort, to borrow a phrase from comedian Billy Connolly, from the thought that if we just stay alert and pay attention, everything will change again tomorrow.