Screenshot of NDP video. Credit: David Climenhaga

The 10-day blockade of the main border crossing between Alberta and the United States had damaged the provincial economy to the tune of about half a billion dollars by yesterday.

Yet Jason Kenney—the self-described premier of jobs, economy, pipelines—has done nothing about the illegal blockade on the highway just north of Coutts by supporters of the ongoing occupation of Ottawa. 

Zip. Zero. Nada. Bupkes.

The trouble is, what Kenney did on Tuesday was give in to the foreign-funded extremists who are holding the province and the country hostage and begin dropping public health protections of Alberta’s COVID-19 response. 

Former premier Rachel Notley, now the leader of Alberta’s opposition, took Kenney to task for his weak, self-interested performance at a short news conference yesterday. 

“My message is simple,” Notley began. “It’s time for this lawlessness to end. It’s time for every Albertan to be able to move around their community safely, and spend time with their family in peace. It’s time for people and goods to be able to move freely across the border.”

It was a bravura performance, reminiscent of the days when Alberta was led by grownups who put the interests of the province ahead of their own. 

She reminded media that just two years ago, Kenney and other members of his cabinet and caucus were in a swivet about environmental protesters blockading the Walterdale Bridge in Edmonton … for one hour

“The UCP were shouting from the rooftops about how intolerable it was to see blockades in other provinces,” she added, noting that on the first day the legislature sat in 2020, they introduced a motion to “unequivocally denounce the illegal blockading of Canada’s core infrastructure, including railways, pipelines, ports, and roadways, and call for the law to be enforced without delay.”

“Yet here we are today,” Notley said, “with Alberta’s most important economic corridor blockaded, and the city centres of Calgary and Edmonton obstructed, and the UCP has barely made a whimper.”

But Notley said that while the right to gather in the streets and protest is a sacred one, and is the reason she opposes Mr. Kenney’s likely unconstitutional Critical Infrastructure Defence Act, what the government is ignoring is not a peaceful protest. 

It’s an illegal blockade that is interfering with business, the ability of Albertans to travel freely, and has resulted in harassment, vandalism, and hate speech, she said. “We are a nation of laws and it’s time the UCP remembered that these laws apply to everyone—even if you want their vote at a leadership review.”

She called on the UCP to seek an injunction from the courts to disperse the blockade, and challenged Mr. Kenney to “come out of hiding and denounce this illegal blockade with the passion that their caucus members have displayed in support of it.”

Notley reminded her listeners how Kenney’s story about when COVID-19 protections will be removed keeps changing. Ten days ago he was talking about lifting restrictions by the end of March. When the blockade began that was moved up to sometime this month. Now they’re here.

Alberta’s vaccine passport—always a burr under Kenney’s saddle—is the first to go.

In other words, she said, “the UCP has tossed out their values for votes.” (This, of course, assumes the UCP has values beyond being a Frankenparty cobbled together for the sole purpose of holding power.) “The sight of an elected government being bent to the will of criminals should be of grave concern to everyone regardless of their political beliefs.”

“Public health measures are going to come to an end at some point, likely quite soon,” Notley said. But, “Albertans must be completely certain that this timeline is driven by their best interests and not the threats of people engaged in illegal activity.”

Appeasement is generally not seen as a winning strategy and getting rid of vaccination mandates was the far-right blockaders first demand, far from their last one.

Ahead of his announcement, Kenney tweeted about “Alberta’s path back to normal … a careful and prudent plan to lift damaging restrictions if pressure on our hospitals continues to decline.”

So brace yourselves for the Best Spring Ever!

Premier Kenney knows that channelling his inner Neville Chamberlain is unlikely deliver peace in our time. 

Then again, he’s only hoping to deliver peace—in the form of settling down his party’s anti-vaccination, Q-adjacent fringe—long enough to keep his job at his scheduled UCP performance review on April 9 in Red Deer. 

Just do your jobs!”, ATA president tells premier, education minister after anti-vaxxers disrupt schools

The border disruption at Coutts isn’t the only dangerous protest being meekly ignored by the UCP. 

Alberta Teachers Association president Jason Schilling complained on the weekend that Kenney and Education Minister Adriana LaGrange have done nothing to stop anti-vaccine rhetoric from taking their protests right into Alberta schools.

Teachers have reported instances where protesters entered schools, shouting, banging on lockers, forcing lockdowns, and traumatizing students and staff, Schilling said. 

“The very least the premier and this minister can do is to state their support for and take necessary steps to uphold the law of the province in the face of those who would break it without consideration of those whom they may be harming,” Schilling said. “I’m just asking them to do their job.”

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...