Premier Jason Kenney with his "letter from Santa." Image: Screenshot of Facebook video

After being declared COVID-19 free last June, New Zealand is ever-so-cautiously moving toward reopening its watery borders to some international travel.

With Australia, that is.

Australia hasn’t done quite as well countering the coronavirus as New Zealand has, but it’s done very well just the same, using measures that have been roundly condemned here in Alberta by our abundant supply of far-right, anti-mask, anti-vaxx opinion influencers and rural government MLAs as practically fascistic and certainly totalitarian.

“It is our intention to name a date … in the new year, once remaining details are locked down,” New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said of the border-reopening plan.

In the meantime, though, New Zealand will remain locked down to travellers from places like Alberta.

And who can blame them considering?

Over the weekend, our anti-mask death cult held another “march for freedom” through the streets of downtown Calgary to protest the “draconian restrictions” supporters claim on their Facebook page are making Albertans “suffer the devastating mental, emotional, physical and financial consequences of such extreme and unproven measures.”

Unproven, that is, except in places like New Zealand and Australia. But, whatever, this is Alberta, where the motto on our provincial coat of arms will soon be “live free and die.”

The protest only attracted about 300 people, but don’t worry, that many folks can carry plenty of coronaviruses.

It’s probably overstating things a bit, as a friend of mine recently did, to say of New Zealand that this could have been us if our premier had been willing to say no to the fast-food lobby.

After all, it’s not just that fast-food lobby.

New Zealand is also surrounded by a considerable body of salt water, which helps considerably.

Whereas we, by contrast, share a border with the United States of America, which as a result of public health measures not dissimilar from those implemented by Premier Jason Kenney and his United Conservative Party government has now suffered more deaths from COVID-19 than it did in combat throughout the Second World War.

What’s more, even with the border closed, the 49th Parallel remains wide open to viral infections of the ideological variety, as the dangerous foolishness shouted by the people in Calgary Saturday, and by some of Kenney’s MLAs, not to mention some of his best pals, amply illustrates. (Drew Barnes, c’mon down! You too, John Carpay!)

One has the feeling, though, that someone in the Conservative strategic brain trust in Canada must be getting the queasy feeling it might be better if the kind of freedom advocated by Barnes and Carpay didn’t become too closely associated in the public mind with conservative political parties while a lot of Canadians are still dying from COVID-19.

After all, while anti-mask proselytizing by the Wexit-leaning MLA from Medicine Hat and the head of the so-called Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms clearly motivates the conservative base, it also risks motivating more sensible Canadians to ensure capital-C Conservatives never get the chance to form another government in Ottawa.

This may explain why the entire Canadian conservative political leadership and practically every mainstream media outfit and right-wing think tank pivoted this weekend like a flock of starlings to screaming about the Liberal federal government’s climate plan.

The way they’re all screeching “carbon tax,” all of a sudden, certainly screams distraction.

Meanwhile, Kenney and his crack communications team had the bright idea of having the premier dress up in a red sweater, sit down in front of a Christmas tree and read a letter from Santa saying it’s OK kiddies, the jolly old elf will be wearing a COVID mask when he slides down your chimney.

I kid you not, kids. You cannot make this stuff up.

The premier’s bizarre holiday message might have been cute, I suppose, if almost 700 people hadn’t already died in Alberta from COVID-19, many of them as a direct result of the UCP’s long delay implementing effective measures out of fear of its own lunatic base and deference to lobbyists.

Given that tragedy, it’s just offensive. Yes, many Alberta kids will miss grandma and grandpa a lot this year. Some of them will never have a chance to see them again thanks to UCP mismanagement of the province’s pandemic response.

What’s next? An interview with the Tooth Fairy?

A record 22 people died from COVID-19 in Alberta in the previous 24 hours, Alberta Health Reported yesterday. There were 1,717 new cases, bringing the number of active cases to 20,562.

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: Screenshot/Facebook video

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...