Alberta Premier Jason Kenney at his news conference yesterday (Photo: Screenshot of Alberta Government video).

Premier Jason Kenney was back on camera last week afternoon to plead with Albertans to hasten to get their third shot of COVID-19 vaccine to blunt the fifth wave of the disease now barrelling into Alberta.

The news conference was theoretically called to announce that any Albertan over 18 may now book a third vaccine dose immediately if it’s been five months since their last one. Kenney warned that unless Albertans roll up their sleeves for boosters, the arrival of the Omicron variation of the virus means we’re in for it.

Once again, Kenney was pleading with Albertans to do the right thing and exercise some personal responsibility as the global coronavirus pandemic continues into another year — and we all know what folks say about doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

Doesn’t matter. While Kenney, Health Minister Jason Copping, and Chief Medical Officer of Health Deena Hinshaw announced a few more restrictions that took effect on Christmas Eve — no dancing or billiards in pubs and bars that remain open, and no taking off your mask to have a drink at an NHL game — there was no way the premier was going to take back his risky plan to allow unvaccinated folks to join indoor gatherings in private homes over the holiday.

He even trotted out one of his patented personal stories about an elderly lady of his acquaintance who had a really, really good medical reason not to get a vaccine, and how sad it would be for her to spend Christmas alone.

Kenney, in all seriousness, went on to “appeal to all Albertans to reduce their number of contacts by half over the coming weeks.”

It may not have occurred to him that most of us are already keeping pretty well to ourselves, and those who now go to the bar seven nights a week probably aren’t going to be much safer if they’re only there three-and-a-half evenings — even if they don’t shoot pool or dance the fandango.

“I know Albertans are tired of the pandemic, but we need to take what we have learned from previous waves and urgently apply it to our current situation,” Copping said.

It’s hard to argue with this sentiment, even if Copping’s boss is effectively doing just what he says we mustn’t.

Hinshaw answered reporters’ questions from a remote location that appeared to be either under water or in a Cold War era bomb shelter, grimly informing Albertans the Omicron variant is now dominant in the province.

All three participants in the news conference had the bilious and anxious look of people who know their best laid schemes have just gone south.

That said, Hinshaw’s soliloquy about how the pandemic has become “almost unbearable” sounded as if she were talking more about its impact on the government than on the poor folks who will end up in the ICU.

NDP Health Critic David Shepherd responded to the announcement by assailing the premier for “choosing to act last and act least.”

“Jason Kenney and his UCP government are gambling with the lives and livelihoods of Albertans by refusing to reverse their reckless decision to give unvaccinated Albertans their blessing to gather indoors,” Shepherd said in a short statement emailed to reporters. “Meanwhile, other provinces are going further to protect their citizens in the face of record-breaking case counts, west and east.”

MLA Thomas Dang resigns from NDP Caucus

Meanwhile, there was bad news for the NDP Opposition of a particularly unexpected sort.

Opposition Leader Rachel Notley called an unscheduled news conference last week to announce that Edmonton-South MLA Thomas Dang, the youngest and one of the most active MLAs in the Legislature, would be sitting as an Independent after RCMP officers executed a search warrant at his home.

“Our caucus has a longstanding policy that members under active police investigation will not sit in the caucus, and Thomas understands this,” Notley said.

You can’t not do what you’ve demanded the government do with its own MLAs, I suppose, but judging by the weird circumstances of the police raid, which took place when Dang was away for a day of skiing, she would have been quite justified to encourage him not to resign from the caucus.

In a statement on his social media accounts, Dang said, “I believe this warrant was executed in relation to the vulnerabilities with the COVID-19 vaccination records on the Government of Alberta website.”

“In September a concern was raised with me as a Member of the Legislative Assembly about the security of the vaccination record system. I tested these concerns and found that a security flaw did exist,” he said. “I immediately notified Alberta Health with the relevant information so that the vulnerability could be corrected. It was resolved shortly thereafter.”

We’ll see how this pans out. Legislative Speaker Nathan Cooper, if he’s not too busy writing letters assailing COVID-19 restrictions, might want to keep an eye on this one. Dang’s account, at least, suggests that the RCMP may be on a fishing expedition that interferes with the prerogatives of the Legislature.

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...