The UCP government’s deepest fear is a new outbreak of COVID-19 that will require public-health measures.
But the virus itself doesn’t worry them as much as another revolt led by Take Back Alberta, radical activist David Parker’s group.
The UCP might face choices soon enough. COVID is on the march again.
Twenty people died of the virus from Sept. 3 to 23. There were 1,470 cases, 286 hospitalizations and 13 ICU admissions. Cases in seniors care centres are rising sharply.
The government and AHS have thrown themselves headlong into the Calgary E. coli outbreak that has sickened hundreds of children.
So they should. This has been dreadful.
But COVID, by contrast, barely exists in the government’s rhetoric. Statistics are seldom released. The UCP actively plays down the plain fact that COVID-19 remains a serious illness with potential to escalate again.
The new message is that individuals have no wider responsibility. It’s a retreat into extreme libertarianism.
In a video that went across the country last week, both Premier Danielle Smith and Health Minister Adriana LaGrange refused to say if they’ll get a COVID vaccination.
Looking rattled by the question, Smith said: “I’m a healthy person. I tend to take care of my immune system, and by the way, this is something I should talk about with my doctor and not media.”
LaGrange, with a moment longer to think, discovered an equally powerful immune system.
“I’m very healthy as well,” she said. “I have a very healthy immune system. And you know, I also believe this is a personal decision for people to make.”
With COVID, Alberta no longer has a public-health policy in the traditional sense that people might be asked to do something that protects someone else.
The premier and her ministers will not recommend masks or vaccination. They even refuse to say whether these measures do any good.
That’s how threatened they feel by the radical element of the party, in advance of the UCP annual meeting Nov. 3 and 4.
It’s impossible to exaggerate this shift away from the early stages of the pandemic, when the government brought in masking mandates, ordered social distancing, limited gatherings, raced to get vaccines and encouraged Albertans every day to help everyone, not just themselves.
The vaccine, while effective against serious illness or death, was not the promised silver bullet that would stop the spread.
Many lives were saved but, in the end, the overall strategy caused great social and economic upheaval. Any new response would have to be much more flexible and targeted.
But the UCP reaction to the bad memories is just as extreme.
Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the chief medical officer of health who asked us almost daily to care for each other, was demonized, fired and then fired once again. No other CMOH in Canada was treated so shabbily.
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In her place we have a political tone so carelessly casual, a drive to normalize COVID so desperate, that Alberta could be extremely vulnerable to a new wave or any health threat that requires some wider action from the government and the public.
David Parker shows almost daily why they’re so worried.
He says anybody who gets multiple booster shots is a misguided fool. He claims on X, formerly Twitter, that hospital crowding stems from illness caused by COVID vaccines.
Nobody will ever be told to wear a mask in his lifetime, he says. His current drive is to run off every school board trustee and official he considers “woke.”
The surge in ticket sales for the November UCP meeting shows TBA’s organizing power. Parker helped bring Smith to office, but also threatens to unseat any premier who abandons the cause.
In the background, the government continues to supply the vaccine as quietly as possible.
They know it works but the politicians won’t say it works. How crazy can Alberta get?
Don Braid’s column appears regularly in the Herald.
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