Alberta health minister on hot seat for premier's silence on COVID-19 surge

·2 min read

Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro was forced to defend an absent Premier Jason Kenney in the legislature Monday for his silence about the surge in COVID-19 cases.

Kenney was forced into quarantine two weeks ago after he was exposed to someone with a confirmed case of COVID-19.

The premier has been silent since his last public appearance via teleconference on Nov. 12. A spokesperson said his isolation period ended Monday.

In the past 10 days, Alberta's case numbers have set new records. On Nov. 12, there were 860 new and 8,305 active cases. Alberta Health reported 1,549 new and 13,166 active cases on Monday.

Rachel Notley, leader of Alberta's Official Opposition NDP, asked in Monday's question period about Kenney's absence, noting 73 Albertans have died due to COVID-19 over the last 10 days.

"That's 73 families who have suffered unimaginable loss, yet the premier is not to be heard, not even to share his condolences," Notley said.

"In the meantime, our cases have exploded, our health system is on the brink, and our economy is in jeopardy. Why haven't we heard from him?"

Notley said Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, has been left to report case numbers on her own. The NDP said Kenney made time for an online appearance via Zoom on Saturday with the Canada India Foundation.

In response, Shandro said the NDP was being ridiculous.

"This is, again, how the NDP continue to politicize the pandemic response, continue to politicize COVID," he said.

"They know that the premier is in self-isolation, and they know that after he's done isolation, of course, he's going to be able to return to being able to participate in the press conferences that are held with Dr. Deena Hinshaw."

The priorities implementation committee of cabinet met on Monday. Hinshaw said at a news conference beforehand that she would attend the meeting and make recommendations about possible next steps.

The government last announced restrictions on Nov. 12, which critics said didn't go far enough. Restaurants and bars had to start closing at 11 p.m. and group fitness classes and team sports were suspended for at least two weeks.