Alberta premier dismisses Opposition bid to censure him over handling of COVID-19

·3 min read

EDMONTON — Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is dismissing an Opposition bid to have him formally censured in the legislature for his handling of COVID-19's fourth wave.

Kenney says he is focused on getting Alberta's economy moving again and doesn't have time for what he calls cynical political gamesmanship.

The Opposition NDP has been pushing for answers on why Kenney's government failed to act in August when case numbers were rising alarmingly, which led to intense pressure on hospitals the following month and 15,000 cancelled surgeries.

Justice critic Irfan Sabir, suggesting Kenney must be held accountable for decisions that led to a great deal of suffering, says his party will introduce the censure motion when the house resumes sitting on Monday.

Kenney has faced criticism from members of his own United Conservative caucus on his handling of COVID-19, and Sabir says a censure vote would be a chance for them to stand up for their constituents.

Kenney notes that the pandemic's fourth wave has receded since public health rules and incentives were put in place in September, but says more work needs to be done.

"We're glad to see that the fourth wave is clearly come under control and that the numbers have come down sharply since our government took measures — and thanks to Albertans stepping up to the plate," Kenney said Wednesday at a news conference in Grande Prairie, Alta.

"Our eye is on the ball, focused on protecting lives and livelihoods through whatever is left of COVID.

"(This is) more political games from the NDP that sadly has treated COVID-19 not as an opportunity to come together, but rather for division. They have sought to politicize COVID-19 in Alberta from Day 1."

Sabir said the motion will read: "Be it resolved that the Legislative Assembly censure the premier for his failed leadership leading up to and through the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic."

Alberta was forced to more than double the number of intensive care beds and call in military medical help during the height of the latest wave.

Kenney has said he didn't act in August because he did not receive any recommendations from Dr. Deena Hinshaw, chief medical officer of health.

He has also said he wasn’t sure strict health measures would have worked given Alberta's COVID-weary population.

He has rejected an NDP call for an all-party inquiry into the fourth wave. He has said there will be time after the health crisis has passed to review what went right and wrong.

On Tuesday, Hinshaw said the number of new cases has dropped significantly, but pressure on health care remains concerning.

There were more than 6,000 active cases and 582 people in hospital Wednesday with the illness. Of those, 123 people were in intensive care.

A total of 3,164 Albertans have died from COVID-19.

The provincial measures introduced in September included a $100 incentive to get vaccinated and a form of vaccine passport to get into non-essential services.

Alberta's passport, called a restrictions exemption, is voluntary, but businesses that don’t sign up must comply with other rules, including severely restricted customer capacity.

The province has developed a QR code as proof of vaccination, Albertans must download and show that code starting Monday if they want to visit restaurants, bars, movie theatres, casinos, concert halls and sporting venues.

Alberta's fourth wave woes were tied to low vaccination rates compared with other jurisdictions in Canada. That rate has since climbed significantly. For those eligible, 12 and over, the inoculation rate sits at almost 88 per cent for a first dose and 81 per cent for full vaccination.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 10, 2021.

Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press

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