Canada's Alberta province replaces health minister as COVID-19 rages

·1 min read

By Nia Williams

CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - The premier of Canada's Alberta province replaced his health minister in a cabinet reshuffle on Tuesday, as a fourth wave of COVID-19 cases swamped the healthcare system and the government came under fire for mishandling the pandemic.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney replaced Tyler Shandro with Jason Copping, who previously served as minister of labour and immigration. Shandro took Copping's former role.

Hospitals in Canada's western oil-producing province are buckling under a surge in COVID-19 cases driven by the highly contagious Delta variant. There are a record number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care, and Alberta has cancelled all non-elective surgeries and discussed transferring patients to other provinces.

United Conservative Party (UCP) leader Kenney and Shandro both face criticism for loosening public health measures much faster than other provinces earlier this year and delaying proof of vaccination requirements as cases started to rise.

"This cabinet shuffle is once again Jason Kenney refusing to take responsibility for his actions and his decisions," independent lawmaker Drew Barnes, a member of the legislative assembly, told Reuters. "The best thing he could do is resign."

Barnes was thrown out of the UCP caucus in May for publicly calling for Kenney's resignation.

Alberta is a conservative stronghold but support for the federal party led by Erin O'Toole slipped in Monday's election, which some Conservatives blamed on dissatisfaction with Kenney.

On Tuesday the province wrote to the federal government formally requesting more critical care staff and for help transporting patients out of Alberta.

(Reporting by Nia Williams; editing by Barbara Lewis and Sonya Hepinstall)

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