Public health over profit: Covid-19 is surging under Jason Kenney
“The cure cannot be worse than the [virus] itself,” said Trump back in March.
It seems that Alberta premier Jason Kenney and Health Minister Tyler Shandro have taken Trump’s words to heart. The dynamic between the two and Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s Chief Medical Health Officer, echoes the uneasy tension between Trump and Anthony Fauci.
Kenney and Shandro have been antagonizing public health officials, according to CBC News. Covid-19 is currently surging with over 1700 new cases on Saturday. The situation is quickly spiralling out of control.
This comes as former NDP premier Rachel Notley accused Kenney and Shandro of suppressing and undermining public health recommendations by Deena Hinshaw.
From CBC News:
The cabinet committee, to which she and the group reported, was pressuring her to broadly expand serology testing, which is used to detect the presence of COVID-19 antibodies in the blood.
The problem was that the tests had limited large-scale clinical value and Hinshaw believed it would overestimate the virus’s presence in the population.
“Honestly, after the battle that we had about molecular testing, I don’t have a lot of fight left in me,” Hinshaw said during that meeting.
The level of political direction — and, at times, interference — in Alberta’s pandemic response is revealed in 20 audio recordings of the daily planning meetings of the Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) obtained by CBC News, as well as in meeting minutes and interviews with staff directly involved in pandemic planning.
Taken together, they reveal how Premier Jason Kenney, Shandro and other cabinet ministers often micromanaged the actions of already overwhelmed civil servants; sometimes overruled their expert advice; and pushed an early relaunch strategy that seemed more focused on the economy and avoiding the appearance of curtailing Albertans’ freedoms than enforcing compliance to safeguard public health.
But at the daily pandemic briefing Wednesday, as the province announced its 500th death, Hinshaw reiterated her belief that her job is to provide “a range of policy options to government officials outlining what I believe is the recommended approach and the strengths and weaknesses of any alternatives.
“The final decisions are made by the cabinet,” she said, adding that she has “always felt respected and listened to and that my recommendations have been respectfully considered by policy makers while making their decisions.”
Jason Kenney’s attempt at “avoiding the appearance of curtailing Albertans’ freedoms” is a clear-cut effort to pander toward anti-mask and anti-vaccine people.
Taking aim at healthcare workers, too
Since the start of being premier of Alberta, Jason Kenney has antagonized the most valuable community possible during a pandemic: doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers. With 750 layoffs of nurses on the line, Kenney and his government have refused to meet with United Nurses of Alberta to renew contract negotiations. United Nurses of Alberta is the union that represents 30,000 nurses in the province.
Things have gotten so bad under Kenney’s leadership that the Alberta Federation of Labor, a group of unions, has asked Albertans to boycott businesses that support the United Conservative Party. Healthcare workers are leaving Alberta to such an extent that other provinces are looking to poach those leaving the province.
“My message today to Saskatchewan is that we will invest in healthcare,” said Saskatchewan NDP Leader Ryan Meili. “My message today to Alberta doctors and nurses: come on over, Saskatchewan will welcome you with open arms under an NDP government.
It gets worse with Kenney too. Many Conservatives in Canada long for the day that we give up our prized healthcare system in favour of a “free market” based system, American style. The UCP is chipping away at socialized healthcare with Bill 30, which allows for public funds to be funnelled to for-profit healthcare. The recently formed party has a history of cutting public sector jobs and voted to reject the commitment of upholding principals in the Canada Health Act.
The track record of Conservatives in power across the country speaks for itself. This is a party hostile to healthcare workers, but not so hostile to big business. Their willingness to stand against healthcare workers during a global pandemic is truly horrifying.