Albertans have lost trust in the government's travelling circus
Albertans have suffered and sacrificed greatly in the past several months, not least of all by cancelling holiday plans with friends and family as per government mandated public health restrictions. But we have done so with the understanding that these sacrifices were necessary to curb Alberta’s extraordinary COVID-19 numbers, which have surged massively over the past few months under the UCP government’s reluctance to implement the restrictions necessary to limit the spread. Worse still, as of December 29, our provincial COVID-19 death toll has tragically reached 1,046, according to the latest available data.
But while Albertans have been tasked by the Premier with personal responsibility in lieu of adequate and timely public health restrictions, and while our health care workers continue to risk the safety of their families and themselves in order to save the lives of Albertans, a number of UCP MLAs and government staffers opted to ignore their own government’s recommendations and vacation abroad. Among those who were travelling was Tracy Allard, MLA for Grande Prairie and Minister of Municipal Affairs, who opted to spend her holiday in Hawaii. Importantly, Allard was the vice-chair of the Emergency Management Cabinet Committee, tasked with overseeing the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccination throughout the province.
Alberta’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout is already behind schedule. Despite a government press release on December 2 which indicated that “planning and preparation was well-advanced,” and that Alberta was in “prime position to implement a phased immunization program,” as of December 29th, 2020 only 8,544 of a promised 29,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine had been distributed to Albertan health care workers. After much pressure and questioning from the public as to why the province was so behind schedule, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw announced via Twitter that as of January 1, only 14,244 doses had been distributed, with another 3,000 anticipated by end of day, though those numbers have yet to be reflected on the government website.
The general public is currently scheduled to begin to receive vaccinations in Fall 2021 at the earliest. In Dr. Hinshaw’s own words, "It will be some time before we are able to immunize the general population. We are still many months away from seeing widespread protection against COVID-19, which means the steps we are taking now to slow the spread and bend the curve are still critical."
Following considerable outrage from Albertans, and after much foot-dragging from Premier Jason Kenney, Allard and several other members of the travelling circus have resigned or were otherwise dismissed by the Premier this afternoon. But the fact remains that this government has lost the trust of Albertans.
“Once a leader loses trust of those that they hope to lead, it is impossible to effectively implement and enforce the policies that are desperately needed now to ensure Albertans’ safety,” says Sandra Azocar, Executive Director of Friends of Medicare. “The people of this province deserve better than this kind of hypocrisy from their government. This vaccine rollout is critical to saving lives-Albertans deserve a minister who can bring us back on schedule, and who won’t lie about matters that concern public health for the sake of a vacation.”