Wednesday , June 23 2021

Kenney under fire from critics during Commons ’urgent debate on Alberta’s COVID-19 crisis



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OTTAWA – Alberta’s legislature may have been silenced, but his partisan warfare moved to the House of Commons on Wednesday as lawmakers held an urgent debate on the large increase in COVID-19 cases in the province.

Edmonton New Democrat MP Heather McPherson called for a debate and used it to undermine Alberta Prime Minister Jason Kenney in resolving the health crisis that she said resulted in the highest rate of infection in North America, leaving the province’s health system on the brink of collapse.

“If you want to know why it’s so bad in Alberta, why other provinces resisted the third wave better than mine, the answer is clear: It’s Jason Kenney,” McPherson said in a speech that sparked a late-night debate.

Kenney, according to McPherson’s estimate, failed at every turn, taking on a pandemic like “Donald Trump”.

He ignored the evidence of science and doctors ’pleas, downplayed the seriousness of COVID-19,“ downplayed ”efforts to control the spread, and, even as the crisis deepened, took only“ half measures ”to impose public health restrictions, while blaming everyone but he alone because of the problem, she said.

“Thanks to the boring and stumbled joke our provincial government has become, we have the unique, biggest health crisis Alberta has ever seen,” McPherson said, her voice cracking with emotion at times.

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“Jason Kenney was a mitigating disaster for Alberta.”

She claimed Alberta had become a “Petri dish” for the more deadly and contagious mutations of the COVID-19 virus that would spread across the country if nothing was done to put out the fire in the province.

McPherson appealed to the federal liberal government to step in and help the Albertans by directing more vaccines to the province’s hotspots, increasing sick pay and introducing a national pharmacy.

But Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was not spared criticism.

“He watched what was happening in Alberta and did nothing because he would rather watch Alberta burn than help Jason Kenney.”

She later agreed to “reformulate” the accusation, after being persuaded by a Liberal MP, saying the federal government “disappeared in action” during Albert’s crisis.

While the discussion lasted, Trudeau talked to Kenney. The prime minister’s office said in a phone call statement that Trudeau “offered federal government support to help Alberta respond to the growing number of COVID-19 cases” as well as “a partnership between the two governments to quickly provide safe and effective vaccines for Albertans . “

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Alberta MPs, some of whom served with Kenney while he was in federal politics, pushed back against McPherson’s accusations of the prime minister’s incompetence.

“Let’s talk about federal failures and we can leave the provincial debates to the provincial legislatures, instead of using this place to attack provincial politicians who aren’t even here to defend themselves,” Garnett Genuis said.

The Kenney government abruptly suspended the Alberta legislature earlier this week.

Calgary MP Michelle Rempel Garner, a conservative health critic, said other Canadians must realize that Alberta was in serious economic decline before the pandemic hit and that the locks made matters worse.

It’s not that Albertans don’t want to follow public health orders, she argued, but that “people have to eat”.

“It is very paternalistic to say only that people who may not adhere to restrictions do so from a place like a kind of bourgeois contempt for the law … Locking is a luxury for many people in my community. It’s just a reality. “

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Health Secretary Patty Hajdu said she shares McPherson’s concern about what is happening in Alberta. She said Ottawa is offering Kenney’s support, as it has done in other provinces, and will be there for Albertans.

Still, she noted that 80 percent of the hundreds of billions of dollars spent on pandemic relief measures come from the federal government.

Proponents of the Conservative Party of Alberta blamed their province’s troubles directly on the federal government’s failure to ensure a stable supply of vaccines back in February and March, when production problems repeatedly delayed expected deliveries.

But Hajdu noted that 17.2 million doses of the vaccine have now been shipped nationwide, making Canada the third in the G20 in terms of vaccination rate, and vaccine shipments are steadily increasing.

As for directing more vaccines to hot zones within the province, Hajdu said it is strictly up to Alberta to decide how to distribute its share of the vaccine. As Ontario has done, it could choose to prioritize access to people in the hardest hit areas, she said.

Conservative MPs have repeatedly referred to the fact that the United Kingdom, which has led the world in vaccination during the winter, is now reopening as Canada grapples with the third wave of COVID-19.

But Hajdu said vaccines are only part of the answer. She noted that the UK had imposed public health restrictions that were much stricter than those imposed in Alberta and some other provinces.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on May 5, 2021.

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