Posted on Aug 20, 2020


EDMONTON -- The NDP Official Opposition is calling on Premier Jason Kenney to apologize for promoting an opinion piece which gives different advice than Alberta’s public health officials, and which the author attempted to walk back today.

In an August 19 column, Dr. Joan Robinson argues that the risks of returning to school are low, and makes several arguments that contradict public health advice given to Albertans for the past six months. Kenney and the United Conservative Party caucus have promoted this column on social media.

Robinson’s arguments include:


  • “It is exceedingly rare and maybe not even possible to acquire the virus simply by being in the same room as an infected person.”
  • “Assuming that household members do not have severe medical problems and that contact with the elderly is avoided, it should be safe for children to return to school.
  • “Influenza will lead to many more pediatric hospitalizations and deaths in 2020, yet one would never consider closing schools during influenza season.”

“Every Albertan who read that opinion piece was left scratching their head at the idea that COVID-19 isn’t transmitted between people in the same room,” said Sarah Hoffman, NDP Official Opposition Critic for Education. “For months now, Albertans have been staying out of schools and businesses, cancelling events and working from home in order to avoid gathering indoors. All of the most serious outbreaks in Alberta are due to people living, working, or gathering in close quarters.

“Dr. Robinson is completely entitled to publish her professional opinion, but it is totally irresponsible for the Premier of Alberta to direct Albertans’ attention to advice that contradicts everything public health officials have been telling us. Albertans of all ages should take the risk of COVID-19 seriously,” Hoffman said.

Dr. Robinson’s piece does not comment on the specifics of Alberta’s back to school plan, which provides no resources for the additional staff and space that schools need to keep students, families, staff and communities safe. In a radio interview today, on the Ryan Jespersen Show, Dr. Robinson clarified that if two people are indoors ten metres apart in the same room, and never touch the same surfaces, they might not transmit COVID-19. 

“Jason Kenney is trying to distract Albertans from his complete failure to provide a safe school re-entry,” Hoffman said. “Under his current plan, children won’t have two metres between them let alone ten. Instead of promoting the idea that COVID shouldn’t be taken seriously, the premier should be implementing the 15-point plan we have presented to him to keep Alberta safe in September.”