Posted on Jan 6, 2021
KENNEY MUST COME OUT OF HIDING FROM SCANDAL, PROVIDE LEADERSHIP DURING PANDEMIC
EDMONTON - As the latest COVID-19 public health restrictions are set to expire on Tuesday, Alberta’s NDP are calling on Premier Jason Kenney to come out of hiding from his latest scandal and provide leadership to the province.
On December 8, the UCP introduced a number of lockdown-style restrictions that are to remain in place until at least January 12. With only six days until the deadline, Premier Kenney has not indicated if the restrictions will be lifted or extended.
“Where is the Premier?” asked NDP Deputy Leader and Education critic Sarah Hoffman. “There’s a lot of work to do. We need a government that can be completely focused on creating and delivering a plan for this critical time in the pandemic. Instead, the Premier is occupied with the ongoing scandal and chaos created by his staff, MLAs, and members of his Cabinet.”
Premier Kenney has not made a public appearance since his New Year’s Day press conference where he defended the international travel of his former Minister of Municipal Affairs Tracy Allard, several MLAs, and former chief of staff Jamie Huckabay. On Monday, Premier Kenney announced through social media that Allard and Huckabay had resigned and the remaining MLAs had been stripped of any responsibilities.
The latest restrictions include capacity limits on retail stores, restaurants and bars were limited to takeout or delivery, and personal services such as salons were closed.
Schools were also closed until January 11. Education Minister Adriana LaGrange made her own announcement on social media on Monday declaring students would resume in-person learning, but provided no other details.
“Students are set to return to school next week and yet case counts remain alarmingly high,” said Hoffman. “Minister LaGrange has learned nothing from the mistakes she made last fall and has once again failed to do anything to prepare to send students and staff back to school safely.”
There are currently 169 active outbreaks in long-term care and supportive living facilities, with 1,236 active cases and 784 deaths - a respective increase of 149 percent and 155 per cent since the state of emergency was introduced. Two continuing care workers have also died from COVID-19 in the past two days. Residents and staff in continuing care facilities are part of the first phase of the vaccine distribution plan, but the rollout has been slower than planned and the province has fallen well short of vaccination targets.
“One of the greatest failures of this government during the pandemic has been their inaction when it comes to protecting seniors and staff in long term and continuing care centres,” said Lori Sigurdson, NDP Seniors critic. “Until staff and seniors are fully vaccinated, they remain at unacceptably high risk of infection from this deadly virus. We need this UCP government to do much, much better.”
Small business has been hit especially hard by the economic fallout from the pandemic and necessary public health orders. Some businesses are so desperate for clarity on what is to come that they are considering options to circumvent existing orders in order to keep their businesses afloat.
“We need to know what the plan is, if any, from this government. Small businesses need certainty in order to reopen, they need to know what the plan is and what support will be available if they’re going to be forced to remain closed after January 12th,” said Deron Bilous, NDP Critic for Economic Development and Innovation.
The Alberta NDP have previously proposed:
- Measures to help track and limit the spread of COVID-19
- A safe school re-entry plan for 2021
- Support for small businesses
- Rapid testing for continuing care residents and staff
- Mental health support
Movement on vaccination offers some hope for the new year, but with full population vaccination not expected until the end of 2021, these proposals offer a starting point for a full pandemic response plan while COVID-19 cases remain high and the risk of infection persists.